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Title: The Daughter of an Empress
Author: Mühlbach, L. (Luise), 1814-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Daughter of an Empress" ***

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THE DAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS

By Louise Muhlbach



CONTENTS

     Countess Natalie Dolgorucki
     Count Munnich
     Count Ostermann
     The Night of the Conspiracy
     Hopes Deceived
     The Regent Anna Leopoldowna
     The Favorite
     No Love
     Princess Elizabeth
     A Conspiracy
     The Warning
     The Court Ball
     The Pencil-Sketch
     The Revolution
     The Sleep of Innocence
     The Recompensing
     Punishment
     The Palace of the Empress
     Eleonore Lapuschkin
     A Wedding
     Scenes and Portraits
     Princes also must die
     The Charmed Garden
     The Letters
     Diplomatic Quarrels
     The Fish Feud
     Pope Ganganelli (Clement XIV.)
     The Pope's Recreation Hour
     A Death-Sentence
     The Festival of Cardinal Bernis
     The Improvisatrice
     The Departure
     An Honest Betrayer
     Alexis Orloff
     Corilla
     The Holy Chafferers
     "Sic transit gloria mundi"
     The Vapo
     The Invasion
     Intrigues
     The Dooming Letter
     The Russian Officer
     Anticipation
     He!
     The Warning
     The Russian Fleet
     Conclusion



THE DAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS



COUNTESS NATALIE DOLGORUCKI

"No, Natalie, weep no more! Quick, dry your tears. Let not my
executioner see that we can feel pain or weep for sorrow!"

Drying her tears, she attempted a smile, but it was an unnatural,
painful smile.

"Ivan," said she, "we will forget, forget all, excepting that we love
each other, and thus only can I become cheerful. And tell me, Ivan, have
I not always been in good spirits? Have not these long eight years in
Siberia passed away like a pleasant summer day? Have not our hearts
remained warm, and has not our love continued undisturbed by the
inclement Siberian cold? You may, therefore, well see that I have the
courage to bear all that can be borne. But you, my beloved, you my
husband, to see you die, without being able to save you, without being
permitted to die with you, is a cruel and unnatural sacrifice! Ivan, let
me weep; let your murderer see that I yet have tears. Oh, my God, I have
no longer any pride, I am nothing but a poor heart-broken woman! Your
widow, I weep over the yet living corpse of my husband!" With convulsive
sobs the trembling young wife fell upon her knees and with frantic grief
clung to her husband's feet.

Count Ivan Dolgorucki no long felt the ability to stand aloof from her
sorrow. He bent down to his wife, raised her in his arms, and with her
he wept for his youth, his lost life, the vanishing happiness of his
love, and the shame of his fatherhood.

"I should joyfully go to my death, were it for the benefit of my
country," said he. "But to fall a sacrifice to a cabal, to the jealousy
of an insidious, knavish favorite, is what makes the death-hour fearful.
Ah, I die for naught, I die that Munnich, Ostermann, and Biron may
remain securely in power. It is horrible thus to die!"

Natalie's eyes flashed with a fanatic glow. "You die," said she, "and
I shall live, will live, to see how God will avenge you upon these
evil-doers. I will live, that I may constantly think of you, and in
every hour of the day address to God my prayers for vengeance and
retribution!"

"Live and pray for our fatherland!" said Ivan.

"No," she angrily cried, "rather let God's curse rest upon this Russia,
which delivers over its noblest men to the executioner, and raises its
ignoblest women to the throne. No blessing for Russia, which is cursed
in all generations and for all time--no blessing for Russia, whose
bloodthirsty czarina permits the slaughter of the noble Ivan and his
brothers!"

"Ah," said Ivan, "how beautiful you are now--how flash your eyes, and
how radiantly glow your cheeks! Would that my executioner were now
come, that he might see in you the heroine, Natalie, and not the
sorrow-stricken woman!"

"Ah, your prayer is granted; hear you not the rattling of the bolts, the
roll of the drum? They are coming, Ivan, they are coming!"

"Farewell, Natalie--farewell, forever!"

And, mutually embracing, they took one last, long kiss, but wept not.

"Hear me, Natalie! when they bind me upon the wheel, weep not. Be
resolute, my wife, and pray that their torments may not render me weak,
and that no cry may escape my lips!"

"I will pray, Ivan."

In half an hour all was over. The noble and virtuous Count Ivan
Dolgorucki had been broken upon the wheel, and three of his brothers
beheaded, and for what?--Because Count Munnich, fearing that the noble
and respected brothers Dolgorucki might dispossess him of his usurped
power, had persuaded the Czarina Anna that they were plotting her
overthrow for the purpose of raising Katharina Ivanovna to the imperial
throne. No proof or conviction was required; Munnich had said it, and
that sufficed; the Dolgoruckis were annihilated!

But Natalie Dolgorucki still lived, and from the bloody scene of her
husband's execution she repaired to Kiew. There would she live in the
cloister of the Penitents, preserving the memory of the being she loved,
and imploring the vengeance of Heaven upon his murderers!

It was in the twilight of a clear summer night when Natalie reached the
cloister in which she was on the next day to take the vows and exchange
her ordinary dress for the robe of hair-cloth and the nun's veil.

Foaming rushed the Dnieper within its steep banks, hissing broke the
waves upon the gigantic boulders, and in the air was heard the sound as
of howling thunder and a roaring storm.

"I will take my leave of nature and of the world," murmured Natalie,
motioning her attendants to remain at a distance, and with firm feet
climbing the steep rocky bank of the rushing Dnieper. Upon their knees
her servants prayed below, glancing up to the rock upon which they saw
the tall form of their mistress in the moonlight, which surrounded it
with a halo; the stars laid a radiant crown upon her pure brow, and her
locks, floating in the wind, resembled wings; to her servants she seemed
an angel borne upon air and light and love upward to her heavenly home!
Natalie stood there tranquil and tearless. The thoughtful glances of her
large eyes swept over the whole surrounding region. She took leave
of the world, of the trees and flowers, of the heavens and the earth.
Below, at her feet, lay the cloister, and Natalie, stretching forth her
arms toward it, exclaimed: "That is my grave! Happy, blessed Ivan, thou
diedst ere being coffined; but I shall be coffined while yet alive! I
stand here by thy tomb, mine Ivan. They have bedded thy noble form in
the cold waves of the Dnieper, whose rushing and roaring was thy funeral
knell, mine Ivan! I shall dwell by thy grave, and in the deathlike
stillness of my cell shall hear the tones of the solemn hymn with which
the impetuous stream will rock thee to thine eternal rest! Receive,
then, ye sacred waves of the Dnieper, receive thou, mine Ivan, in thy
cold grave, thy wife's vow of fidelity to thee. Again will I espouse
thee--in life as in death, am I thine!"

And drawing from her finger the wedding-ring which her beloved husband
had once placed upon it, she threw it into the foaming waves.

Bending down, she saw the ring sinking in the waters and murmured: "I
greet thee, Ivan, I greet thee! Take my ring--forever am I thine!"

Then, rising proudly up, and stretching forth her arms toward heaven,
she exclaimed aloud: "I now go to pray that God may send thee vengeance.
Woe to Russia, woe!" and the stream with its boisterous waves howled and
thundered after her the words: "Woe to Russia, woe!"



COUNT MUNNICH

The Empress Anna was dead, and--an unheard-of case in Russian imperial
history--she had even died a natural death. Again was the Russian
imperial throne vacated! Who is there to mount it? whom has the empress
named as her successor? No one dared to speak of it; the question was
read in all eyes, but no lips ventured to open for the utterance of
an answer, as every conjecture, every expression, if unfounded and
unfulfilled, would be construed into the crime of high-treason as soon
as another than the one thus indicated should be called to the throne!

Who will obtain that throne? So asked each man in his heart. The
courtiers and great men of the realm asked it with shuddering and
despair. For, to whom should they now go to pay their homage and thus
recommend themselves to favor in advance? Should they go to Biron, the
Duke of Courland? Was it not possible that the dying empress had chosen
him, her warmly-beloved favorite, her darling minion, as her successor
to the throne of all the Russias? But how if she had not done so? If,
instead, she had chosen her niece, the wife of Prince Anton Ulrich, of
Brunswick, as her successor? Or was it not also possible that she had
declared the Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of Czar Peter the Great,
as empress? The latter, indeed, had the greatest, the most incontestable
right to the imperial throne of Russia; was she not the sole lawful heir
of her father? How, if one therefore went to her and congratulated her
as empress? But if one should make a mistake, how then?

The courtiers, as before said, shuddered and hesitated, and, in order
to avoid making a mistake, did nothing at all. They remained in their
palaces, ostensibly giving themselves up to deep mourning for the
decease of the beloved czarina, whom every one of them secretly hated so
long as she was yet alive.

There were but a few who were not in uncertainty respecting the
immediate future, and conspicuous among that few was Field-Marshal Count
Munnich.

While all hesitated and wavered in anxious doubt, Munnich alone was
calm. He knew what was coming, because he had had a hand in shaping the
event.

"Oh," said he, while walking his room with folded arms, "we have at
length attained the object of our wishes, and this bright emblem for
which I have so long striven will now finally become mine. I shall be
the ruler of this land, and in the unrestricted exercise of royal power
I shall behold these millions of venal slaves grovelling at my feet,
and whimpering for a glance or a smile. Ah, how sweet is this governing
power!

"But," he then continued, with a darkened brow, "what is the good of
being the ruler if I cannot bear the name of ruler?--what is it to
govern, if another is to be publicly recognized as regent and receive
homage as such? The kernel of this glory will be mine, but the shell,--I
also languish for the shell. But no, this is not the time for such
thoughts, now, when the circumstances demand a cheerful mien and every
outward indication of satisfaction! My time will also come, and, when
it comes, the shell as well as the kernel shall be mine! But this is the
hour for waiting upon the Duke of Courland! I shall be the first to wish
him joy, and shall at the same time remind him that he has given me his
ducal word that he will grant the first request I shall make to him as
regent. Well, well, I will ask now, that I may hereafter command."

The field-marshal ordered his carriage and proceeded to the palace of
the Duke of Courland.

A deathlike stillness prevailed in the streets through which he rode. On
every hand were to be seen only curtained windows and closed palaces;
it seemed as if this usually so brilliant and noisy quarter of St.
Petersburg had suddenly become deserted and desolate. The usual
equipages, with their gold and silver-laced attendants, were nowhere to
be seen.

The count's carriage thundered through the deserted streets, but
wherever he passed curious faces were seen peeping from the curtained
windows of the palaces; all doors were hastily opened behind him, and he
was followed by the runners of the counts and princes, charged with the
duty of espying his movements.

Count Munnich saw all that, and smiled.

"I have now given them the signal," said he, "and this servile Russian
nobility will rush hither, like fawning hounds, to bow before a new idol
and pay it their venal homage."

The carriage now stopped before the palace of the Duke of Courland, and
with an humble and reverential mien Munnich ascended the stairs to the
brilliant apartments of Biron.

He found the duke alone; absorbed in thought, he was standing at the
window looking down into streets which were henceforth to be subjected
to his sway.

"Your highness is surveying your realm," said Munnich, with a smile.
"Wait but a little, and you will soon see all the great nobility
flocking here to pay you homage. My carriage stops before your door, and
these sharp-scenting hounds now know which way to turn with their abject
adoration."

"Ah," sadly responded Biron, "I dread the coming hour. I have a
misfortune-prophesying heart, and this night, in a dream, I saw myself
in a miserable hut, covered with beggarly rags, shivering with cold and
fainting with hunger!"

"That dream indicated prosperity and happiness, your highness,"
laughingly responded Munnich, "for dreams are always interpreted by
contraries. You saw yourself as a beggar because you were to become
our ruler--because a purple mantle will this day be placed upon your
shoulders."

"Blood also is purple," gloomily remarked the duke, "and a sharp poniard
may also convert a beggar's blouse into a purple mantle! Oh, my friend,
would that I had never become what I am! One sleeps ill when one must
constantly watch his happiness lest it escape him. And think of it, my
fortunes are dependent upon the eyes of a child, a nurseling, that with
its mother's milk imbibes hatred to me, and whose first use of speech
will be, perhaps, to curse me!"

"Then it must be your task to teach the young emperor Ivan to speak,"
exclaimed Munnich--"in that case he will learn to bless you."

"I shall not be able to snatch him from his parents," said Biron. "But
those parents certainly hate me, and indeed very naturally, as they, it
seems, were, next to me, designated as the guardians of their son Ivan.
The Duchess Anna Leopoldowna of Brunswick is ambitious."

"Bah! for the present she is in love," exclaimed Munnich, with a laugh,
"and women, when in love, think of nothing but their love. But only
look, your highness, did I not prophesy correctly? Only see the numerous
equipages now stopping before your door! The street will soon be too
narrow to contain them."

And in the street below was really to be seen the rapid arrival of
a great number of the most splendid equipages, from which alighted
beautiful and richly-dressed women, whose male companions were covered
with orders, and who were all hastening into the palace. There was a
pressing and pushing which produced the greatest possible confusion.
Every one wished to be the first to congratulate the new ruler, and to
assure him of their unbounded devotion.

The duke's halls were soon filled with Russian magnates, and when at
length the duke himself made his appearance among them, he everywhere
saw only happy, beaming faces, and encountered only glances of love and
admiration. The warmest wishes of all these hundreds seemed to have
been fulfilled, and Biron was precisely the man whom all had desired for
their emperor.

And, standing in the centre of these halls, they read to Biron the
testament of the deceased Empress Anna: that testament designated Ivan,
the son of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna and Prince Ulrich of Brunswick,
as emperor, and him, Duke Biron of Courland, as absolute regent of the
empire during the minority of the emperor, who had now just reached the
age of seven months. The joy of the magnates was indescribable; they
sank into each other's arms with tears of joy. At this moment old
enemies were reconciled; women who had long nourished a mutual hatred,
now tenderly pressed each other's hands; tears of joy were trembling
in eyes which had never before been known to weep; friendly smiles were
seen on lips which had usually been curled with anger; and every one
extolled with ecstasy the happiness of Russia, and humbly bowed before
the new sun now rising over that blessed realm.

With the utmost enthusiasm they all took the oath of fidelity to the new
ruler, and then hastened to the palace of the Prince of Brunswick, there
with the humblest subjection to kiss the delicate little hand of the
child-emperor Ivan.

Munnich was again alone with the duke, who, forgetting all his
ill-boding dreams, now gave himself up to the proud feeling of his
greatness and power.

"Let them all go," said he, "these magnates, to kiss the hand of this
emperor of seven months, and wallow in the dust before the cradle of a
whimpering nurseling! I shall nevertheless be the real emperor, and both
sceptre and crown will remain in my hands!"

"But in your greatness and splendor you will not forget your faithful
and devoted friends," said Munnich; "your highness will remember that it
was I who chiefly induced the empress to name you as regent during the
minority of Ivan, and that you gave me your word of honor that you would
grant me the first request I should make to you."

"I know, I know," said Biron, with a sly smile, thoughtfully pacing the
room with his hands behind his back. But, suddenly stopping, he remained
standing before Munnich, and, looking him sharply in the eye, said:
"Shall I for once interpret your thoughts, Field-Marshal Count Munnich?
Shall I for once tell you why you used all your influence to decide the
Empress Anna to name me for the regency? Ah, you had a sharp eye, a sure
glance, and consequently discovered that Anna had long since resolved
in her heart to name me for the regency, before you undertook to confirm
her in this resolve by your sage counsels. But you said to yourself:
'This good empress loves the Duke of Courland; hence she will
undoubtedly desire to render him great and happy in spite of all
opposition, and if I aid in this by my advice I shall bind both parties
to myself; the empress, by appearing to be devoted to her favorite,
and the favorite, by aiding him in the accomplishment of his ambitious
plans. I shall therefore secure my own position, both for the present
and future!' Confess to me, field-marshal, that these were your thoughts
and calculations."

"The regent, Sir Duke of Courland, has a great knowledge of human
nature, and hence I dare not contradict him," said Munnich, with a
constrained laugh. "Your highness therefore recognizes the service
that I, from whatever motive, have rendered you, and hence you will not
refuse to grant my request."

"Let me hear it," said the duke, stretching himself out on a divan,
and negligently playing with a portrait of the Empress Anna, splendidly
ornamented with brilliants, and suspended from his neck by a heavy gold
chain.

"Name me generalissimo of all the troops," said Munnich, with solemnity.

"Of all the troops?" asked Biron. "Including those on the water, or only
those on land?"

"The troops on the water as well as those on land."

"Ah, that means, I am to give you unlimited power, and thus place you
at the head of all affairs!" Then, suddenly rising from his reclining
position, and striding directly to Munnich, the duke threateningly said:
"In my first observation I forgot to interpret a few of your thoughts
and plans. I will now tell you why you wished for my appointment as
regent. You desired it for the advancement of your own ambitious plans.
You knew Biron as an effeminate, yielding, pleasure-seeking favorite of
the empress--you saw him devoted only to amusement and enjoyment, and
you said to yourself: 'That is the man I need. As I cannot myself be
made regent, let it be him! I will govern through him; and while this
voluptuous devotee of pleasure gives himself up to the intoxication of
enjoyments, I will rule in his stead.' Well, Mr. Field-Marshal, were not
those your thoughts!"

Munnich had turned very pale while the duke was thus speaking, and a
sombre inquietude was depicted on his features.

"I know not," he stammered, with embarrassment.

"But _I_ know!" thundered the duke, "and in your terror-struck face I
read the confirmation of what I have said. Look in the glass, sir count,
and you will make no further attempt at denial."

"But the question here is not about what I might have once thought, but
of what you promised me. Your highness, I have made my first request!
It is for you to grant it. I implore your on the strength of your ducal
word to name me as the generalissimo of your troops!"

"No, never!" exclaimed the duke.

"You gave me your word!"

"I gave it as Duke of Courland! The regent is not bound by the promise
of the duke."

"I made you regent!"

"And I do _not_ make you generalissimo!"

"You forfeit your word of honor?"

"No, ask something else, and I will grant it. But this is not feasible.
I must myself be the generalissimo of my own troops, or I should no
longer be the ruler! Ask, therefore, for something else."

Munnich was silent. His features indicated a frightful commotion, and
his bosom heaved violently.

"I have nothing further to ask," said he, after a pause.

"But, I will confer upon you a favor without your asking it!" proudly
responded the duke. "Count Munnich, I confirm you in your offices and
dignities, and, to prove to you my unlimited confidence, you shall
continue to be what you were under the Empress Anna, field-marshal in
the Russian army!"

"I thank you, sir duke," calmly replied Munnich. "It is very noble in
you that you do not send me into banishment for my presumptuous demand."

Clasping the offered hand of the duke, he respectfully pressed it to his
lips.

"And now go, to kiss the hand of the young emperor, that you may not be
accused of disrespect," smilingly added Biron; "one must always preserve
appearances."

Munnich silently bowed, while walking backward toward the door.

"We part as friends?" asked the duke, nodding an adieu.

"As friends for life and death!" said Munnich, with a smile.

But no sooner had the door closed behind him than the smile vanished
from his features, and was replaced by an expression of furious rage.
He threateningly shook his fist toward the door which separated him from
the duke, and with convulsively compressed lips and grating teeth he
said: "Yes, we now part as friends, but we shall yet meet as enemies! I
shall remember this hour, sir duke, and shall do my best to prevent your
forgetting it. Ah, you have not sent me to Siberia, but I will send you
there! And now to the Emperor Ivan. I shall there meet his parents, the
shamefully-slighted Ulrich of Brunswick, and his wife Anna Leopoldowna.
I think they will welcome me."

With a firm step, rage and vengeance in his heart, but outwardly smiling
and submissive, Field-Marshal Count Munnich betook himself to the palace
of the Duke of Brunswick to kiss the hand of the cradled Emperor Ivan.



COUNT OSTERMANN

Four weeks had passed since Biron, Duke of Courland, had commenced his
rule over Russia, as regent, in the name of the infant Emperor Ivan. The
Russian people had with indifference submitted to this new ruler, and
manifested the same subjection to him as to his predecessor. It was all
the same to them whoever sat in godlike splendor upon the magnificent
imperial throne--what care that mass of degraded slaves, who are
crawling in the dust, for the name by which their tyrants are called?
They remain what they are, slaves; and the one upon the throne remains
what he is, their absolute lord and tyrant, who has the right to-day to
scourge them with whips, to-morrow to make them barons and counts, and
perhaps the next day to send them to Siberia, or subject them to the
infliction of the fatal knout. Whoever proclaims himself emperor or
dictator, is greeted by the Russian people, that horde of creeping
slaves, as their lord and master, the supreme disposer of life and
death, while they crawl in the dust at his feet.

They had sworn allegiance to the Regent Biron, as they had to the
Empress Anna; they threw themselves upon the earth when they met him,
they humbly bared their heads when passing his palace; and when the
magnates of the realm, the princes and counts of Russia, in their
proud equipages, discovered the regent's carriage in the distance, they
ordered a halt, descended from their vehicles, and bowed themselves to
the ground before their passing lord. In Russia, all distinctions of
rank cease in the presence of the ruler; there is but one lord, and one
trembling slave, be he prince or beggar, and that lord must be obeyed,
whether he commands a murder or any other crime. The word and will of
the emperor purify and sanctify every act, blessing it and making it
honorable.

Biron was emperor, although he bore only the name of regent; he had the
power and the dominion; the infant nurseling Ivan, the minor emperor,
was but a shadow, a phantom, having the appearance but not the reality
of lordship; he was a thing unworthy of notice; he could make no one
tremble with fear, and therefore it was unnecessary to crawl in the dust
before him.

Homage was paid to the Regent Biron, Duke of Courland; the palace of
Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and his son, the Emperor Ivan, stood empty
and desolate. No one regarded it, and yet perhaps it was worthy of
regard.

Yet many repaired to this quiet, silent palace, to know whom Biron would
perhaps have given princedoms and millions! But no one was there to
betray them to the regent; they were very silent and very cautious in
the palace of the Prince of Brunswick and his wife the Princess Anna
Leopoldowna.

It was, as we have said, about four weeks after the commencement of the
regency of the Duke of Courland, when a sedan-chair was set down before
a small back door of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna's palace; it had
been borne and accompanied by four serfs, over whose gold-embroidered
liveries, as if to protect them from the weather, had been laid a
tolerably thick coat of dust and sweat. Equally splendid, elegant, and
unclean was the chair which the servants now opened for the purpose of
aiding their age-enfeebled master to emerge from it. That person,
who now made his appearance, was a shrunken, trembling, coughing old
gentleman; his small, bent, distorted form was wrapped in a fur cloak
which, somewhat tattered, permitted a soiled and faded under-dress
to make itself perceptible, giving to the old man the appearance of
indigence and slovenliness. Nothing, not even the face, or the thin and
meagre hands he extended to his servants, was neat and cleanly; nothing
about him shone but his eyes, those gray, piercing eyes with their fiery
side-glances and their now kind and now sly and subtle expression. This
ragged and untidy old man might have been taken for a beggar, had not
his dirty fingers and his faded neck-tie, whose original color was
hardly discoverable, flashed with brilliants of an unusual size, and had
not the arms emblazoned upon the door of his chair, in spite of the dust
and dirt, betrayed a noble rank. The arms were those of the Ostermann
family, and this dirty old man in the ragged cloak was Count Ostermann,
the famous Russian statesman, the son of a German preacher, who had
managed by wisdom, cunning, and intrigue to continue in place under five
successive Russian emperors or regents, most of whom had usually been
thrust from power by some bloody means. Czar Peter, who first appointed
him as a minister of state, and confided to him the department of
foreign affairs, on his death-bed said to his successor, the first
Catherine, that Ostermann was the only one who had never made a false
step, and recommended him to his wife as a prop to the empire. Catherine
appointed him imperial chancellor and tutor of Peter II.; he knew how to
secure and preserve the favor of both, and the successor of Peter II.,
the Empress Anna, was glad to retain the services of the celebrated
statesman and diplomatist who had so faithfully served her predecessors.
From Anna he came to her favorite, Baron of Courland, who did not
venture to remove one whose talents had gained for him so distinguished
a reputation, and who in any case might prove a very dangerous enemy.

But with Count Ostermann it had gone as with Count Munnich. Neither
of them had been able to obtain from the regent any thing more than a
confirmation of their offices and dignities, to which Biron, jealous
of power, had been unwilling to make any addition. Deceived in their
expectations, vexed at this frustration of their plans, they had both
come to the determination to overthrow the man who was unwilling to
advance them; they had become Biron's enemies because he did not show
himself their friend, and, openly devoted to him and bowing in the
dust before him, they had secretly repaired to his bitterest enemy,
the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna, to offer her their services against the
haughty regent who swayed the iron sceptre of his despotic power over
Russia.

A decisive conversation was this day to be held with the duchess and her
husband, Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and therefore, an unheard-of case,
had even Count Ostermann resolved to leave his dusty room for some hours
and repair to the palace of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna.

"Slowly, slowly, ye knaves," groaned Ostermann, as he ascended the
narrow winding stairs with the aid of his servants. "See you not, you
hounds, that every one of your movements causes me insufferable pain?
Ah, a fearful illness is evidently coming; it is already attacking my
limbs, and pierces and agonizes every part of my system! Let my bed be
prepared at home, you scamps, and have a strengthening soup made ready
for me. And now away, fellows, and woe to you if, during my absence,
either one of you should dare to break into the store-room or
wine-cellar! You know that I have good eyes, and am cognizant of every
article on hand, even to its exact weight and measure. Take care,
therefore, take care! for if but an ounce of meat or a glass of wine
is missing, I will have you whipped, you hounds, until the blood flows.
That you may depend upon!"

And, dismissing his assistants with a kick, Count Ostermann ascended the
last steps of the winding stairs alone and unaided. But, before opening
the door at the head of the stairs, he took time for reflection.

"Hem! perhaps it would have been better for me to have been already
taken ill, for if this plan should miscarry, and the regent discover
that I was in the palace to-day, how then? Ah, I already seem to feel
a draught of Siberian air! But no, it will succeed, and how would that
ambitious Munnich triumph should it succeed without me! No, for this
time I must be present, to the vexation of Munnich, that he may not put
all Russia in his pocket! The good man has such large pockets and such
grasping hands!"

Nodding and smiling to himself, Ostermann opened the door of the
anteroom. A rapid, searching glance satisfied him that he was alone
there, but his brow darkened when he observed Count Munnich's mantle
lying upon a chair.

"Ah, he has preceded me," peevishly murmured Ostermann. "Well, well,
we can afford once more to yield the precedence to him. To-day
he--to-morrow I! My turn will come to-morrow!"

Quite forgetting his illness and his pretended pains, he rapidly crossed
the spacious room, and, throwing his ragged fur cloak upon Munnich's
mantle, said:

"A poor old cloak like this is yet in condition to render that
resplendent uniform invisible. Not a spangle of that magnificent gold
embroidery can be seen, it is all overshadowed by the ragged old cloak
which Munnich so much despises! Oh, the good field-marshal will rejoice
to find his mantle in such good company, and I hope my cloak may
leave some visible memento upon its embroidered companion. Well, the
field-marshal is a brave man, and I have given him an opportunity to
make a campaign against his own mantle! The fool, why does he dislike
these good little animals, and would yet be a Russian!"

As, however, he opened the door of the next room, his form again took
its former shrunken, frail appearance, and his features again bore the
expression of suffering and exhaustion.

"Ah, it is you," said Prince Ulrich, advancing to meet the count, while
Munnich stood near a writing-table, in earnest conversation with Anna
Leopoldowna, to whom he seemed to be explaining something upon a sheet
of paper.

"We have waited long for you, my dear count," continued the prince,
offering his hand to the new-comer, with a smile.

"The old and the sick always have the misfortune to arrive too late,"
said Count Ostermann, "pain and suffering are such hinderances, your
grace. And, moreover, I have only come in obedience to the wishes of
your highness, well knowing that I am superfluous here. What has the
feeble old man to do in the councils of the strong?"

"To represent wisdom in council," said the prince, "and for that, you
are precisely the man, count."

"Ah, Count Ostermann," at this moment interposed Munnich, "it is well
you have come. You will be best able to tell their excellencies whether
I am right or not."

"Field-Marshall Munnich is always right," said Ostermann, with a
pleasant smile. "I unconditionally say 'yes' to whatever you may have
proposed, provided that it is not a proposition of which my judgment
cannot approve."

"That is a very conditional yes!" exclaimed the duchess, laughing.

"A 'yes,' all perforated with little back doors through which a 'no' may
conveniently enter," laughed the prince.

"The back doors are in all cases of the greatest importance," said Count
Ostermann, earnestly. "Through back doors one often attains to the rooms
of state, and had your palace here accidentally had no back door for the
admission of us, your devoted servants, who knows, your highness Anna,
whether you would on this very night become regent!"

"On this night!" suddenly exclaimed Munnich. "You see, your highness,
that Count Ostermann is wholly of my opinion. It must be done this
night!"

"That would be overhaste," cried the duchess; "we are not yet prepared!"

"Nor is the regent, Biron of Courland," thoughtfully interposed
Ostermann; "and, therefore, our overhaste would take Biron by surprise."

"Decidedly my opinion," said Munnich. "All is lost if we give the regent
time and leisure to make his arrangements. If we do not annihilate him
to-day, he may, perhaps, send us to Siberia to-morrow."

The duchess turned pale; a trembling ran through her tall, noble form.

"I so much dread the shedding of blood!" said she.

"Oh, I am not at all vain," said Ostermann. "I find it much less
unpleasant to see the blood of others flowing than my own. It may be
egotism, but I prefer keeping my blood in my veins to exposing it to the
gaping curiosity of an astonished crowd!"

"You think, then, that he already suspects, and would murder us?"

"You, us, and also your son, the Emperor Ivan."

"Also my son!" exclaimed Leopoldowna, her eyes flashing like those of an
enraged lioness. "Ah, I should know how to defend my son. Let Biron fall
this night!"

"So be it!" unanimously exclaimed the three men.

"He has driven us to this extremity," said the princess. "Not enough
that he has banished our friends and faithful servants, surrounding us
with his miserable creatures and spies--not enough that he wounds and
humiliates us in every way--he would rend the young emperor from us, his
parents, his natural protectors. We are attacked in our holiest rights,
and must, therefore, defend ourselves."

"But what shall we do with this small Biron, when he is no longer the
great regent?" asked Ostermann.

"We will make him by a head smaller," said Munnich, laughing.

"No," vehemently exclaimed Leopoldowna--"no, no blood shall flow! Not
with blood shall our own and our son's rights be secured! Swear this
gentlemen, or I will never give my consent to the undertaking."

"I well knew that your highness would so decide," said Munnich, with a
smile, drawing a folded paper from his bosom. "In proof of which I hand
this paper to your highness."

"Ah, what is this?" said the duchess, unfolding the paper; "it is the
ground plan of a house!"

"Of the house we will have built for Biron in Siberia," said Munnich; "I
have drawn the plan myself."

"In fact, you are a skilful architect, Count Munnich," said Ostermann,
laughing, while casting an interrogating glance at the paper which Anna
was still thoughtfully examining. "How well you have arranged it all!
How delightful these snug little chambers will be! There will be just
space enough in them to turn around in. But these small chambers seem to
be a little too low. They are evidently not more than five feet high.
As Biron, however, has about your height, he will not be able to stand
upright in them."

"Bah! for that very reason!" said Munnich, with a cruel laugh. "He has
carried his head high long enough; now he may learn to bow."

"But that will be a continual torment!" exclaimed the Duke of Brunswick.

"On, has he not tormented us?" angrily responded Munnich. "We need
reprisals."

"How strange and horrible!" said Anna Leopoldowna, shuddering; "this man
is now standing here clothed with unlimited power, and we are already
holding in our hands the plan of his prison!"

"Yes, yes, and with this plan in his pocket will Count Munnich now go
to dine with Biron and enjoy his hospitality!" laughingly exclaimed
Ostermann. "Ah, that must make the dinner particularly piquant! How
agreeable it must be to press the regent's hand, and at the same time
feel the rustling in your pocket of the paper upon which you have drawn
the plan of his Siberian prison! But you are in the right. The regent
has deeply offended you. How could he dare refuse to make you his
generalissimo?"

"Ah, it is not for that," said Munnich with embarrassment; and, seeking
to give the conversation a different turn, he continued--"ah, see, Count
Ostermann, what a terrible animal is crawling there upon your dress!"

"Policy, nothing but policy," tranquilly responded Ostermann, while the
princess turned away with an expression of repugnance.

"Well," cried the prince, laughing, "explain to us, Count Ostermann,
what those disgusting insects have to do with policy or politics?"

"We are all four Germans," said Ostermann, "and consequently are all
familiar with the common saying, 'Tell me the company you keep, and I
will tell you what you are!' I have always kept that in mind since I
have been in Russia; and to make this good people forget that I am a
foreigner, I have taken particular pains to furnish myself with a supply
of their dirt and of these delicate insects. If any one asks me who I
am, I show him these creatures with whom I associate, and he immediately
concludes that I am a Russian."

Ostermann joined in the laugh that followed this explanation, but
suddenly he uttered a piercing cry, and sank down upon a chair.

"Ah, these pains will be the death of me!" he moaned--"ah, I already
feel the ravages of death in my blood; yes, I have long known that
a dangerous malady was hovering over me, and my death-bed is already
prepared at home! I am a poor failing old man, and who knows whether I
shall outlive the evening of this day?"

While Ostermann was thus lamenting, and the prince with kindly sympathy
was occupied about him, Munnich had returned the drawing to his pocket,
and was speaking in a low tone to the duchess of some yet necessary
preparations for the night. Count Ostermann, notwithstanding his
lamentations and his pretended pains, had yet a sharp ear for every
word they spoke. He very distinctly heard the duchess say: "Well, I am
satisfied! I shall expect you at about two o'clock in the morning, and
if the affair is successful, you, Count Munnich, may be sure of my
most fervent gratitude; you will then have liberated Russia, the young
emperor, and myself, from a cruel and despotic tyrant, and I shall be
eternally beholden to you."

Count Munnich's brow beamed with inward satisfaction. "I shall, then,
attain my ends," thought he. Aloud he said: "Your highness, I have but
one wish and one request; if you are willing to fulfil this, then will
there be nothing left on earth for me to desire."

"Then name your request at once, that I may grant it in advance!" said
the princess, with a smile.

"The man is getting on rapidly, and will even now get the appointment of
generalissimo," thought Ostermann. "That must never be; I must prevent
it!"

And just as Munnich was opening his mouth to prefer his request,
Ostermann suddenly uttered so loud and piteous a cry of anguish that the
compassionate and alarmed princess hastened to offer him her sympathy
and aid.

At this moment the clock upon the wall struck four. That was the hour
for which Munnich was invited to dine with the regent. It would not do
to fail of his engagement to-day--he must be punctual, to avoid exciting
suspicion. He, therefore, had no longer the time to lay his request
before the princess; consequently Count Ostermann had accomplished his
object, and secretly triumphing, he loudly groaned and complained of his
sufferings.

Count Munnich took his leave.

"I go now," he smilingly said, "to take my last dinner with the Duke of
Courland. I shall return this night at the appointed hour. We shall then
convert the duke into a Siberian convict, which, at all events, will be
a very interesting operation."

Thus he departed, with a horrible laugh upon his lips, to keep his
appointment with the regent.

Count Ostermann had again attained his end--he remained alone with the
princely pair. Had Munnich been the first who came, Ostermann was the
last to go.

"Ah," said he, rising with apparent difficulty, "I will now bear my old,
diseased body to my dwelling, to repose and perhaps to die upon my bed
of pain."

"Not to die, I hope," said Anna.

"You must live, that you may see us in our greatness," said the prince.

Ostermann feebly shook his head. "I see, I see it all," said he. "You
will liberate yourself from one tyrant, your highness, to become the
prey of another. The eyes of the dying see clear, and I tell you,
duchess, you were already on the point of giving away the power you have
attained. Know you what Munnich's demand will be?"

"Well?"

"He will demand what Biron refused him, and for which refusal Munnich
became his enemy. He will ask you to appoint him generalissimo of all
your forces by land and sea."

"Then will he demand what naturally belongs to me," said the prince,
excitedly, "and we shall of course refuse it."

"Yes, we must refuse it," repeated the princess.

"And in that you will do well," said Count Ostermann. "I may venture to
say so, as I have no longer the least ambition--death will soon relieve
me from all participation in affairs of state. I am a feeble old man,
and desire nothing more than to be allowed occasionally to impart good
counsels to my benefactors. And this is now my advice: Guard yourselves
against the ambition of Count Munnich."

"We shall bear your counsel in mind," said the prince.

"We will not appoint him generalissimo!" exclaimed the princess. "He
must never forget that he is our servant, and we his masters."

"And now permit me to go, your highness," said Ostermann. "Will you
have the kindness, prince, to command your lackeys to bear me to my
sedan-chair? It is impossible for me to walk a step. Yes, yes, while you
are this night contending for a throne, I shall, perhaps, be struggling
with death."

And with a groan, sinking back into the arms of the lackeys whom the
prince had called, Ostermann suffered himself to be carried down to his
chair, which awaited him at the door. He groaned and cried out as they
placed him in it, but as soon as its doors were closed and his serfs
were trotting with him toward his own palace, the suffering expression
vanished from Ostermann's face, and a sly smile of satisfaction played
upon his lips.

"I think I have well employed my time," he muttered to himself. "The
good Munnich will never become generalissimo, and poor old failing
Ostermann may now, unsuspected, go quietly to bed and comfortably await
the coming events. Such an illness, at the right time, is an insurance
against all accidents and miscarriages. I learned that after the death
of Peter II. Who knows what would then have become of me had I not been
careful to remain sick in bed until Anna had mounted the throne? I will,
therefore, again be sick, and in the morning we shall see! Should
this conjuration succeed, very well; then, perhaps, old Ostermann will
gradually recover sufficient health to take yet a few of the burdens
of state upon his own shoulders, and thus relieve the good Munnich of a
part of his cares!"



THE NIGHT OF THE CONSPIRACY

It was a splendid dinner, that which the regent had this day prepared
for his guests. Count Munnich was very much devoted to the pleasures of
the table, and, sitting near the regent, he gave himself wholly up to
the cheerful humour which the excellent viands and delicate wines were
calculated to stimulate. At times he entirely forgot his deep-laid plans
for the coming night, and then again he would suddenly recollect them
in the midst of his gayest conversation with his host, and while
volunteering a toast in praise of the noble regent, and closing it by
crying--"A long life and reign to the great regent, Biron von Courland!"
he secretly and with a malicious pleasure thought: "This is thy
last dinner, sir duke! A few hours, and those lips, now smiling with
happiness, will be forever silenced by our blows!"

These thoughts made the field-marshal unusually gay and talkative,
and the regent protested that Munnich had never been a more agreeable
_convive_ than precisely to-day. Therefore, when the other guests
retired, he begged of Munnich to remain with him awhile; and the
field-marshal, thinking it might possibly enable him to prevent any
warning reaching the regent, consented to stay.

They spoke of past times, of the happy days when the Empress Anna yet
reigned, and when all breathed of pleasure and enjoyment at that happy
court; and perhaps it was these recollections that rendered Biron sad
and thoughtful. He was absent and low-spirited, and his large, flashing
eyes often rested with piercing glances upon the calm and smiling face
of Munnich.

"You all envy me on account of my power and dominion," said he to
Munnich; "of that I am not ignorant. But you know not with what secret
pain and anguish these few hours of splendor are purchased!--the
sleepless nights in which one fears seeing the doors open to give
admission to murderers, and then the dreams in which blood is seen
flowing, and nothing is heard but death-shrieks and lamentations! Ah, I
hate the nights, which are inimical to all happiness. In the night
will misfortune at some time overtake me--in the night the evil spirit
reigns!"

With a drooping head the regent had spoken half to himself; but suddenly
raising his head and looking Munnich sharply in the eyes, he said:
"Have you, Mr. Field-Marshal, during your campaigns, never in the night
foreseen any important event?"

Munnich shuddered slightly, and the color forsook his cheeks. "He knows
all, and I am lost," thought he, and his hand involuntarily sought his
sword. "I will defend myself to the last drop of my blood," was his
first idea.

But Biron, although surprised, saw nothing of the field-marshal's
strange commotion--he was wholly occupied with his own thoughts, and
only awaited an answer to his question.

"Well, Mr. Field-Marshal," he repeated, "tell me whether in the night
you have ever had the presentiment of any important event?"

"I was just considering," he calmly said. "At this moment I do not
recollect ever having foreseen any extraordinary event by night. But it
has always been a principle of mine to take advantage of every favorable
opportunity, whether by day or night."

Munnich remained with the regent until eleven o'clock in the evening,
and then they separated with the greatest kindness and the heartiest
assurances of mutual friendship and devotion.

"Ah, that was a hard trial!" said Munnich, breathing easier and deeper,
as he left the palace of the duke behind him. "I was already convinced
that all was lost, but this Biron is unsuspecting as a child! Sleep now,
Biron, sleep!--in a few hours I shall come to awaken you, and realize
your bloody dream!"

With winged steps he hastened to his own palace. Arrived there, he
summoned his adjutant, Captain von Mannstein, and, after having briefly
given him the necessary orders, took him with him into his carriage for
the purpose of repairing to the palace of the Prince of Brunswick.

It was a cold November night of the year 1740. The deserted streets were
hushed in silence, and no one of the occupants of the dark houses, no
one on earth, dreamed that this carriage, whose rumbling was only half
heard in sleep, was in a manner the thundering herald of new times and
new lords.

Munnich had chosen his time well. For if it was forbidden to admit any
one whatever, during the night, to the palace occupied by the young
czar, and if also the regent had given the guards strict orders to shoot
any one who might attempt, in spite of these commands, to penetrate into
the forbidden precincts, this day made an exception for Munnich, as a
portion of one of his own regiments was to-day on duty at the imperial
palace.

Unimpeded, stayed by no one, Munnich penetrated to the apartments of
Anna Leopoldowna. She was awaiting him, and at his side she descended to
receive the homage of the officers and soldiers, who had been commanded
by Munnich to submit themselves to her.

With glowing words she described to the listening soldiers all the
insults and injuries to which the regent had subjected herself, her
husband, and their son the emperor.

"Who can say that this miserable low-born Biron is called to fill
so exalted a place, and to lord it over you, my beloved friends and
brothers? To me, as the niece of the blessed Empress Anna, to me, as
the mother of Ivan, chosen as emperor by Anna, to me alone belongs
the regency, and by Heaven I will reconquer that of which I have been
nefariously robbed! I will punish this insolent upstart whose shameful
tyranny we have endured long enough, and I hope you, my friends, will
stand by me and obey the commands of your generals."

A loud _viva_ followed this speech of Anna Leopoldowna, who tenderly
embraced the enraptured officers, commanding them to follow her.

Accompanied by Marshal Munnich and eighty soldiers, Anna then went out
into the streets. In silence they advanced to within a hundred steps
of Biron's palace. Here, making a halt, Mannstein alone approached
the palace to command the officers of the guard in the name of the new
regent, Anna Leopoldowna, to submit and pay homage to her. No opposition
was made; accustomed always to obey, they had not the courage to dispute
the commands of the new ruler, and declared themselves ready to assist
her in the arrest of the regent.

Mannstein returned to Anna and Munnich with this joyful intelligence,
and received orders to penetrate into the palace with twenty men, to
capture the duke, and even kill him if he made resistance.

Without opposition Mannstein again returned to the palace with his small
band, carefully avoiding making the least noise in his approach. All the
soldiers in the palace knew him; and as the watch below had permitted
him to pass, they supposed he must have an important message for the
duke, and no one stopped him.

He had already wandered through several rooms, when an unforeseen
difficulty presented itself. Where is the sleeping-room of the duke?
Which way must he turn, in order to find him? He stood there undecided,
not daring to ask any of the attendants in the anterooms, lest perhaps
they might suspect him and awaken the duke! He finally resolved to go
forward and trust to accident. He passed two or three chambers--all were
empty, all was still!

Now he stands before a closed door! What if that should prove the
chamber of the duke? He thinks he hears a breathing.

He cautiously tries the door. Slightly closed, it yields to his
pressure, and he enters. There stands a huge bed with hanging curtains,
which are boldly drawn aside by Mannstein.

Before him lies the regent, Duke Biron of Courland, with his wife by his
side.

"Duke Biron, awake!" called Mannstein, with a loud voice. The ducal pair
started up from their slumber with a shriek of terror.

Biron leaps from the bed, but Mannstein overpowers him and holds him
fast until his soldiers come. The duke defends himself with his hands,
but is beaten down with musket-stocks. They bind his hands with an
officer's scarf, they wrap him in a soldier's mantle, and so convey him
down to Field-Marshal Munnich's carriage which is waiting, below, to
transport him to the winter palace.

While Mannstein and the soldiers were occupied with the duke, his
duchess had found an opportunity to make her escape. With only her light
night-dress, shrieking and lamenting, she had rushed into the street.

She was seized by a soldier, who, conducting her to Mannstein, asked
what he should do with her.

"Take her back into the palace!" said Mannstein, hastening past.

But the soldier, only anxious to rid himself of an encumbrance, threw
the now insensible duchess into the snow, and hurried away.

In this situation she was found by a captain of the guard, who lifted
her up and conveyed her into the palace to give her over to the care of
her women, that she might be restored to consciousness and dressed. But
she no longer had either women or servants! Her reign is over; they have
all fled in terror, as from the house of death, that they may not be
involved in the disaster of those whose good fortunes they have shared.
The slaves had all decamped in search of new masters, and the regent's
palace, so often humbly and reverently sought, is now avoided as a
pest-house.

With trembling hands the duchess enveloped herself in her clothes, and
then followed her husband into the winter palace.

And while all this was taking place the court and nation yet trembled at
the names of these two persons who had just been so deeply humbled. The
Princess Anna Leopoldowna, accompanied by the shouting soldiery, made a
triumphant progress through the streets of the city, stopping at all the
caserns to receive the oaths and homage of the regiments.

This palace-revolution was consummated without the shedding of
blood, and the awaking people of St. Petersburg found themselves with
astonishment under a new regency and new masters!

But a population of slaves venture no opposition. Whoever may have the
power to declare and maintain himself their ruler, he is their master,
and the slavish horde bow humbly before him.

As, hardly four weeks previously, the great magnates of the realm
had hurried to the Duke of Courland to pay their homage and prostrate
themselves in the dust before him, so did they now hasten to the palace
of the new regent, humbly to pay their court to her. The same lips that
even yesterday swore eternal fidelity to the Regent Biron, and sounded
his praise to the skies, now condemned him, and as loudly commended
their august new mistress, Anna Leopoldowna! The same knees which had
yesterday bent to Biron, now bent before Anna; and, with tears of joy,
men now again sank into the arms of each other, loudly congratulating
their noble Russia upon which the sun of happiness had now risen, given
her Anna Leopoldowna as regent!

And while all was jubilation in the palace of the new regent, that of
the great man of yesterday stood silent and deserted--no one dared to
raise a voice in his favor! Those who yesterday revelled at his table
and sang his praises were to-day his bitterest enemies, cursing him the
louder the more they had lauded him yesterday.

Magnificent festivals were celebrated in St. Petersburg in honor of
the new regent, while they were at the same time trying the old one
and condemning him to death. But Anna Leopoldowna mitigated his
punishment--what a mitigation!--by changing the sentence of death into
that of perpetual banishment to Siberia!



HOPES DECEIVED

Tranquillity was again established in Russia. Once again all faces were
lighted up with joy at this new state of affairs, and again the people
congratulated themselves on the good fortune of the Russian empire! All
this was done four weeks previously, when Biron took upon himself the
regency, and the same will be done again when another comes to overthrow
the Regent Anna!

It was on the day after this new revolution, when Munnich, entering the
palace with a proud step and elevated head, requested an interview with
the regent.

"Your highness," he said, not bending the knee before his sovereign as
custom demanded, but only slightly pressing her hand to his lips--"your
highness, I have redeemed my word and fulfilled my promise. I promised
to liberate you from Biron and make you regent, and I have kept my word.
Now, madame, it is for you to fulfil your pledge! You solemnly promised
that when I should succeed in making you regent, you would immediately
and unconditionally grant me whatever I might demand. Well, now, you are
regent, and I come to proffer my request!"

"It will make me happy, field-marshal, to discharge a small part of my
obligations toward you, by yielding to your demand. Ask quickly, that I
may the sooner give!" said Anna Leopoldowna, with an engaging smile.

"Make me the generalissimo of your forces!" responded Munnich in an
almost commanding tone.

A cloud gathered over the smiling features of the regent.

"Why must you ask precisely this--this one only favor which it is
no longer in my power to bestow?" she sadly said. "There are so many
offices, so many influential positions--ah, I could prove my gratitude
to you in so many ways! Ask for money, treasures, landed estates--all
these it is in my power to give. Why must you demand precisely that
which is no longer mine!"

Munnich stared at her with widely opened eyes, trembling lips, and
pallid cheeks. His head swam, and he thought he could not have rightly
heard.

"I hope this is only a misunderstanding!" he stammered. "I must have
heard wrong; it cannot be your intention to refuse me."

"Would to God it were yet in my power to gratify you!" sighed the
regent. "But I cannot give what is no longer mine! Why came you not a
few hours earlier, field-marshal? then it would have been yet possible
to comply with your request. But now it is too late!"

"You have, then, appointed another generalissimo?" shrieked Munnich,
quivering with rage.

"Yes," said Anna, smiling; "and see, there comes my generalissimo!"

It was the regent's husband, Prince Ulrich von Brunswick, who that
moment entered the room and calmly greeted Munnich.

"You have here a rival, my husband," said the princess, without
embarrassment; "and had I not already signed your diploma, it is very
questionable whether I should now do it, now that I know Count Munich
desires the appointment."

"I hope," proudly responded the prince, "Count Munnich will comprehend
that this position, which places the whole power of the empire in
the hands of him who holds it, is suitable only for the father of the
emperor!"

Count Munnich made no answer. Already so near the attainment of his end,
he saw it again elude his grasp. Again had he labored, struggled, in
vain. This was the second revolution which he had brought about, with
this his favorite plan in view: two regents were indebted to him for
their greatness, and both had refused him the one thing for which he had
made them regents; neither had been willing to create him generalissimo!

In this moment Munnich felt unable to conceal his rage under an
assumed tranquillity; pretending a sudden attack of illness, he begged
permission to retire.

Tottering, scarcely in possession of his senses, he hastened through
the hall thronged with petitioners. All bowed before him, all reverently
saluted him; but to him it seemed that he could read nothing but mockery
and malicious joy upon all those smiling faces. Ah, he could
have crushed them all, and trodden them under his feet, in his
inextinguishable rage!

When he finally reached his carriage, and his proud steeds were bearing
him swiftly away--when none could any longer see him--then he gave vent
to furious execrations, and tears of rage flowed from his eyes; he tore
out his hair and smote his breast; he felt himself wandering, frantic
with rage and despair. One thought, one wish had occupied him for many
long years; he had labored and striven for it. He wished to be the
first, the most powerful man in the Russian empire; he would control
the military force, and in his hands should rest the means of giving
the country peace or war! That was what he wanted; that was what he had
labored for--and now. . . .

"Oh, Biron, Biron," he faintly groaned, "why must I overthrow you? You
loved me, and perhaps would one day have accorded me what you at first
refused! Biron, I have betrayed you with a kiss. It is your guardian
angel who is now avenging you!"

Thus he reached his palace, and the servants who opened the door of
his carriage started back with alarm at the fearful expression of their
master's face. It had become of an ashen gray, his blue lips quivered,
and his gloomily-gleaming eyes seemed to threaten those who dared
approach him.

Alighting in silence, he strode on through the rows of his trembling
servants. Suddenly two of his lackeys fell upon their knees before him,
weeping and sobbing; they stretched forth their hands to him, begging
for mercy.

"What have they done?" asked he of his major-domo.

"Feodor has had the misfortune to break your excellency's drinking-cup,
and Ivanovitch bears the blame of suffering your greyhound Artemisia to
escape."

A strange joy suddenly lighted up the brow of the count.

"Ah," said he, breathing more freely, and stretching himself up--"ah, I
thank God that I now have some one on whom I can wreak my vengeance!"

And kicking the unfortunate weeping and writhing servants, who were
crawling in the dust before him, Munnich cried:

"No mercy, you hounds--no, no mercy! You shall be scourged until you
have breathed out your miserable lives! The knout here! Strike! I will
look on from my windows, and see that my commands are executed! Ah, I
will teach you to break my cups and let my hounds escape! Scourge them
unto death! I will see their blood--their red, smoking blood!"

The field-marshal stationed himself at his open window. The servants had
formed a close circle around the unhappy beings who were receiving their
punishment in the court below. The air was filled with the shrieks of
the tortured men, blood flowed in streams over their flayed backs, and
at every new stroke of the knout they howled and shrieked for mercy;
while at every new shriek Munnich cried out to his executioners:

"No, no mercy, no pity! Scourge the culprits! I would, I must see blood!
Scourge them to death!"

Trembling, the band of servants looked on with folded hands; with a
savage smile upon his face, stood Count Munnich at his window above.

Weaker and weaker grew the cries of the unhappy sufferers--they no
longer prayed for mercy. The knout continued to flay their bodies, but
their blood no longer flowed--they were dead!

The surrounding servants folded their hands in prayer for the souls
of the deceased, and then loudly commended the mild justice of their
master!

Retiring from the window, Count Munnich ordered his breakfast to be
served!(*)

     (*) Such horribly cruel punishments of the serfs were at
     that time no uncommon occurrence in Russia. Unhappy serfs
     were daily scourged to death at the command of their
     masters. Moreover, princes and generals, and even
     respectable ladies, were scourged with the knout at the
     command of the emperor. Yet these punishments in Russia had
     nothing dishonoring in them. The Empress Catharine II. had
     three of her court ladies stripped and scourged in the
     presence of the whole court, for having drawn some offensive
     caricatures of the great empress. One of these scourged
     ladies, afterward married to a Russian magnate, was sent by
     Catharine as a sort of ambassadress to Sweden, for the
     purpose of inducing the King of Sweden to favor some of her
     political plans.--"Memoires Secrets sur la Russie, par
     Masson," vol. iii., p. 392.

From that time forward, however, Munnich's life was a continuous chain
of vexations and mortifications. As his inordinate ambition was known,
he was constantly suspected, and was reprehended with inexorable
severity for every fault.

It is true the regent raised him to the post of first minister; but
Ostermann, who recovered his health after the successful termination
of the revolutionary enterprise, by various intrigues attained to the
position of minister of foreign affairs; while to Golopkin was given the
department of the interior, so that only the war department remained
to the first minister, Munnich. He had originated and accomplished two
revolutions that he might become generalissimo, and had obtained nothing
but mortifications and humiliations that embittered every moment of his
life!



THE REGENT ANNA LEOPOLDOWNA

Anna had succeeded, she was regent; she had shaken off the burden of
the Bironic tutelage, and her word was all-powerful throughout the
immeasurable provinces of the Russian empire. Was she now happy, this
proud and powerful Anna Leopoldowna? No one had ever yet been happy
and free from care upon this Russian throne, and how, then, could Anna
Leopoldowna be so? She had read the books of Russian political history,
and that history was written with blood! Anna was a woman, and she
trembled when thinking of the poison, the dagger, the throttling hands,
and flaying sword, which had constantly beset the throne of Russian, and
in a manner had been the means in the hands of Providence of clearing
it from one tyrant, only, indeed, to make room for another. Anna, as we
have said, trembled before this means of Providence; and when her
eyes fell upon Munnich--upon his dark, angry brow and his secretly
threatening glance--she then with inward terror asked herself: "May not
Providence have chosen him for my murderer? Will he not overthrow me, as
he overthrew his former master and friend Duke Biron?"

Anna now feared him whom she had chiefly to thank for her greatness. At
the time when he had made her regent he had satisfactorily shown that
his arm was sufficiently powerful to displace one regent and hurl him to
the dust! What he had once done, might not he now be able to accomplish
again?

She surrounded this feared field-marshal with spies and listeners;
she caused all his actions to be watched, every one of his words to be
repeated to her, in order to ascertain whether it had not some concealed
sense, some threatening secret; she doubled the guards of her palace,
and, always trembling with fear, she no longer dared to occupy any one
of her apartments continuously. Nomadically wandered they about in their
own palace, this Regent Anna Leopoldowna and her husband Prince Ulrich
of Brunswick; remembering the sleeping-chamber of Biron, she dared not
select any one distinct apartment for constant occupation; every evening
found her in a new room, every night she reposed in a different bed, and
even her most trusted servant often knew not in which wing of the castle
the princely pair were to pass the night.

She, before whom these millions of Russian subjects humbled themselves
in the dust, trembled every night in her bed at the slightest rustling,
at the whisperings of the wind, at every breath of air that beat her
closed and bolted doors.

She might, it is true, have released herself from these torments with
the utterance of only one word of command; it required only a wave of
her hand to send this haughty and dangerous Munnich to Siberia! Nor
was an excuse for such a proceeding wanting. Count Munnich's pride and
presumption daily gave occasion for anger; he daily gave offence by
his reckless disregard and disrespect for his chief, the generalissimo,
Prince Ulrich; daily was it necessary to correct him and to confine him
within his own proper official boundaries.

And such refractory conduct toward a Russian master, had it not in all
times been a terrible and execrable crime--a crime for which banishment
to Siberia had always been considered a mild punishment?

Poor Anna! called to rule over Russia, she lacked only the first and
most necessary qualification for her position--a Russian heart! There
was, in this German woman's disposition, too much gentleness and
mildness, too much confiding goodness. To a less barbarous people she
might have been a blessing, a merciful ruler and gracious benefactor!

But her arm was too weak to wield the knout instead of the sceptre
over this people of slaves, her heart too soft to judge with inexorable
severity according to the barbarous Russian laws which, never pardoning,
always condemn and flay.

It was this which gradually estranged from her the hearts of the
Russians. They felt that it was no Russian who reigned over them; and
because they had no occasion to tremble and creep in the dust before
her, they almost despised her, and derided the idyllic sentiments of
this good German princess who wished to realize her fantastic dreams by
treating a horde of barbarians as a civilized people!

The slaves longed for their former yoke; they looked around them with a
feeling of strangeness, and to them it seemed unnatural not
everywhere to see the brandished knout, the avenging scaffold, and the
transport-carriages departing for Siberia!

Much as Ostermann importuned her, often as her own husband warned her,
Anna nevertheless refused; she would not banish Field-Marshal Munnich
to Siberia, but remained firm in her determination to leave him in
possession of his liberty and his dignities.

But when Munnich himself, excited and fatigued with these never-ending
annoyances, and moreover believing that Anna could not do without
him, and therefore would not grant his request, finally demanded his
dismission, Anna granted it with joy; and Munnich, deceived in all
his ambitious plans and expectations, angrily left the court to betake
himself to his palace beyond the Neva.

Anna now breathed easier; she now felt herself powerful and free, for
Munnich was as least removed farther from her; his residence was no
longer separated from hers only by a wall, she had no longer to fear his
breaking through in the night--ah, Munnich dwelt beyond the Neva, and a
whole regiment guarded its banks and bridges by night! Munnich could no
longer fall upon her by surprise, as she could have him always watched.

Anna no longer trembled with fear; she could yield to her natural
indolence, and if she sometimes, from fear of Munnich, troubled herself
about state affairs and labored with her ministers, she now felt it to
be an oppressive burden, to which she could no longer consent to subject
herself.

Satiated and exhausted, she in some measure left the wielding of the
sceptre to her first and confidential minister, Count Golopkin. He ruled
in her name, as Count Ostermann was generalissimo in the name of her
husband the Prince of Brunswick. Why trouble themselves with the pains
and cares of governing, when it was permitted them to only enjoy the
pleasures of their all-powerful position?

The minister might flourish the knout and proclaim the Siberian
banishment over the trembling people; the scourged might howl, and the
banished might lament, the great and powerful might dispose of the souls
and bodies of their serfs; rare honesty might be oppressed by consuming
usury; offices, honors, and titles might be gambled for; justice
and punishment might be bought and sold; vice and immorality might
universally prevail--Anna would not know it. She would neither see nor
hear any thing of this outside world! The palace is her world, in which
she is happy, in which she revels!

Ah, that charming, silent little boudoir, with is soft Turkish carpet,
with its elastic divans and heavily curtained windows and doors--that
little boudoir is now her paradise, the temple of her happiness! In it
she lingers, and in it is she blessed. There she reposes, dreaming of
past delightful hours, or smiling with the intoxication of the still
more delightful present in the arms of the one she loves.



THE FAVORITE

See how her eyes flash, how her heart beats--how beautiful she is in the
warm glow of excitement, this beautiful Anna Leopoldowna.

The door opens, and a smiling young maiden looks in with many a nod of
her little head.

"Ah, is it you, my Julia?" calls the princess, opening her arms to press
the young girl to her heart. "Come, I will kiss you, and imagine it is
he who receives the kiss! Ah, what would this poor Anna Leopoldowna
be if deprived of her dear friend, Julia von Mengden?" And drawing her
favorite down into her lap, she continued: "Now relate to me, Julia.
Set your tongue in motion, that I may hear one of your very pleasantest
stories. That will divert me, and cause the long hours before his coming
to pass more quickly."

Julia von Mengden roguishly shook her beautifully curling locks with
a comic earnestness, and, very aptly and unmistakably imitating the
somewhat hoarse and nasal voice of Prince Ulrich, said:

"Your grace forgets that you are regent, and have to hold the reins of
government in the name of the illustrious imperial squaller, your son,
since his imperial grace still remains in his swaddling-clothes, and
has much less to do with state affairs than with many other little
occupations!"

Anna Leopoldowna, breaking out in joyous laughter, exultingly clapped
her little hands, which were sparkling with brilliants.

"This is superb," said she. "You play the part of my very worthy husband
to perfection. It is as if one saw and heard him. Ah, I would that he
resembled you a little, as he would then be less insupportable, and it
would be somewhat easier to endure him."

Julia von Mengden, making no answer to this remark, continued with her
nasal voice and comic pathos:

"Your grace, this is not the time to analyze our diverting little
domestic dissensions, and occupy ourselves with the quiet joys of our
happy union! Your grace is, above all things, regent, and must give
your attention to state affairs. Without are standing three most worthy,
corpulent, tobacco-scented ambassadors, who desire an audience. Your
grace is, above all things, regent, and must receive them."

"Must!" exclaimed Anna, suddenly contracting her brows. "We will first
hear what they desire of us."

"The first is the envoy of the great Persian conqueror,
Thamas-Kouli-Khan, who comes to lay at your feet the magnificent
presents of his master."

"Bah! they are presents for the young Emperor Ivan. He may, therefore,
be conducted to the cradle of my son, and there display his presents. It
does not interest me."

"The second is a messenger from our camp. He brings news of a great
victory obtained by one of your brave generals over the Swedes!"

"But what does that concern me?" angrily cried the regent. "Let them
conquer or be defeated, it is all the same to me. That concerns my
husband the generalissimo! Let me be spared the sight of the warlike and
blood-dripping messenger!"

"The third is the ambassador of the wavering and shaking young Austrian
Empress Maria Theresa. He comes, he says, upon a secret mission, and
pretends to have discovered a sort of conspiracy that is hatching
against you."

"Let him go with his discovery to Golopkin, our minister of the
interior. That is his business!"

"Your grace is, above all things, regent, and should remember--"

"Nothing--I will remember nothing!" exclaimed Anna Leopoldowna,
interrupting her favorite. "I will not be annoyed, that is all."

"Well, thank God!" now cried Julia von Mengden, in her natural
tone--"thank God, that such is your determination, princess! you are,
then, in earnest, and I am to send these three amiable persons to the
devil, or, what is just the same, to your husband?"

"That is my meaning."

"And this is beautiful in you," continued Julia, cowering down before
her mistress. "These eternal, tiresome and intolerable state affairs
would make your face prematurely old and wrinkled, my dear princess. Ah,
there is nothing more tedious than governing. I am heartily sick of it!
At first I was amused when we two sat together and settled who should
be sent to prison and who should be pardoned; whom we should make counts
and princes, or degrade to the ranks as common soldiers. But all that
pleased only for a short time; now it is annoying, and why should we
take upon ourselves this trouble? Have we not the power to act and live
according to our own good pleasure? Bah! that is the least compensation
you should receive for allowing these horrid Russians the privilege of
calling you their regent and mistress!"

"But, my little chatterer, you forget the three envoys who are waiting
without," said Anna, with a smile.

"Ah, that is true! I must first send those wig-blocks away!" said Anna,
tenderly looking after her departing favorite. "She is, indeed, my good
genius, who drives away the cares from my poor brain."

"So, it is done!" cried Julia, quickly returning to the room. "I
have sent the gentlemen away. To the Persian envoy I said: 'Go to our
emperor, Ivan. He feeds upon brilliants, and, as he has had no breakfast
this morning, his appetite will be good. Go, therefore, and give him
your diamonds for breakfast. Anna Leopoldowna wants them not; she is
already satiated with them!'--To the second I said: 'Go and announce
your glorious victory to our sublime generalissimo. He is at his toilet,
and as he every morning touches his noble cheeks with rouge, your new
paint, prepared from the purple blood of the enemy, will doubtless be
very welcome to him!'--'And as to what concerns your secret mission and
your discovered conspiracy,' said I to the Austrian ambassador, 'I
am sorry that you cannot here give birth to the dear children of your
inventive head; go with them to our midwife, Minister Golopkin, and
hasten a little, for I see in your face that you are already in the
pangs of parturition!'"

"Well," asked Anna Leopoldowna, loudly laughing, "what said their
worships to that?"

"What did they say? They said nothing! They were dumb and looked
astonished. They made exactly such eyes as I have seen made at home,
upon my father's estate in Liefland, by the calves when the butcher
knocked them upon the head. But now," continued Julia, nestling again at
the feet of her mistress, "now give me a token of your favor, and forget
for a while that you are regent. Let us chat a little like a couple of
real genuine women--that is, of our husbands and lovers. Oh, I have very
important news for you!"

"Well, speak quickly," said Anna, with eagerness. "What have you to tell
me?"

Julia assumed a very serious and important countenance. "The first and
most important piece of news is, that your husband, Prince Ulrich of
Brunswick, is very jealous of me, and yet of one other!"

"Bah!" said Anna, contemptuously, "let him be jealous. I do not trouble
myself about it, and shall always do as I please."

"No, no, that will not do," seriously responded Julia. "It is so
tiresome to always hear the wrangling and growling of a jealous husband!
I tell your grace that I must have quiet in his presence; I can no
longer bear his grim looks and his constant anger and abuse. You must
soothe him, Princess Anna, or I will run away from this horrible court,
where a poor maiden is not allowed to have her friend and mistress, the
charming Princess Anna Leopoldowna, with all her heart and soul!"

The regent's eyes filled with tears. "My Julia," she tremulously said,
"can you seriously think of leaving me? See you not that I should be
thereby rendered very solitary and miserable?"

And, raising up her favorite into her arms, she kissed her.

Julia's bright eyes also filled with tears. "Think you, then, princess,
that I could ever leave, ever be separated from you?" she tenderly
asked. "No, my Princess Anna has such entire possession of my heart,
that it has no room for any other feeling than the most unbounded love
and devotion to my dear, my adored princess. But for the very reason
that I love you, I cannot bear to have your husband fill the palace with
his jealous complaints, and thus publishing to St. Petersburg and all
the world your unfaithfulness and criminal intrigues. Oh, I tell you I
see through this generalissimo, I know all his plans and secret designs.
He would gladly be able to convict you of infidelity to him--then, with
the help of the army he commands, declare his criminal wife unfit for
the regency, and then make himself regent! He has a cunningly devised
plan, but which my superior cunning shall bring to naught! I will play
him a trick!--But no, I will tell you no more now! At the right time you
shall know all. Now, Princess Anna, now answer me one question. Do you,
then, so very much love this Count Lynar?"

The princess looked up with a dreamy smile. "Do I love him!" she then
murmured low. "Oh, my God, Thou knowest how truly, how glowingly my
heart clings to him. Thou knowest that of all the world I have never
loved any other man than him alone! And you, Julia, you who know every
emotion and palpitation of my heart, you yet ask me if I love him--when
he stood before me in all his proud manly beauty, with his conquering
glance, his heart-winning smile? Ah, my whole heart already then flew to
meet him. I revelled in the sight of him, I thought only of him, I spoke
to him in my thoughts, and my prayers, I loved only when I saw him; and
that happy, that never-to-be-forgotten day when he confessed his love,
when he lay at my feet and swore eternal truth to me--ah, why could I
not have died on that day? I was then _so_ happy!"

"Poor Princess Anna," said Julia, sympathetically, "they soon grudged
you that happiness!"

"Yes," continued Anna with a bitter smile, "yes, the virtuous Empress
Anna blushed in the arms of her lover, Biron, at this aberration of
her sold and coupled niece. She found it very revolting that the poor
sixteen-year-old Anna Leopoldowna dared to have a heart of her own and
to feel a real love. They must therefore rob her of the only happiness
Heaven had vouchsafed her. Consequently, they wrote to Warsaw, asking,
nay, commanding the recall of the ambassador, and Lynar was compelled to
leave me."

"Ah, I well know how unhappy you were at that time," said Julia,
pressing the hand of the princess to her bosom; "how you wept, how you
wrung your hands--"

"And how I nowhere found mercy or commiseration," interposed Anna, with
bitterness, "neither on earth nor in heaven. I was and remained
deserted and solitary, and was compelled to marry this Prince Ulrich of
Brunswick, for whom I felt nothing but a chilling, mortal indifference.
But you must know, Julia, that when I stood with this man at the altar,
and was compelled to become his wife, I thought only of him I loved; I
vowed eternal love only to Lynar, and when the prince folded me in
his arms as his wife, then was my God gracious to me, and in a happy
deception it seemed to me that it was my lover who held me in his
arms--I thought only of him and breathed only his name, and loved
him, kissed him, and became his wife, although he was far, alas, so
immeasurably far from me! And when I felt a second self under my heart,
I then loved with redoubled warmth the distant one whom I had not seen
for years; and when Ivan was born, it seemed to me that the eyes of
my lover looked at me through his, and blessed my son whose spiritual
father he was! And, my child, what think you gave me the courage to
overthrow Biron and assume the regency? Ah, it was only that I might
have the power to recall Lynar to my side! I would and must be regent,
that I might demand the return of Lynar as ambassador from Warsaw. That
gave me courage and decision; that enabled me to overcome all timidity
and anxiety. I thought only of him, and when the end was attained, when
I was declared regent, the first exercise of my power was to recall
Lynar to Court. Julia, what a happy day was that when I saw him again!"

And the princess, wholly absorbed in her delightful reminiscences,
smilingly and silently reclined upon the cushions of the divan.

"Ah, it must be love that so thinks and feels," thoughtfully observed
Julia. "I no longer ask you, Princess Anna, if you love the count, I
now know you do. But answer me yet one question. Have you confidence in
me--full, unlimited confidence? Will you never mistake, never doubt me?"

"Never!" said Anna Leopoldowna, confidently. "And if all the world
should tell me that Julia von Mengden is a traitress, I would
nevertheless firmly rely upon you, and reply to the whole world: 'That
is false! Julia von Mengden is true and pure as gold. I shall always
love her.'"

Julia gratefully glanced up to the heavens, and her eyes filled with
tears.

"I thank you, princess," she then said, with a happy smile. "I now have
courage for all. You shall now be enabled to love your Lynar without
fear or trembling, and your husband's clouded brow and reproaching
tongue shall molest us no more. Confide in me and ask no questions. It
is all decided and arranged in my mind. But hark! do you hear nothing?"

Anna's face was transfused with a purple glow, and her eyes flashed.

"It is my beloved," said she. "Yes, it is he. I know his step!"

Julia smilingly opened the concealed door, and Count Lynar, with a cry
of joy, rushed to the feet of his beloved.

"At length!" he exclaimed, clasping her feet, and pressing them to his
bosom.

"Yes, at length!" murmured Anna, looking down upon him with a celestial
smile.

Julia stood at a distance, contemplating them with thoughtful glances.

"They should be happy," she murmured low, and then asked aloud: "Count
Lynar, did you receive my letter?"

"I did receive it," said the count, "and may God reward you for the
sacrifice you are so generously disposed to make for us! Anna, your
friend Julia is our good angel. To her we shall owe it if our happiness
is henceforth indestructible and indissoluble. Do you know the immense
sacrifice this young maiden proposes to make for us?"

"No, Princess Anna knows nothing, and shall know nothing of it," said
Julia, with a grand air. "Princess Anna shall only know that I love her,
and am ready to give my life for her. And now," she continued, with
her natural gayety, "forget me, ye happy lovers! Lull yourselves in
the sweet enjoyment of nameless ecstasies! I go to watch the spies, and
especially your husband, lest he break in upon you without notice!"

And Julia suddenly left the room, shutting the door upon Anna
Leopoldowna and her lover, the Polish Count Lynar.



NO LOVE

Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, the husband of the regent, had assembled
the officers of his general staff for a secret conference. Their dark,
threatening glances were prophetic of mischief, and angrily flashed the
eyes of the prince, who, standing in their midst, had spoken to them in
glowing words of his domestic unhappiness, and of the idle, dreamy, and
amatory indolence into which the regent had fallen.

"She writes amorous complainings," he now said, with a voice of rage,
in closing his long speech--"she writes sonnets to her lover, instead of
governing and reading the petitions, reports, and other documents
that come to her from the different ministries and bureaus, which she
constantly returns unread. You are men, and are you willing to bear
the humiliation of being governed by a woman who dishonors you by
disregarding her first and holiest duties, and setting before your wives
and daughters the shameful example of a criminal love, thus disgracing
her own son, your emperor and master?"

"No, no, we will not bear it!" cried the wildly excited men, grasping
the hilts of their swords. "Give us proof of her unfaithfulness, and we
shall know how to act as becomes men over whom an adulterous woman would
reign!"

"It is an unnatural and unendurable law that commands man to obey a
woman. It is contrary to nature that the mother should rule in the
name of her son, when the father is living--the father, whom nature
and universal custom acknowledge as the lord and head of his wife and
children!" cried the prince.

"Give us proof of her guilt," cried the soldiers, "and we will this very
hour proclaim you regent in her stead!"

A confidential servant of the prince, who entered at this moment, now
whispered a few words in his ear.

The prince's face flamed up. "Well, then, gentleman," said he,
straightening himself up, "you demand proof. In this very hour will I
furnish it to you. But I do it upon one condition. No personal violence!
In the person of your present regent you must respect the mother of your
emperor, the wife of your future regent! Anna will yield to our just
representations, and voluntarily sign the act of abdication in my favor.
That is all we ought to demand of her. She will retain her sacred and
inviolable rights as the wife of your regent, as the mother of your
emperor. Forget not that!"

"First of all, give us the proof of her guilt!" impatiently cried the
men.

"I shall, alas, be able to give it you!" said the prince, with dignity.
"Far be it from me to desire the conviction of an innocent person!
Believe me, nothing but her guilt could induce me to take action against
her; were she innocent, I would be the first to kneel and renew to her
my oath of fidelity and obedience. But you cannot desire that I, your
generalissimo, should be the subject of a wife who shamefully treads
under foot her first and holiest duty! The honor of you all is wounded
in mine. Come, follow me now. I will show you Count Lynar in the arms of
his mistress, the Regent Anna Leopoldowna!"

The prince strode forth, cautiously followed by his generals. They thus
passed noiselessly through the long corridor leading from the wing of
the palace inhabited by the prince to that occupied by the regent.

In the boudoir of the Regent Anna a somewhat singular scene was now
presented.

The tender caresses of the lovers were suddenly interrupted by Julia von
Mengden, who slipped in through the secret door in a white satin robe,
and with a myrtle crown upon her head.

"Princess Anna, it is time for you to know all!" she hurriedly said.
"Your husband is now coming here through the corridor with his generals;
they hope to surprise you in your lover's arms, that they may have an
excuse for deposing you from the regency and substituting your husband.
Struggle against struggle! We will outwit them, and cure your husband of
his jealousy! From this hour he shall be compelled to acknowledge that
he was mistaken, and that it is for him to implore your pardon. Anna
Leopoldowna, I love no one in the world but you, and therefore I am
ready to do all that love can do for you. I will marry Count Lynar for
the purpose of preserving you from suspicion and slander. I will bear
the name of his wife, as a screen for the concealment of your loves."

Anna's eyes overflowed with tears of emotion and transport.

"Weep not, my love," whispered the count, "be strong and great in this
eventful hour! Now will you be forever mine, for this magnanimous friend
veils and protects our union."

Julia opened the door and waved her hand.

A Russian pope in sacred vestments, followed by two other servants
of the church, entered the room. With them came the most trusted
maid-servants of Julia.

Clasping the count's hand and advancing to Anna, Julia said: "Grant,
illustrious princess, that we may celebrate our solemn espousal in thy
high presence, which is the best blessing of our union!"

Anna opened wide her arms to her favorite, and, pressing her to her
bosom, whispered: "I will never forget thee, my Julia. My blessing upon
thee, my angel!"

"I will be a true sister to him," whispered Julia in return;
"always believe in me and trust me. And now, my Anna, calmness and
self-possession! I already hear your husband's approach. Be strong and
great. Let no feature of your dear face betray your inward commotion!"

And, stepping back to the count, Julia made a sign to the priest to
commence the marriage ceremony.

Hand in hand the bridal pair knelt before the priest, the servants
folded their hands in prayer, and, proudly erect, with a heavenly
transfiguration of her noble face, stood Anna Leopoldowna--the priest
commenced the ceremony.

A slight noise was heard at the closed, concealed door. The priest
calmly continued to speak, the bridal pair remained in their kneeling
position, and, calmly smiling, stood the regent by their side.

The door opened, and, followed by his generals, the enraged prince
appeared upon the threshold.

No one suffered himself to be disturbed; the priest continued the
service, the parties remained upon their knees, Anna Leopoldowna stood
looking on with a proud and tranquil smile.

Motionless, benumbed, as if struck by lightning, remained the prince
upon the threshold; behind him were seen the astonished faces of his
generals, who, on tiptoe, stretched their necks to gaze, over each
other's shoulders, upon this singular and unexpected spectacle!

At length a murmur arose, they pressed farther forward toward the door,
and, overcoming his momentary stupefaction, the prince ventured into the
room.

An angry glance of the priest commanded silence; with a louder voice he
continued his prayer. Anna Leopoldowna smilingly beckoned her husband to
her side, and slightly nodded to the generals.

They bowed to the ground before their august mistress, the regent.

Now came the closing prayer and the dispensation of the blessing. The
priest pronounced it kneeling,--the regent also bent the knee, and drew
the prince down beside her. Following the example of the generalissimo,
the other generals also sank upon their knees,--it was a general prayer,
which no one dared disturb.

The ceremony was ended. The priest kissed and blessed the bridal pair,
and then departed with his assistants; he was followed by the servants
of the favorite.

Anna now turned with a proud smile to the prince.

"Accident, my husband, has made you a witness of this marriage," said
she. "May I ask your highness what procures me this unexpected and
somewhat intrusive visit, and why my generals, unannounced, accompany
you to their regent and mistress?"

The embarrassed prince stammered some unintelligible words, to which
Anna paid no attention.

Stepping forward, she motioned the generals to enter, and with her
most fascinating smile said: "Ah, I think I now know the reason of your
coming, gentlemen! Your loyal and faithful hearts yearn for a sight of
your young emperor. It is true, his faithful subjects have not seen him
for a long time! Even a sovereign is not guaranteed against the evil
influences of the weather, which has lately been very rough, and for
that reason the young czar has been unable to show himself to his
people. Ah, it pleases me that you have come, and I am obliged to my
husband for bringing you to me so unexpectedly. You may now satisfy
yourselves that the emperor lives and is growing fast. Julia, bring us
the young emperor!"

Julia von Mengden silently departed, while Count Lynar, respectfully
approaching the regent, said a few words to her in a low tone.

"You are quite right, sir count," said the regent aloud, and, turning to
her husband and the generals, continued: "Count Lynar is in some
trouble about the unexpected publicity given to his marriage. There are,
however, important reasons for keeping it still a secret. The family of
my maid of honor are opposed to this alliance with the foreigner, and
insist that Julia shall marry another whom they have destined for her.
On the other hand, certain family considerations render secrecy the duty
of the count. Julia, oppressed by her inexorable relations, disclosed
the state of affairs to me, and as I love Julia, and as I saw that
she was wasting away with grief without the possession of her lover, I
favored her connection with Count Lynar. They daily saw each other in my
apartments, and, finally yielding to their united prayers, I consented
that they should this day be legally united by the priest, and thus
defeat the opposition of their respective families.

"This, gentlemen," continued Anna, raising her voice, "is the simple
explanation of this mystery. I owe this explanation to myself, well
knowing that secret slander and malicious insinuations might seek
to implicate me in this affair, and that a certain inimical and
evil-disposed party, displeased that you should have a woman for regent,
would be glad to prove to you that all women are weak, faulty, and
sinful creatures! Be careful how you credit such miserable tales!"

Silent, with downcast eyes, stood the generals under the flashing glance
of the regent, who now turned to her husband with a mocking smile. "You,
my prince and husband," said she, "you I have to thank!--your tenderness
of heart induced you generously to furnish me with this opportunity to
justify my conduct to my most distinguished and best-beloved subjects
and servants, and thus to break the point of the weapon with which
calumny threatened my breast! I therefore thank you, my husband. But
see! there comes the emperor."

In fact, the folding-doors were at this moment thrown open, and a long
train of palace officials and servants approached. At the head of the
train was Julia von Mengden, bearing a velvet cushion bespangled with
brilliants, upon which reposed the child in a dress of gold brocade. On
both sides were seen the richly adorned nurses and attendants, and near
them the major-domo, bearing upon a golden cushion the imperial crown
and other insignia of empire.

Anna Leopoldowna took young Ivan in her arms; the child smiled in her
face, and stretched forth his hand toward the sparkling crown.

With her son upon her arm, Anna majestically advanced to the centre of
the hall, and, lifting up the child, said: "Behold your emperor! Respect
and reverence for your illustrious master! Upon your knees in the
presence of your emperor!"

It was as if all, servants, attendants, and generals, had been struck
with a magic wand. They all fell upon their knees, and bowed their heads
to the earth--venal slaves, one word from their ruler sufficed to set
them all grovelling in the dust!

With a proud smile Anna enjoyed this triumph. Near her stood the prince,
the father of the emperor, with rage and shame in his heart.

"Long live the emperor!" resounded from all lips, and the child Ivan,
Emperor of all the Russias, screeched for joy at the noise and at the
splendor of the assemblage.

"Long live our noble regent, Anna Leopoldowna!" now loudly cried Julia
von Mengden.

Like a thundering cry of jubilation it was instantly echoed through the
hall.

The generals were the first to join in this enthusiastic _viva!_

A quarter of an hour later the generals were permitted to retire, and
the emperor was reconveyed to his apartments.

Anna Leopoldowna remained alone with her husband and the newly-married
pair, who had retreated to the recess of a window and were whispering
together.

Anna now turned to her husband, and, with cutting coldness in her tone,
said:

"You must understand, my husband, that I am very generous. It was in my
power to arrest you as a traitor, but I preferred to shame you, because
you, unhappily, are the father of my child."

"You think, then," asked the prince, with a scornful smile, "that I
shall take the buffoonery you have just had played before us for truth?"

"That, my prince, must wholly depend upon your own good pleasure. But
for the present I must request you to retire to your own apartments!
I feel myself much moved and exhausted, and have also to prepare some
secret dispatches for Count Lynar to take with him in his journey."

"Count Lynar is, then, to leave us?" quickly asked the prince, in an
evidently more friendly tone.

"Yes," said Anna, "he leaves us for some weeks to visit the estate in
Liefland which I have given to Julia as a bridal present, and to make
there the necessary preparations for the proper reception of his wife."

Julia clasped the hands of her mistress, and bathed them with tears of
joy and gratitude.

"Anna," whispered Prince Ulrich, "I did you wrong. Pardon me."

Anna coldly responded: "I will pardon you if you will be generous enough
to allow me a little repose."

The prince silently and respectfully withdrew.

Anna finally, left alone with her lover and her favorite, sank exhausted
upon a divan.

"Close the doors, Julia, that no one may surprise us," she faintly
murmured. "I will take leave. Oh, I would be left for at least a quarter
of an hour undisturbed in my unhappiness."

"Then it is quite true that you intend to drive me away?" asked Count
Lynar, kneeling and clasping her hands. "You are determined to send me
into banishment?"

Anna gave him a glance of tenderness.

"No," said she, "I will send myself into banishment, for I shall not
see you dearest. But I felt that this sacrifice was necessary. Julia
has sacrificed herself for us. With another love in her heart, she has
magnanimously thrown away her freedom and given up her maiden love for
the promotion of our happiness. We owe it to her to preserve her honor
untarnished, that the calumnious crowd may not pry into the motives of
her generous act. For Julia's sake, the world must and shall believe
that she is in fact your wife, and that it was love that united you. We
must, therefore, preserve appearances, and you must conduct your wife to
your estate in triumph. Decency requires it, and we cannot disregard its
requirements."

"Princess Anna is in the right," said Julia; "you must absent yourself
for a few weeks--not for my sake, who little desire any such triumph,
but that the world may believe the tale, and no longer suspect my
princess."

It was a sweetly painful hour--a farewell so tearful, and yet so full of
deeply-felt happiness. On that very night was the count to commence his
journey to Liefland and Warsaw. As they wished to make no secret of the
marriage, the count needed the consent of his court and his family.

Anna provided him with letters and passports. The best and fairest of
the estates of the crown in Liefland was assigned to Julia as a bridal
present, and the count was furnished with the proper documents to enable
him to take possession of it.

And finally came the parting moment! For the last time they lay in
each other's arms; they mutually swore eternal love, unconquerable
fidelity--all that a loving couple could swear!

Tearing himself from her embrace, he rushed to the door.

Anna stretches out her arms toward him, her brow is pallid, her eyes
fixed. The door opens, he turns for one last look, and nods a farewell.
Ah, with her last glance she would forever enchain that noble and
beautiful face--with her extended arms she would forever retain that
majestic form.

"Farewell, Anna, farewell!"

The door closes behind him--he is gone!

A cold shudder convulsed Anna's form, a bodeful fear took possession of
her mind. It lay upon her heart like a dark mourning-veil.

"I shall never, never see him again!" she shrieked, sinking unconscious
into Julia's arms.



PRINCESS ELIZABETH

While a Mecklenburg princess had attained to the regency of Russia, and
while her son was hailed as emperor, the Princess Elizabeth lived alone
and unnoticed in her small and modestly-furnished throne, and yet in St.
Petersburg was living the only rightful heir to the empire, the daughter
of Czar Peter the Great! And as she was young, beautiful, and amiable,
how came she to be set aside to make room for a stranger upon the throne
of her father, which belonged to her alone?

Princess Elizabeth had voluntarily kept aloof from all political
intrigues and all revolutions. In the interior of her palace she passed
happy days; her world, her life, and her pleasures were there. Princess
Elizabeth desired not to reign; her only wish was to love and be loved.
The intoxicating splendor of worldly greatness was not so inviting to
her as the more intoxicating pleasure of blessed and happy love. She
would, above all things, be a woman, and enjoy the full possession of
her youth and happiness.

What cared she that her own rightful throne was occupied by a
stranger--what cared she for the blinding shimmer of a crown? Ah, it
troubled her not that she was poor, and possessed not even the means of
bestowing presents upon her favorites and friends. But she felt happy
in her poverty, for she was free to love whom she would, to raise to
herself whomsoever she might please.

It was a festival day that they were celebrating in the humble palace of
the emperor's daughter Elizabeth--certainly a festival day, for it was
the name-day of the princess.

The rooms were adorned with festoons and garlands, and all her
dependants and friends were gathered around her. Elizabeth saw not the
limited number of this band; she enjoyed herself with those who were
there, and lamented not the much greater number of those who had
forgotten her.

She was among her friends, in her little reception-room. Evening had
come, the household and the less trusted and favored of her adherents
had withdrawn, and only the most intimate, most favored friends now
remained with the princess.

They had conversed so long that they now recurred to the enjoyment of
that always-ready, always-pleasing art, music. A young man sang to the
accompaniment of a guitar.

Elizabeth listened, listlessly reclining upon her divan. Behind her
stood two gentlemen, who, like her, were delightedly listening to the
singing of the youth.

Elizabeth was a blooming, beautiful woman. She was to-day charming
to the eye in the crimson-velvet robe, embroidered with silver, that
enveloped her full, voluptuous form, leaving her neck and _gorge_ free,
and displaying the delicate whiteness of her skin in beautiful contrast
with the purple of her robe. Perhaps a severe judge might not have
pronounced her face handsome according to the rules of the antique, but
it was one of those faces that please and bewitch the other sex; one of
those beauties whose charm consists not so much in the regularity of
the lines as in the ever-varying expression. There was so much that was
winning, enticing, supercilious, much-promising, and warm-glowing, in
the face of this woman! The full, swelling, deep-red lips, how charming
were they when she smiled; those dark, sparkling eyes, how seducing
were they when shaded by a soft veil of emotional enthusiasm; those
faintly-blushing cheeks, that heaving bosom, that voluptuous form, yet
resplendent with youthful gayety--for Elizabeth had not yet reached her
thirtieth year--whom would she not have animated, excited, transported?

Elizabeth knew she was beautiful and attractive, and this was her
pride and her joy. She could easily pardon the German princess, Anna
Leopoldowna, for occupying the throne that was rightfully her own, but
she would never have forgiven the regent had she been handsomer than
herself. Anna Leopoldowna was the most powerful woman in Russia, but
she, Elizabeth, was the handsomest woman in Russia, which was all she
coveted, and she had nothing more to desire.

But at this moment she thought neither of Anna Leopoldowna nor of her
own beauty, but only of the singer who was warbling to her those Russian
popular songs so full of love and sadness that they bring tears into the
eyes and fill the heart with yearning.

Elizabeth had forgotten all around her--she heard only him, saw only
him; her whole soul lay in the glances with which she observed him, and
around her mouth played one of those bewitching smiles peculiar to her
in moments of joy and satisfaction, and which her courtiers knew and
observed.

He was very handsome, this young singer, and as Elizabeth saw him in
this moment, she congratulated herself that her connoisseur-glance had
quickly remarked him, when, some weeks previously, she had first seen
him as the precentor of the imperial chapel.

Surprised and excited by the beauty of his form and the sweetness of
his voice, Elizabeth had begged him of the lord-marshal for her private
service, and since then Alexis Razumovsky had entered her house as her
private secretary and the manager of her small estate.

While Alexis was singing with his sweetly-melting tones, Elizabeth
turned her swimming eyes to the two men who were standing in respectful
silence behind her.

"You must acknowledge," said she in a low tone, and as if oppressed by
internal commotion, "that you never saw nor heard say any thing finer
than my Alexis."

"Oh, yes," said one of these men, with a low bow, "we have seen _you_!"

"And did we not yesterday hear you sing this same charming slumber-song,
princess?" asked the other.

Elizabeth smiled. "It is already well known that Woronzow and Grunstein
must always flatter!" said she.

"No, we do not flatter," responded Woronzow, the chamberlain of the
princess, "we only love truth! You ask if we have ever seen any thing
more beautiful than your private secretary, and we answer that we have
seen _you_!"

"Well, now, you have all so often assured me that I am the handsomest
woman in Russia, that at length I am compelled to believe you. But
Alexis is fortunately a man, and therefore not my rival; you may, then,
fearlessly confess that Alexis is the handsomest of all men! But how
is this?" exclaimed the princess, interrupting herself, as the handsome
young singer suddenly sprang up and threw his guitar aside with an
indignant movement; "do you sing no more, Alexis?"

"No," frowardly responded the young man, "I sing no more, when my
princess no longer listens!"

"There, see the ungrateful man," said the princess, with a charming
smile--"he was occupying all my thoughts, and yet he dares complain! You
are a malefactor deserving punishment. Come here to me, Alexis; kneel,
kiss my hand, and beg for pardon, you calumniator!"

"That is a punishment for which angels might be grateful!" responded
Alexis Razumovsky, kneeling to the princess and pressing her hand to his
burning lips. "Ah, that I might oftener incur such punishment!"

"Do you then prefer punishment to reward?" asked Elizabeth, tenderly
bending down to him and looking deep into his eyes.

"She loves him!" whispered Grunstein to the chamberlain Woronzow. "She
certainly loves him!"

Elizabeth's fine ear caught these words, and, slowly turning her head,
she slightly nodded. "Yes," said she, "Grunstein is right--she loves
him! Congratulate me, therefore, my friends, that the desert void in my
heart is at length filled--congratulate me for loving him. Ah, nothing
is sweeter, holier, or more precious than love; and I can tell you that
we women are happy only when we are under the influence of that divine
passion. Congratulate me, then, my friends, for, thank God, I am in
love! Now, Alexis, what have you to say?"

"There are no words to express such a happiness," cried Alexis, pressing
the feet of the princess to his bosom.

"Happiness, then, strikes you dumb," laughed the princess, "and will not
allow you to say that you love me? Such are all you men. You envelope
yourselves with a convenient silence, and would make us poor women
believe the superabundance of feeling deprives you of utterance."

At this moment the door was softly opened, and a lackey, who made his
appearance at the threshold, beckoned to Woronzow.

"What is it, Woronzow?" asked the princess, while, wholly unembarrassed
by the presence of the lackey, she played with the profuse dark locks of
the kneeling Razumovsky.

"An invitation from the Regent Anna to a court-ball, which is to take
place fourteen days hence," said Woronzow.

"Ah, our good cousin is, then, so gracious as to remember us," cried
the princess, with a somewhat clouded brow. "It will certainly be a very
magnificent festival, as we are invited so many days in advance. How sad
that I cannot have the pleasure of being present!"

"And why not, if one may be allowed to ask, princess?" asked Woronzow.

"Why?" sighed Elizabeth. "Ask my waiting-woman; she will tell you that
the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the great Czar Peter, has not
one single robe splendid enough to render her presentable, without
mortification, at a court-ball of the regent."

"Whatever robe you may wear," passionately interposed Alexis, "you will
still be resplendent, for your beauty will impart a divine halo to any
dress!"

That was precisely the kind of flattery pleasing to Elizabeth.

"Think you so, flatterer?" asked Elizabeth. "Well, for once I will
believe your words, and assume that the Princess Elizabeth may be
fair without the aid of splendor in dress. We therefore accept the
invitation, Woronzow. Announce that to the regent's messenger. But still
it is sad and humiliating," continued Elizabeth after a pause, a cloud
passing over her usually so cheerful countenance, "yes it is still a
melancholy circumstance for the daughter of the great Peter to be so
poor that she is not able to dress herself suitably to her rank. Ah,
how humiliating is the elevation of my high position, when I cannot even
properly reward you, my friends, for your fidelity and attachment!"

"You will one day be able to reward us," significantly remarked
Grunstein. "One day, when an imperial crown surmounts your fair brows,
then will your generous heart be able to act according to its noble
instincts."

"Still the same old dreams!" said Elizabeth, shaking her head and
letting Razumovsky's long locks glide through her fingers. "Pay no
attention to him, Alexis, he is an enthusiast who dreams of imperial
crowns, while I desire nothing but a ball-dress, that in it I may please
you, my friend!"

"Oh, you always please me," whispered Alexis, "and most pleasing are you
when--"

The conclusion of his flattering speech he whispered so low that it was
heard by no one but the princess.

Patting his cheek with her little round hand, she blushed, but not for
shame, as she did not cast down her eyes, but answered with a glowing
glance the tender looks of her lover. She blushed only from an internal
passionate excitement, while her bosom stormily rose and fell.

"You are very saucy, Alexis," said she, but at the same time lightly
kissing him upon the forehead, and smiling; but then her brow was
suddenly clouded, for the door was again opened and once more the lackey
appeared upon the threshold.

"The French ambassador," said he, "the Marquis de la Chetardie, begs the
favor of an audience."

"Ah, the good marquis!" cried the princess, rising from her reclining
position. "Conduct him in, he is very welcome."

The lackey opened both wings of the folding-door, and the marquis
entered, followed by several servants with boxes and packets.

"Ah, you come very much like a milliner," laughingly exclaimed
Elizabeth, graciously advancing to receive the ambassador.

Dropping upon one knee, the marquis kissed her offered hand.

"I come, illustrious Princess Elizabeth, to beg a favor of you!" he
said.

"You wish to mortify me," responded Elizabeth. "How can the ambassador
of a great and powerful nation have a favor to ask of the poor,
repudiated, and forgotten Princess Elizabeth?"

"In the name of the king my master come I to demand this favor!"
solemnly answered the marquis.

"Well, if you really speak in earnest," said the princess, "then I
have only to respond that it will make me very happy to comply with any
request which your august king or yourself may have to make of me."

"Then I may be allowed, on this occasion of the celebration of your
name-day, to lay at your feet these trifling presents of my royal
master," said the ambassador of France, rising to take the boxes and
packages from the lackeys and place them before Elizabeth.

"They are only trifles," continued he, while assiduously occupied in
opening the boxes, "trifles of little value--only interesting, perhaps,
because they are novelties that have as yet been worn in Paris by no
lady except the queen and madame!

"This mantelet of Valenciennes lace," continued the busy marquis,
unfolding before the princess a magically fine lace texture, "this
mantelet is sent by the Queen of France to the illustrious Princess
Elizabeth. Only two such mantelets have been made, and her majesty
has strictly commanded that no more of a similar pattern shall be
commenced."

Princess Elizabeth's eyes sparkled with delight. Like a curious child
she fluttered from one box to the other, and in fact they were very
costly, tasteful, and charming things which their majesties of France
had sent to the Princess Elizabeth, who prized nothing higher than
splendor in dress and ornaments.

There were the most beautiful gold-embroidered velvet robes, light crape
and lace dresses, and hats and topknots of charming elegance.

Elizabeth examined and admired all; she clapped her hands with delight
when any one of these precious presents especially pleased her, calling
Alexis, Grunstein, and Woronzow to share her joy and admiration.

"Now it will be a triumph for me to appear at this ball!" said
Elizabeth, exultingly; "ah, how beautiful it is of your king that he has
sent me these magnificent presents to-day, and not eight days later! I
shall excite the envy of the regent and all the court ladies with these
charming things, which no one besides myself will possess."

And the princess was constantly renewing her examination of the
presents, and breaking out into ecstasies over their beauty.

The Marquis de la Chetardie smilingly listened to her, told her much
about Paris and its splendors, declaring that even in Paris there was no
lady who could be compared to the fair Princess Elizabeth.

"Ah," remarked Elizabeth, smilingly threatening him with her finger,
"you would speak differently if the queen or some other lady of your
court were standing by my side!"

"No," seriously replied the marquis, "I would fall at the feet of my
queen and say: 'You are my queen, judge me, condemn me, my life is in
your hand. You are the Queen of France, and as such I bend before you;
but Princess Elizabeth is the queen of beauty, and as such I adore
her!'"


Princess Elizabeth smiled, and with harmless unconstraint chatted yet a
long time with the shrewd and versatile ambassador of the French king.

"I have yet one more request to make," said the marquis, when about to
take leave. "But it is a request that no one but yourself must hear,
princess!"

Elizabeth signed to her friends to withdraw into the open anteroom.

"Well, marquis," she then said with some curiosity, "let me now hear
what else you have to ask."

"My king and master has learned with regret that the noble Princess
Elizabeth is not surrounded with that wealth and splendor which is her
due as the daughter of the great emperor and the rightful heir to the
Russian throne. My king begs the favor of being allowed to make good the
delinquency toward you of the present Russian regency, and that he may
have the pleasure of providing you with the means necessary to enable
you to establish a court suitable to your birth and position. I am
provided with sufficient funds for these purposes. You have only to send
me by your physician in ordinary, Lestocq, a quittance signed by you,
and any sum you may require will be immediately paid!"

"Oh," said the princess, with emotion, "I shall never be able
sufficiently to testify my gratitude to the generous King of France.
I am a poor, insignificant woman, who can thankfully accept but never
requite his kindness."

"Who knows?" said the marquis significantly. "You may one day become the
most powerful woman in Europe, for your birth and your destiny call you
to the throne."

"Oh, I know you are Lestocq's friend, and share his dreams," said the
princess. "But let us not now speak of impossibilities, nor idly jest,
while I am deeply touched by the generous friendship of your sovereign.
That I accept his offer, may prove to him and you how much I love and
respect him; for we willingly incur obligations only to those who are so
highly estimated that we gratefully subordinate ourselves to them. Write
this to your king."

"And may I also write to him," asked the marquis, "that this
conversation will remain a secret, of which, above all things, the
regent, Anna Leopoldowna, is to know nothing?"

"My imperial word of honor," said the princess, "that no one except
ourselves and Lestocq, whom you yourself propose as a medium, shall know
anything of this great generosity of your sovereign. God grant that
a time may one day come when I may loudly and publicly acknowledge my
great obligations to him!"

"That time will have come when you are Empress of Russia!" said the
ambassador, taking his leave.

"Already one more who has taken it into his head to make an empress of
me," said the princess, as her three favorites again entered. "Foolish
people that you are! It does not satisfy you to be the friend of a
Princess Elizabeth, but I must become an empress for your sakes."

"How well the diadem would become that proud pure brow!" exclaimed
Alexis, with animation.

"How happy would this poor Russia be under your mild sceptre!" said the
chamberlain, Woronzow.

"Yes, you owe it to all of us, to yourself and your people, to mount the
throne of your fathers," said Grunstein.

"But if I say to you that I will not?" cried the princess, reclining
again upon her divan. "The duties of an empress are very difficult and
wearing. I love quiet and enjoyment; and, moreover, this throne of my
father, of which you speak so pathetically, is already occupied,
and awaits me not. See you not your sublime Emperor Ivan, whom the
regent-mother is rocking in his cradle? That is your emperor, before
whom you can bow, and leave me unmolested with your imperial crown.
Come, Alexis, sit down by me upon this tabouret. We will take another
look at these magnificent presents. Ah! truly they are dearer to me than
the possession of empire."

"The Princess Elizabeth can thus speak only in jest," said an earnest
voice behind them.

"Ah, Lestocq!" said the princess, with a friendly nod. "You come very
late, my friend."

"And yet too soon to bring you bad news!" said Lestocq, with a profound
and respectful bow to the princess.

"Bad news?" repeated Elizabeth, turning pale. "_Mon Dieu_, am I, then,
one too many for them here? Would they kill me, or send me in exile to
Siberia?"

"Yet worse!" laconically responded Lestocq. "But, first of all, let us
be cautious, and take care that we have no listeners." And, crossing
the room, Lestocq closed all the doors, and carefully looked behind
the window curtains to make sure that no one was concealed there. "Now,
princess," he commenced, in a tone of solemnity, "now listen to what I
have to say to you."



A CONSPIRACY

A momentary pause followed. Princess Elizabeth silently motioned her
friends to be seated, and drew her favorite Alexis nearer to her.

Lestocq, her physician and confidant, with a solemn countenance, took a
place opposite her.

"We are ready to hear your bad news," said the princess.

"The regent, Anna Leopoldowna, will have herself crowned as empress,"
laconically responded Lestocq.

Elizabeth looked at him interrogatively and with curiosity for the
continuation of his bad news. But as Lestocq remained silent, she asked
with astonishment: "Is that all you have to tell us?"

"Preliminarily, that is all," answered Lestocq.

Princess Elizabeth broke out with a joyous laugh.

"Well, this is, in fact, very comic. With a real Job's mien you announce
to us the worst news, and then inform us that Anna Leopoldowna is to be
crowned empress! Let her be crowned! No one will interfere to prevent
it, and she will be none the happier for it. No woman who has taken
possession of the Russian throne as an independent princess has ever yet
been happy. Or do you think that Catharine, my lofty step-mother, was
so? Believe me, upon the throne she trembled with fear of assassins; for
it is well known that this Russian throne is surrounded by murderers,
awaiting only the favorable moment. Ah, whenever I have stood in front
of this imperial throne, it has always seemed to me that I saw the
points of a thousand daggers peeping forth from its soft cushions! And
you would have me seat myself upon such a dagger-beset throne? No,
no, leave me my peace and repose. Let Anna Leopoldowna declare herself
empress--what should I care? I should have to bend before her with my
congratulations. That is all!"

And the princess, letting her head glide upon Razumovsky's shoulder, as
if exhausted by this long speech, closed her fatigued eyelids.

"Ah, if Czar Peter, your great father, could hear you," sadly said
Lestocq, "he would spurn you for such pusillanimity, princess."

"It is, therefore, fortunate for me that he is dead," said the princess,
with a smile. "And now, my dear Lestocq, if you know nothing further,
let this suffice you: I tell you, once for all, that I have no desire
for this imperial throne. I would crown my head with roses and myrtles,
but not with that golden circle which would crush me to the earth.
Therefore, trouble me no more on this subject. Be content with what
I am, and if you cannot, well--then I must be reconciled to being
abandoned by you!"

"I will never desert you, even if I must follow you to suffering and
death!" exclaimed Alexis Razumovsky, casting himself at the feet of the
princess.

"We will remain true and faithful to you unto death!" cried Woronzow and
Grunstein.

"Well, and you alone remain silent, Lestocq?" asked the princess, with
tears in her eyes.

"I have not yet come to the end of my bad news," said Lestocq, with a
clouded brow.

"Ah!" jestingly interposed the princess, "you would, perhaps, as further
bad news, inform us that the Emperor Ivan has cut his first tooth!"

"No," said Lestocq, "I would only say to you, that the 18th of December,
the day on which the regent is to be crowned as empress, the 18th of
December is the day assigned for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with
Prince Louis of Brunswick, the new Duke of Courland!"

The princess sprang up from her seat as if stung by an adder. Alexis
Razumovsky, who still knelt at her feet, uttered loud lamentations,
in which Woronzow and Grunstein soon joined. With calm triumph Lestocq
observed the effect produced by his words.

"What are you saying there?" at length Elizabeth breathlessly asked.

"I say that on the 18th of December the Princess Elizabeth is to be
married to Prince Louis of Brunswick, who has already come to St.
Petersburg for that purpose," calmly answered Lestocq.

"And I say," cried the princess, "that no such marriage will ever take
place!"

Lestocq shrugged his shoulders. "Princess Elizabeth is a gentle,
peace-loving, always suffering lamb," he said.

"But Princess Elizabeth can become a tigress when it concerns the
defence of her holiest rights!" exclaimed the princess, pacing the room
in violent excitement.

"Ah," she continued, "they are not then satisfied with delivering me
over to poverty and abandonment; it does not suffice them to see me so
deeply humiliated as to receive alms from this regent who occupies
the throne that belongs to me. They would rob me of my last and only
remaining blessing, my personal freedom! They would make my poor heart a
prisoner, and bind it with the chains and fetters of a marriage which I
abhor! No, no, I tell you that shall they never do."

And the princess, quite beside herself with rage, stamped her feet and
doubled up her little hands into fists. Now was she her father's real
and not unworthy daughter; Czar Peter's bold and savage spirit flashed
from her eyes, his scorn and courageous determination spoke from her
wildly excited features. She saw not, she heard not what was passing
around her; she was wholly occupied with her own angry thoughts, and
with those dreadful images which the mere idea of marriage had conjured
up.

Her four favorites stood together at some distance, observing her with
silent sympathy.

"It is now for you, Alexis Razumovsky, to complete the work we have
begun," whispered Lestocq to him. "Elizabeth loves you; you must nourish
in her this abhorrence of a marriage with the prince. You must make
yourself so loved, that she will dare all rather than lose you! We have
long enough remained in a state of abjectness; it is time to labor for
our advancement. To the work, to the work, Alexis Razumovsky! We must
make an empress of this Elizabeth, that she may raise us to wealth and
dignities!"

"Rely upon me," whispered Alexis, "she must and shall join in our
plans."

He approached the princess, who was walking the room in a state of the
most violent agitation, giving vent to her internal excitement and anger
in loud exclamations and bitter curses.

"I must therefore die!" sighed Alexis, pressing Elizabeth's trembling
hand to his lips. "Kill me, princess, thrust a dagger in my heart, that
I at least may not live to see you married to another!"

"No, you shall not die," cried Elizabeth, with fierce vehemence,
throwing her arms around Razumovsky's neck. "I will know how to defend
you and myself, Alexis! Ah, they would shackle me,--they would force me
to marry, because they know I hate marriage. Yes, I hate those unnatural
fetters which could command my heart, force it into obedience to an
unnatural law, and degrade divine free love, which would flutter from
flower to flower, into a necessity and a duty. It is an unnatural
law which would compel us forever to love a man because he pleased us
yesterday or may please us to-day, and who perhaps may not please us
to-morrow, while on the next day he may excite only repugnance! Would
they forge these matrimonial chains for me? Ah, Regent Anna, you are
this time mistaken; you may be all-powerful in this empire, but you
cannot and shall not extend that power over me!"

"And how," asked Lestocq, shrugging his shoulders, "how will Princess
Elizabeth oppose the regent or empress? What weapon has she with which
to contend?"

"If it must be so, I will oppose power to power!" passionately exclaimed
the princess. "Yes, when it comes to the defence of my freedom and my
personal rights I will then have the courage to dare all, defy all;
then will I shake off the lethargy of contented mediocrity, and upon the
throne will find that freedom which Anna would tread under foot!"

"Long live our future empress! Long live Elizabeth!" cried the men with
wild excitement.

"I have long withstood you, my friends," said Elizabeth, "I have not
coveted this imperial Russian crown, but much less have I desired that
crown of thorns a compulsory marriage. I am now ready for the struggle,
and, if it must be so, let a revolution, let streams of blood decide
whether the Regent Anna Leopoldowna or the daughter of Peter the Great
has the best right to govern this land and prescribe its laws!"

"Ah, now are you really your great father's great daughter!" cried
Lestocq, and bending a knee before the princess, he continued: "Let me
be the first to pay you homage, the first to swear eternal fidelity to
you, our Empress Elizabeth."

"Receive also my oath, Empress Elizabeth," said Alexis, falling upon his
knees before her, "receive the oaths of your slaves who desire nothing
but to devote their bodies and souls to your service!"

"Let me, also, do homage to you, Empress Elizabeth!" exclaimed Woronzow,
falling to the earth.

"And I, too, will lie at your feet and declare myself your slave,
Empress Elizabeth!" said Grunstein, kneeling with the others.

But Elizabeth's anger was already past; only a momentary storm-wind had
lashed her gently flowing blood into the high foaming waves of rage; now
all again was calm within her, and consequently this solemn homage scene
of her four kneeling friends made only a comic impression upon her.

She burst into a loud laugh; astonished and half angry, the kneeling men
looked up to her, and that only increased her hilarity.

"Ah, this is infinitely amusing," said the princess, continuing
to laugh; "there lie my vassals, and what vassals! Herr Lestocq, a
physician; Herr Grunstein, a bankrupt shopkeeper and now under-officer;
Herr Woronzow, chamberlain; and Alexis Razumovsky, my private secretary.
And here I am, the empress of such vassals, and what sort of an empress?
An empress of four subjects, an empress without a throne and without a
crown, without land and without a people--an empress who never was and
never will be an empress! And in this solemn buffoonery you cut such
serious faces as might make one die with laughter."

The princess threw herself upon the divan and laughed until the tears
ran down her cheeks.

"Princess," said Lestocq, rising, "these four men, at whom you now
laugh, will make you empress, and then it will be in your power to
convert this chirurgeon into a privy councillor and court physician,
this bankrupt merchant into a rich banker, this chamberlain into an
imperial lord-marshal, and your private secretary into a count or prince
of the empire."

The eyes of the princess shone yet brighter, and with a tender glance at
Alexis Razumovsky she said: "Yes, I will make him a prince and overload
him with presents and honors. Ah, that is an object worth the pains of
struggling for an imperial crown."

"No, no," interposed Alexis, kissing her hand, "I need neither wealth
nor titles; I need nothing, desire nothing but to be near you, to be
able to breathe the air that has fanned your cheek. I desire nothing for
myself, but everything for my friends here, with whose faithful aid we
shall soon be enabled to greet you a real empress."

Elizabeth's brow beamed with the purest blessedness. "You are as
unselfish as the angels in heaven, my Alexis," said she. "It suffices
you that I am Elizabeth, you languish not for this imperial title which
these others would force upon me."

Alexis smilingly shook his fine head. "You err, princess," said he; "I
would freely and joyfully give my heart's blood, could I this day but
salute you as empress! I should then, at least, have no more to fear
from this strange prince whom they would compel you to marry!"

A cloud passed over the brow of the princess. "Yes, you are right," said
she, "we must avoid that at all events, and if there are no other means,
very well, I shall know what to decide upon--I shall venture an attempt
to dethrone the regent and make myself empress! But, my friends, let
that now suffice. I need rest. Call my women to undress me, Woronzow.
Good-night, good-night, my high and lofty vassals, your great and
powerful empress allows you to kiss her hand!"

With a pleasing graciousness she extended her fair hands to her friends,
who respectfully pressed them to their lips and then departed.

"Alexis!" called the princess, as Razumovsky was about to withdraw
with the others--"Alexis, you will remain awhile. While my women
are undressing me, you shall sing me to sleep with that charming
slumber-song you sing so splendidly!"

Alexis smiled and remained.

A quarter of an hour later deep silence prevailed in the dark palace
of Elizabeth, and through the stillness of the night was heard only
the sweetly-melodious voice of the handsome Alexis, who was singing his
slumber-song to the princess.

From this day forward her four trusted friends left the princess no
peace. They so stormed her with prayers and supplications, Alexis
so well knew how to represent his despair at her approaching and
unavoidable marriage, that the amiable princess, to satisfy her friends
and be left herself at peace, declared herself ready to sanction the
plans of her confidants and enter into a conspiracy against the regent.

Soon a small party was formed for the cause of the princess.
Grunstein--who, as the princess had said, from a bankrupt merchant had
attained the position of subordinate officer--Grunstein had succeeded
in winning for the cause of the princess some fifty grenadiers of
the Preobrajensky regiment, to which he belonged; and these people,
drunkards and dissolute fellows, were the principal props upon which
Elizabeth's throne was to be established! They were neither particular
about the means resorted to for the accomplishment of the proposed
revolution, nor careful to envelop their movements in secrecy.

Elizabeth soon began to find pleasure and distraction in exciting the
enthusiasm of the soldiers. She often repaired to the caserns of the
guards, and her mildness and affability won for her the hearts of the
rough soldiers accustomed to slavish subjection. When she rode through
the streets, it was not an unusual occurrence to see common soldiers
approach her sledge and converse familiarly with her. Wherever she
showed herself, there the soldiers received her with shouts, and the
palace of the princess was always open to them. In this way Elizabeth
made herself popular, and the Regent Anna, who was informed of it,
smiled at it with indifference.

Just as incautiously did Elizabeth's fanatical political manager,
Lestocq, set about his work. He made no secret of his intercourse with
the French ambassador, and in the public coffee-houses he was often
heard in a loud voice to prophesy an approaching political change.

But with regard to all these imprudences it seemed as if the court and
the regent were blinded by the most careless confidence, as if they
could not see what was directly before their eyes. It was as if destiny
covered those eyes with a veil, that they might not see, and against
destiny even the great and the powerful of the earth struggle in vain.



THE WARNING

The 4th of December, the day of the court-ball, to which Elizabeth had
looked forward with a longing heart because of her anxiety to display
at court her new Parisian dresses, at length had come. A most active
movement prevailed in the palace of the regent. The lord-marshal and
the chamberlains on service passed up and down through the rooms,
overlooking with sharp eyes the various ornaments, festoons, garlands,
and draperies, to make sure that all was splendid, and tasteful, and
magnificent.

Anna Leopoldowna troubled herself very little about these busy movements
in her palace. She was in her boudoir, delightedly reading a letter from
her distant lover, which had just been received under Julia's address.
She had already read this letter several times, but ever recommenced
it, and ever found some new word, some new phrase that proved to her the
glowing love of her absent friend.

"Ah, he still loves me," murmured she, pressing the letter to her lips;
"he really loves me, and this short separation will not estrange his
heart, but cause it to glow with warmer passion! Oh, what a happiness
will it be when he again returns! And he will return! Yes, he will be
with me again on the 18th of December, and, animated by his glances,
I shall for the first time appear in all the splendor of an imperial
crown. Ah, they have no presentiment, my councillors and ministers, that
I have selected the 18th of December for the ceremony precisely because
it is the birthday of my beloved! He will know it, he will understand
why his Anna has chosen this particular day, and he will thank me
with one of those proud and glowing glances which always made my heart
tremulous with overpowering happiness. Oh, my Lynar, what a blessed
moment will be that when I see you again!"

A slight knock at the door interrupted the imaginings of the princess.
It was Julia von Mengden, who came to announce the old Count Ostermann.

"And is it for him that you disturb my delightful solitude?" asked the
princess, somewhat reproachfully. "Is this Count Ostermann, is
this whole miserable realm of so much importance to me as the sweet
contemplation of a letter from my friend? When I am reading his letter
it seems to me that my beloved himself is at my side, and therefore you
must clearly see that I cannot receive Count Ostermann, as Lynar is with
me!"

"Put your letter and your lover in your bosom," said Julia, with a
laugh; "he will be very happy there, and then you can receive the
old count without betraying your lover's presence! The count has so
pressingly begged for an audience that I finally promised to intercede
with you for him."

"Ah, this eternal business!" angrily exclaimed the princess. "They will
never let me have any peace; they harass me the whole day. Even now,
when it is time to be making my toilet for the ball--even now I must be
tormented with affairs of state."

"Shall I, then, send away Count Ostermann?" sulkily asked Julia.

"That I may, consequently, for the whole evening see you with a
dissatisfied face? No, let him come; but forget not that I submit to
this annoyance only to please you."

With a grateful smile, Julia kissed the regent's hand, and then hastened
to bear to Count Ostermann the favorable answer.

In a few minutes, Count Ostermann, painfully supporting himself upon two
crutches, entered the regent's cabinet.

Anna Leopoldowna received him, sitting in an armchair, and listlessly
rummaging in a band-box filled with various articles of dress and
embroidery, which had just been brought to her.

"Well," said she, raising her eyes for a moment to glance at Ostermann,
"you come at a very inconvenient hour, Herr Minister Count Ostermann.
You see that I am already occupied with my toilet, and am endeavoring to
find a suitable head-dress. Will you aid me in the choice, sir count?"

Ostermann had until now, painfully and with many suppressed groans,
sustained himself upon his feet; at a silent nod from the princess he
glided down into a chair, and staring at Anna with his piercing and
wonderfully-flashing eyes, he said:

"You highness would select a head-dress? Well, as you ask my advice in
the matter, I will give it; choose a head-dress so firm and solid as to
prove a fortification for the defence of your head. Choose a head-dress
that will protect you against conspiracies and revolutions, against
false friends and smiling enemies! Choose a head-dress that will keep
your head upon your shoulders!"

"Count Ostermann speaks in riddles," said Anna, smiling, and at the same
time arranging a wreath of artificial roses. "Or no, it was not Count
Ostermann, but a toad singing his hoarse song. Drive away that toad,
Ostermann, it is broad day--why, then, have we the croaking of such
night-birds?"

"Listen to the croaking of this toad," anxiously responded the old
man. "Believe me, princess, when the toads croak in broad daylight, it
betokens an approaching misfortune. Let it warn you, Madame Regent
Anna! You have called me a toad--very well, toads always have correctly
prophesied misfortune, and if they can never avert it, it is because
otherwise people will not listen to such oracular voices of all-wise
Nature! Let me be your toad, your highness, and listen to me! I foresee
misfortune for you. Believe my prophecy, and that misfortune may yet
be averted. Mark the signs by which fate would warn you! Did you not
yesterday see Elizabeth driving through the streets, chatting and
jesting with the soldiers, who crowded around her sledge? Have you not
heard how the grenadiers of the Preobrajensky regiment shouted after
her? Has it not been told you that Lestocq holds secret intercourse with
the French ambassador, and know you not that Lestocq is the confidential
servant of the princess? Guard yourself against Princess Elizabeth, your
highness!"

"Are you in earnest?" smilingly asked Anna, drawing her silver
toilet-glass nearer to her person, and placing a bouquet of flowers in
her hair to examine its effect in the glass.

"Oh, Heavens!" cried Count Ostermann, "you adorn yourself with flowers,
while I am telling you that you are threatened with a conspiracy!"

"A conspiracy!" laughed the regent, "and Princess Elizabeth to be at the
head of it! Believe me, you overwise men, with all your wisdom, never
learn rightly to understand women. I, however, am a woman, and I
understand Elizabeth. You think that when she kindly chats with the
soldiers, and admits the handsome stately grenadiers into her house, it
is done for the purpose of conspiring with them. Go to, Count Ostermann,
you are very innocent. Princess Elizabeth has but one passion, but it
is not the desire of ruling; and when she chats with handsome men, she
speaks not of conspiracy, believe me." And, laughing, the regent essayed
a new head-dress.

"And how do you explain the secret meetings of Lestocq and the Marquis
de la Chetardie?" asked Ostermann, with painfully-suppressed agitation.

"Explain? Why should I seek an explanation for things that do not at all
interest me? What is it to me what the surgeon Lestocq has to do with
the constantly-ailing French ambassador? Or do you think I should
trouble myself about the _lavements_ administered to an ambassador by a
surgeon?"

"Well, then, your highness will allow me to explain their meetings from
a less medical point of view? France is your enemy, France meditates
your destruction, and the Marquis de la Chetardie is exciting the
princess and Lestocq to an insurrection."

"And to what end, if I may be allowed to ask?" scornfully inquired Anna.

"France, struggling with internal and foreign enemies, at war with
Austria, involved in disputes with Holland and Spain, France would wish
at any price to see the Russian government so occupied with her own
domestic difficulties as to have no time to devote to international
affairs. She would provide you with plenty of occupation at home, that
you may not actively interfere with the affairs of the rest of the
world. That is the shrewd policy of France, and it would fill me with
admiration were it not fraught with the most terrible danger to us. The
Marquis de la Chetardie has it in charge to bring about a revolution
here at any price, and as an expert diplomatist, he very well
comprehends that Princess Elizabeth is the best means he can employ for
that purpose; for she, as the daughter of Czar Peter, has the sympathies
of the old Russians in her favor, and they will flock to her with shouts
of joy whenever she may announce to the people that she is ready to
drive the foreign rulers from Russia!"

"Ah, our good Russians," laughingly exclaimed the regent, "they shout
only for those who make them drunk, and for that the poor princess lacks
the means!"

"The Marquis de la Chetardie has, in the name of his king, offered her
an unlimited credit, and she is already provided with almost a million
of silver rubles."

"You have a reason for every thing," laughed the regent. "The princess
is poor; let the French ambassador quickly provide her with his
millions. The good princess, I wish she had these millions, and then she
could indulge her love of ornaments and magnificent dresses."

"The marquis has brought her rich dresses and stuffs from Paris," said
Ostermann, laconically.

The regent burst into a clear, ringing laugh.

"The marquis is a real _deus ex machina_," exclaimed she. "Wherever you
need him, he appears and helps you out of your trouble. But seriously,
my dear count, let it now suffice with these gloomy suspicions. They are
already commencing the dance-music, and you will put me out of tune with
your croaking. A ball, my dear count, requires that one should be in and
not out of tune, and you are pursuing the best course to frighten the
smiles from my lips."

"Oh, could I but do that!" cried Ostermann, wringing his hands--"could I
but cry in your ear with a voice of thunder: 'Princess, awake from this
slumber of indifference, force yourself to act, save your son, your
husband, your friends; for we are all, all lost with you!'"

"Oh, speaking of my son," smilingly interposed the regent, "you must see
a splendid present which the Emperor Ivan has this day received."

With this she took from a carton a small child's dress, embroidered with
gold and sparkling with brilliants, which she handed to the count.

"Only look at this splendor," said she. "The ladies of Moscow have
embroidered this for the young emperor, and it has to-day been presented
by a deputation. Will not the little emperor make a magnificent
appearance in this brilliant dress?"

Count Ostermann did not answer immediately. His face had assumed a very
painful expression, and deep signs escaped his agitated breast. Slowly
rising from his seat, with a sad glance at the princess, he said:

"I see that your destruction is inevitable, and I cannot save you; you
will be ruined, and we all with you. Well, I am an old man, and I
pardon your highness, for you act not thus from an evil disposition, but
because you have a noble and confiding heart. Believe me, generosity
and confidence are the worst failings with which a man can be tainted
in this world--failings which always insure destruction, and have only
mockery and derision for an epitaph. You are no longer to be helped,
duchess. You are on the borders of an abyss, into which you will
smilingly plunge, dragging us all after you. Well, peace be with you!
My sufferings have lately been so great, that I can only thank you for
furnishing me with the means of quickly ending them! Madame, we shall
meet again on the scaffold, or in Siberia! Until then, farewell!"

And, without waiting for an answer from the regent, the old man,
groaning, tottered out of the room.

"Thank Heaven that he is gone!" said Anna, drawing a long breath when
the door closed behind him. "This old ghost-seer has tormented me for
months with his strange vagaries, which weigh upon his soul like the
nightmare! Happily, thy letter, my beloved, has filled my whole heart
with the ecstasy of joy, else would his dark and foolish prophecies be
sufficient to sadden me."

Thus speaking, the princess again drew Count Lynar's letter from her
bosom and pressed it to her lips. Then she called her women to dress her
for the ball.



THE COURT BALL

Some hours later the _elite_ of the higher Russian nobility were
assembled in the magnificent halls of the regent. Princes and counts,
generals and diplomatists, beautiful women and blooming maidens, all
moved in a confused intermixture, jesting and laughing with each other.
They were all very gay on this evening, as the regent had herself set
the example. With the most unconstrained cheerfulness, radiant with joy,
did she wander through the rooms, dispensing smiles and agreeable words
among all whom she approached. She bore in her bosom the glowing and
cherished letter of her lover, and at its lightest rustling she seemed
to feel the immediate presence of the writer. That was the secret of her
gayety and her joyous smiles. People, perhaps, knew not this secret, but
they saw its effects, and, as the all-powerful regent deigned this day
to be cheerful and smiling, it was natural for this host of slavish
nobility, who breathe nothing but the air of the court, to adopt for
this evening's motto, "Gayety and smiles."

As we have said, only smiling lips and faces beaming with joy were to
be seen; all breathed pleasure and enjoyment, all jested and laughed;
it seemed as if all care and sorrow had fled from this happy, select
circle, to give place to the delights of life. They had, with submissive
humility, repressed all discontent and disaffection, all envyings and
enmities; they chatted and laughed, while every one knew or suspected
that they were standing on a volcano, whose overwhelming eruptions might
be expected at any moment, and yet every one feigned the most perfect
innocence and unconstraint. The ladies scrutinized each other's
magnificent and costly toilets, jesting and exchanging amorous glances
with the gentlemen displaying orders and diamond crosses.

A movement suddenly arose in the rooms, the crowd divided and
respectfully withdrew to the sides, and through the rows of smiling,
humbly bowing courtiers passed the Princess Elizabeth, followed by her
chamberlain Woronzow, her private secretary Alexis Razumovsky, and
her physician Lestocq, in the splendor of her beauty and grace, all
kindness, all smiles. She was to-day wonderfully charming in her
gold-spangled lace dress, which flowed like a breath over her
under-dress of heavy white satin. Her widely-bared, full and luxuriant
shoulders were partially covered by a costly lace mantelet, the present
of the French queen, and her long, floating ringlets were surmounted by
a wreath of white roses such as only Parisian artistic skill could offer
in such perfect imitation of nature. Thus enveloped as it were in a veil
of white mist and floating vapors, Elizabeth's beauty appeared only the
more full and voluptuous. She looked like a purple rose standing
out from a cloud of fluttering snow-flakes, wonderfully charming,
wonderfully seductive. Princess Elizabeth was fully conscious of the
impression she made, and this internal satisfaction manifested itself
in a sweet smile which increased the charm of her appearance. With pride
and pleasure she enjoyed the triumph of being the fairest of all the
beauties present, and this triumph contented her heart.

The princess now approached her cousin, the Regent Anna, who came from
the adjoining room to meet and welcome her, and for one short moment the
courtiers forgot her smiles and her inoffensiveness. All eyes were
with the most intense anxiety directed toward those two women; all
conversation, jesting, and laughing were at once suspended. There was
a deep pause, all breathing was smothered, all feared that the
loud beating of their hearts might betray them and cause them to be
suspected.

The two princesses now approached each other--Princess Elizabeth would
have bent a knee to the regent--Anna, with charming kindness, raising
and kissing her, tenderly reproached her for coming so late.

"I feared coming too early," said Elizabeth, pressing the regent's hand
to her lips, "for I doubted whether my fair cousin would find time to
bestow a friendly word upon her poor relation, Princess Elizabeth!"

"How could Elizabeth fear that, when she knows I love her like a
sister?" tenderly asked the regent, and, taking the arm of the princess,
she made with her a round through the rooms.

Now again came life and movement in this lately so silent and anxiously
expectant assemblage; they now knew how they were to deport themselves:
Princess Elizabeth was in the good graces of the regent, and therefore
they could receive her polite greetings with the most reverential
thankfulness; they could approach her and admire her beauty without
incurring suspicion. The stereotyped smile had reappeared upon all
faces, cheerful and lively conversation was again resumed, and wherever
the two arm-in-arm wandering princesses appeared, they were greeted with
endless shouts of ecstasy.

As we have said, it was a gay and very splendid festival. Only
occasionally did something like a dark shadow pass through the rooms;
only here and there did the chattering guests forget their wonted
smiles; only occasionally did the mask of cheerfulness fall from many
a face, discovering serious, anxious features, and suspicious, lurking
glances. Every one felt that a catastrophe was impending, but, as no one
could know its result in advance, all wished to keep as clear of it as
possible, and seem perfectly unconscious and unaffected by these things.
As they could not foresee which party would triumph, they found it
advisable to join neither while awaiting coming events, after which they
would hail as lords and masters those who might succeed in attaining to
power.

For the present, Anna Leopoldowna was the ruler, and, as they were
her subjects, they must in humble submission pay homage to her; but
Elizabeth might become empress, and therefore they must likewise pay
homage to her, with a prudent avoidance of the too much, which might
cause them to be suspected in case the regent should still continue in
power.

These were the dangerous rocks between which this proud and elegant
assemblage had to find their winding way, and they did it with smiles
and outward ease, with open admiration of both princesses, before whom
they bowed to the ground with slavish submission.

But suddenly something like a panic-terror, like an unnatural awe, flew
through all these splendid halls; the smiles were arrested on all faces,
the harmless jests on all lips; the pallor of beautiful women became
visible through their paint, and generals staggered to and fro as if a
thunderbolt had fallen. As if touched by a magic wand, every one stood
motionless like statues modelled in clay, no one daring to speak to his
neighbor or make a sign to a friend. They would not see, they would not
hear, they only wished to seem to be indifferent and unobserving.

As we said, a panic-terror pervaded the halls, and like an
evil-announcing night-spectre passed over the heads of the stiffened,
lifeless crowd the dismal rumor--"The regent and the princess are at
variance; the regent is speaking to her with vehemence, and the princess
weeps!"

This certainly was a terrible announcement. But if the regent was angry,
it must be because she knew of the intrigues and machinations of the
princess, and knowing them she could counteract and nullify them;
consequently the plans of the princess were upset, Anna Leopoldowna
would remain ruler, and her son Ivan the Czar of all the Russias.

Now the touch, the vicinity of Elizabeth's friends became an
evil-breathing pest, a death-bringing terror; they anxiously avoided
the vicinity of Lestocq, they crowded back from Woronzow and Razumovsky,
whom they had before sought with every demonstration of friendliness;
they even avoided looking at the French ambassador; for, if the regent
knew all, she must know of the intimate relations of Lestocq with the
Marquis de la Chetardie, and he was therefore doomed like the other
three.

And moreover, this pernicious rumor had not lied; the two princesses
were at this moment no longer so tender and friendly disposed as shortly
before.

They had long wandered through the halls, confidingly chatting and
smiling, and Anna, leaning upon Elizabeth's arm--Anna who this day
saw every thing _couleur de rose_--felt a sort of disquiet that people
should suspect her who was walking by her side with such innocent candor
and unconstraint, seeming not to have the least presentiment of the dark
cloud gathering over her head.

"She is inconsiderate," thought the regent; "she allows herself to be
carried away by her temperament, and behind her inclination and her
weakness for handsome grenadiers and soldiers, her enemies seek to
discover an insidious and well-considered conspiracy; this is cruel and
unjust! This good Elizabeth must be warned, that she may become more
cautious, and give her numerous enemies no occasion for suspecting her.
Poor innocent child, so gay and ingenuous, she plays with roses under
which serpents lie concealed! It is my duty to warn her, and I will."

Wholly penetrated with this noble and generous resolution, the regent
drew her cousin Elizabeth into the little boudoir which lay at the end
of the hall, offering a convenient resting-place for a confidential
conversation.

But at this moment Anna's eyes fell upon the lace mantelet of the
princess, and quite involuntarily came to her mind the warning words of
Ostermann, who had said to her: "The French ambassador, by command of
his government, provides the princess not only with money, but also
with the newest modes and most costly stuffs." This lace mantelet could
surely only come from Paris; nothing similar to it had been seen in St.
Petersburg; it certainly required especial sources and especial means
for the procurement of such a rare and magnificent exemplar.

A cloud drew over the regent's brow, and in a rather sharp and cutting
tone she said; "One question, princess! How came you by this admirable
lace veil, the like of which I have not seen here in St. Petersburg?"

While putting this question, the regent's eyes were fixed with a
piercing, interrogating expression upon the face of the princess: she
wished to observe the slightest shrinking, the least movement of her
features.

But Elizabeth was prepared for the question; she had already considered
her answer with the marquis and Lestocq. Her features therefore betrayed
not the least disturbance or disquiet; raising her bright and childlike
eyes, she said, with an unconstrained smile: "You wonder, do you not,
how I came by this costly ornament? Ah, I have for the last eight days
rejoiced in the expectation of surprising you to-day with the sight of
it!"

"But you have not yet told me whence you have these costly laces?" asked
the regent in a sharper tone.

"It is a wager I have won of the good Marquis de la Chetardie," said
Elizabeth, without embarrassment, "and your highness must confess that
this French ambassador has paid his wager with much taste."

The regent had constantly become more serious and gloomy. A dark,
fatal suspicion for a moment overclouded her soul, and in her usually
unsuspicious mind arose the questions: "What if Ostermann was right,
if Elizabeth is really conspiring, and the French ambassador is her
confederate?"

"And what, if one may ask, was the subject of the wager?" she asked,
with the tone of an inquisitor.

"Ah, this good marquis," said the princess, laughing, "had never yet
experienced the rigor of a Russian winter, and he would not believe that
our Neva with its rushing streams and rapid current would in winter be
changed into a very commodious highway. I wagered that I would convince
him of the fact, and be the first to cross it on the ice; he would not
believe me, and declared that I should lack the courage. Well, of course
I did it, and won my wager!"

The regent had not turned her eyes from the princess while she was
thus speaking. This serene calmness, this unembarrassed childishness,
completely disarmed her. The dark suspicion vanished from her mind;
Anna breathed freer, and laid her hand upon her heart as if she would
restrain its violent beating. The letter of Lynar slightly rustled under
her hand.

A ray of sunshine became visible in Anna's face; she thought of her
beloved; she felt his presence, and immediately all the vapors of
mistrust were scattered--Anna feared no more, she suspected no more, she
again became cheerful and happy--for she thought of her distant lover,
his affectionate words rested upon her bosom--how, therefore, could she
feel anger?

She only now recollected that she had intended to warn Elizabeth. She
therefore threw her arms around the neck of the princess, and, sitting
with her upon the divan, said: "Do you know, Elizabeth, that you have
many enemies at my court, and that they would excite my suspicions
against you?"

"Ah, I may well believe they would be glad to do so, but they cannot,"
said Elizabeth, laughing; "I am a foolish, trifling woman, who,
unfortunately for them, do nothing to my enemies that can render me
suspected, as, in reality, I do nothing at all. I am indolent, Anna,
very indolent; you ought to have raised me better, my dear lady regent!"

And with an amiable roguishness Elizabeth kissed the tips of Anna's
fingers.

"No, no, be serious for once," said Anna; "laugh not, Elizabeth, but
listen to me!"

And she related to the listening princess how people came from all sides
to warn her; that she was told of secret meetings which Lestocq, in
Elizabeth's name, held with the French ambassador, and that the object
of these meetings was the removal of the regent and her son, and the
elevation of Elizabeth to the imperial throne.

Elizabeth remained perfectly cheerful, perfectly unembarrassed, and even
laughingly exclaimed--"What a silly story!"

"I believe nothing of it," said Anna, "but at last my ministers will
compel me to imprison Lestocq and bring him to trial, in order to get
the truth out of him."

"Ah, they will torture him, and yet he is innocent!" cried Elizabeth,
bursting into tears. And, clasping the regent's neck, she anxiously
exclaimed: "Ah, Anna, dear Anna, save me from my enemies! Let them not
steal away my friends and ruin me! They would also torture me and send
me to Siberia; Anna, my friend, my sovereign, save me! You alone can do
it, for you know me, and know that I am innocent! The idea that I should
conspire against you, against you whom I love, and to whom, upon
the sacred books of our religion, I have sworn eternal fidelity and
devotion! Anna, Anna, I swear to you by the soul of my father, I am
innocent, as also is my friend. Lestocq has never passed the threshold
of the French ambassador's hotel! Oh, dear, dear Anna, have mercy on me,
and do not permit them to torture me and wrench my poor members!"

With a loud cry of anguish, with streaming tears, pale and trembling,
Elizabeth sank down at the regent's feet.

It was this cry of anguish that rang through the hall, and spread
everywhere astonishment and consternation. And this shrieking,
and weeping, and trembling, was no mask, but truth. Elizabeth was
frightened, she wept and trembled from fear, but she had sufficient
presence of mind not to betray herself in words. It was fear even that
gave her that presence of mind and enabled her to play her part in a
manner so masterly that the regent was completely deceived. Taking the
princess in her arms, she pressed her to her bosom, at the same time
endeavoring to reassure and console her with tender and affectionate
words, with reiterated promises of her protection and her love.

But it was a long time before the trembling and weeping princess
could be tranquillized--before she could be made to believe Anna's
asseverations that she had always loved and never mistrusted her.

"What most deeply saddens me," said Elizabeth, with feeling, "is the
idea that you, my Anna, could believe these calumnies, and suppose me
capable of such black treason. Ah, I should be as bad as Judas Iscariot
could I betray my noble and generous mistress."

Tears of emotion stood in Anna's eyes. She impressed a tender kiss upon
Elizabeth's lips, and with her own hand wiped the tears from the cheeks
of the princess.

"Weep no more, Elizabeth," she tenderly said--"nay, I beg of you, weep
no more. It is indeed all right and good between us, and no cloud shall
disturb our love or our mutual confidence. Come, let us smile and be
cheerful again, that this listening and curious court may know nothing
of your tears. They would make a prodigious affair of it, and we will
not give them occasion to say we have been at variance."

"No, they shall all see that I love, that I adore you," said Elizabeth,
covering Anna's hand with kisses.

"They shall see that we love each other," said Anna, taking the arm of
the princess. "Be of good cheer, my friend, and take my imperial word
for it that I, whatever people may say of you, will believe no one but
yourself; that I will truly inform you of all calumnies, and give you
an opportunity to disarm your enemies and defend yourself. Now come, and
let us make another tour through the halls."

Arm in arm the two princesses returned to the nearest hall. This was
empty, no one daring to remain there lest they might incur the blame of
having overheard and understood some word of the princesses, and thus
acquired a knowledge of their private conversation. People had therefore
withdrawn to the more distant rooms, where they still preserved a
breathless silence.

Suddenly the two princesses, arm in arm, again appeared in the halls,
pleasantly conversing, and instantly the scene was again changed, as
if by the stroke of a magic wand. The chilling silence melted into an
agreeable smile, and all recovered their breaths and former joviality.

All was again sunshine and pleasure, for the princesses were again
there, and the princesses smiled--must they not laugh and be beside
themselves with joy?

Elizabeth's tender glances sought her friend, the handsome Alexis
Razumovsky. Suddenly her brow as darkened and her cheeks paled, for she
saw him and saw that his eyes did not seek hers!

He stood leaning against a pillar, his eyes fixed upon a lady who had
just then entered the hall, and whose wonderful beauty had everywhere
called forth a murmur of astonishment and admiration. This lady was the
Countess Lapuschkin, the wife of the commissary-general of marine, from
whose family came the first wife of Czar Peter the Great, the beautiful
Eudoxia Lapuschkin.

Eleonore Lapuschkin was more beautiful than Eudoxia. An infinite magic
of youth and loveliness, of purity and energy, was shed over her regular
features. She had the traits of a Hebe, and the form of a Juno. When she
smiled and displayed her dazzlingly white teeth, she was irresistibly
charming. When, in a serious mood, she raised her large dark eyes,
full of nobleness and spirit, then might people fall at her feet with
adoration. Countess Lapuschkin had often been compared and equalled
to the Princess Elizabeth, and yet nothing could be more dissimilar or
incomparable than these two beauties. Elizabeth's was wholly earthly,
voluptuous, glowing with youth and love, but Eleonore's was chaste
and sublime, pure and maidenly. Elizabeth allured to love, Eleonore to
adoration.

The princess had long hated the young Countess Eleonore Lapuschkin,
and considered her as a rival; but that this rival should now gain an
interest in the heart of her favorite, that filled Elizabeth's soul
with anger and agitation, that caused her eyes to flash and her blood to
boil.

Staringly as Alexis Razumovsky's eyes were fixed upon the countess, she,
unconscious of this double observation, stood cheerful and unembarrassed
in the circle of her admiring friends and adorers.

Anna Leopoldowna followed the glance of the princess, and, observing
the beautiful Lapuschkin, said, without thinking of Elizabeth's very
susceptible vanity:

"Leonore Lapuschkin is an admirably beautiful woman, is she not? I
never saw a handsomer one. To look at her is like a morning dream;
her appearance diffuses light and splendor. Do you not find it so,
Elizabeth?"

"Oh, yes, I find it so," said Elizabeth, with a constrained smile. "She
is the handsomest woman in your realm."

"Yourself excepted, Elizabeth," kindly subjoined the regent.

"Oh, no, she is handsomer than I!" murmured Elizabeth.

Poor Leonore! In this moment hath the princess pronounced your sentence
of condemnation, and in her heart subscribed the stern order for your
execution.

A longer view of this triumph of the countess became insufferable;
alleging a sudden attack of illness, she immediately took leave of the
regent, and ordered her carriage.

Tears of anger and love stood in her eyes as Razumovsky approached to
aid her in entering it. Hurling away his hand, she entered the carriage
without assistance.

"And may I not accompany you in the carriage as usual?" asked Alexis,
with tenderness in his tone.

"No," she curtly said, "go back into the hall, and again admire the
handsomest woman in the empire!"

Then, jealousy getting the better of anger, she beckoned to Alexis, who
was about departing in sadness, and commanded him to enter the carriage
without delay.

As soon as the carriage door was closed, with an angry movement she
seized both of Razumovsky's hands.

"Look at me," said she--"look me directly in the eye, and then tell me,
is Eleonore Lapuschkin handsomer than I?"



THE PENCIL-SKETCH

It was the day after the court ball. Princess Elizabeth was in her
dressing-room, and occupied in enveloping herself in a very charming and
seductive _neglige_. She was to-day in very good humor, very happy
and free from care, for Alexis Razumovsky had, with the most solemn
asserverations, assured her of his truth and devotion, and Elizabeth had
been soothed and reconciled by his glowing language. It was for him that
she wished to appear especially attractive to-day, that Alexis, by the
sight of her, might be made utterly to forget the Countess Eleonore
Lapuschkin. In these coquettish efforts of her vanity she had utterly
forgotten all the plans and projects of her friends and adherents;
she thought no more of becoming empress, but she would be the queen of
beauty, and in that realm she would reign alone with an absolute sway.

A servant announced Lestocq.

A cloud of displeasure lowered on the brow of the princess. Startled
from her sweet dreams by this name, she now for the first time
recollected the fatal conversation she had had on the previous evening
with the regent. In her love and jealousy she had totally forgotten the
occurrence, but now that she was reminded of it, she felt her head throb
with anxiety and terror.

Dismissing her attendants with an imperious nod, she hastened to meet
the entering physician.

"Lestocq," said she, "it is well you have come at this moment, else,
perhaps, I might have forgotten to say to you that it is all over with
the conjuration spun and woven by you and the French marquis. We must
give it up, for the affair is more dangerous than you think it, and
I may say that you have reason to be thankful to me for having, by my
foresight and intrepidity, saved you from the torture, and a possible
transportation to Siberia. Ah, it is very cold in Siberia, my dear
Lestocq, and you will do well silently and discreetly to build a warm
nest here, instead of inventing ambitious projects dangerous to all of
us."

"And whence do you foresee danger, princess?" asked Lestocq.

"The regent knows all! She knows our plans and combinations. In a word,
she knows that we conspire, and that you are the principal agent in the
conspiracy."

"Then I am lost!" sighed Lestocq, gliding down upon a chair.

"No, not quite," said Elizabeth, with a smile, "for I have saved you.
Ah, I should never have believed that the playing of comedy was so
easy, but I tell you I have played one in a masterly manner. Fear was my
teacher; it taught me to appear so innocent, to implore so affectingly,
that Anna herself was touched. Ah, and I wept whole streams of tears, I
tell you. That quite disarmed the regent. But you must bear the blame if
my eyes to-day are yet red with weeping, and not so brilliant as usual."

And Princess Elizabeth ran to the toilet-table to examine critically her
face in the glass.

"Yes, indeed," she cried, with a sort of terror, "it is as I feared. My
eyes are quite dull. Lestocq, you must give me a means, a quick and sure
means, to restore their brightness."

Thus speaking, Elizabeth looked constantly in the glass, full of care
and anxiety about her eyes.

"I shall appear less beautiful to him to-day," she murmured; "he will,
in thought, compare me with Eleonore Lapuschkin, and find her handsomer
than I. Lestocq, Lestocq!" she then called aloud, impatiently stamping
with her little foot, "I tell you that you must immediately prescribe a
remedy that will restore the brilliancy of my eyes."

"Princess," said Lestocq, with solemnity, "I beseech you for a moment
to forget your incomparable beauty and the unequalled brilliancy of your
eyes. Be not only a woman, but be, as you can, the great czar's great
daughter. Princess, the question here is not only of the diminished
brilliancy of your eyes, but of a real danger with which you are
threatened. Be merciful, be gracious, and relate to me the exact words
of your yesterday's conversation with the regent."

The princess looked up from her mirror, and turned her head toward
Lestocq.

"Ah, I forgot," she carelessly said, "you are not merely my physician,
but also a revolutionist, and that is of much greater importance to
you."

"The question is of your head, princess, and as a true physician I would
help you to preserve it. Therefore, dearest princess, I beseech you,
repeat to me that conversation with the regent."

"Will you then immediately give me a recipe for my eyes?"

"Yes, I will."

"Well, listen, then."

And the princess repeated, word for word, to the breathless Lestocq, her
conversation with Anna Leopoldowna. Lestocq listened to her with
most intense interest, taking a piece of paper from the table and
mechanically writing some unmeaning lines upon it with an appearance of
heedlessness. Perhaps it was this mechanical occupation that enabled him
to remain so calm and circumspect. During the narration of the
princess his features again assumed their expression of firmness and
determination; his eyes again flashed, and around his mouth played a
saucy, scornful smile, such as was usually seen there when, conscious of
his superiority, he had formed a bold resolution.

"This good regent has executed a stroke of policy for which Ostermann
will never forgive her," said he, after the princess had finished
her narration. "She should have kept silence and appeared
unconstrained--then _we_ should have been lost; but now it is _she_."

"No," exclaimed the princess, with generous emotion, "the regent has
chosen precisely the best means for disarming us! She has manifested
a noble confidence in me, she has discredited the whisperings of her
minister and counsellors, and instead of destroying me, as she should
have done, she has warned me with the kindness and affection of a
sister. I shall never forget that, Lestocq; I shall ever be grateful for
that! Henceforth the Regent or Empress Anna Leopoldowna shall have no
truer or more obedient subject than I, the Princess Elizabeth!"

"By this you would not say, princess--"

"By this I mean to say," interposed Elizabeth, "that this conspiracy is
brought to a bloodless conclusion, and that, from this hour, there is
but one woman in this great Russian realm who has any claim to the title
of empress, and that woman is the Regent Anna Leopoldowna!"

"You will therefore renounce your sacred and well-grounded claims to the
imperial throne?" asked Lestocq, continuing his scribbling.

"Yes, that will I," responded Elizabeth. "I will no longer be plagued
with your plans and machinations--I will have repose. In the interior of
my palace I will be empress; there will I establish a realm, a realm of
peace and enjoyable happiness; there will I erect the temple of love,
and consecrate myself as its priestess! No, speak no more of revolutions
and conspiracies. I am not made to sit upon a throne as the feared and
thundering goddess of cowardly slaves, causing millions to tremble
at every word and glance! I will not be empress, not the bugbear of a
quaking, kneeling people, I will be a woman, who has nothing to do with
the business and drudgery of men; I will not be plagued with labor and
care, but will enjoy and rejoice in my existence!"

"For that you will be allowed no time!" said Lestocq, with solemnity.
"When you give up your plans and renounce your rights, then, princess,
it will be all over with the days of enjoyment and happiness. It will
then no longer be permitted you to convert your palace into a temple
of pleasure, and thenceforth you will be known only as the priestess of
misfortune and misery!"

"You have again your fever-dreams," said Elizabeth, smiling. "Come, I
will awaken you! I have told you my story; it is now for you to give me
a recipe for my inflamed eyes."

"Here it is," earnestly answered Lestocq, handing to the princess the
paper upon which he had been scribbling.

Elizabeth took it and at first regarded it with smiling curiosity;
but her features gradually assumed a more serious and even terrified
expression, and the roses faded from her cheeks.

"You call this a recipe for eyes reddened with weeping," said she, with
a shudder, "and yet it presents two pictures which make my hair bristle
with terror, and might cause one to weep himself blind!"

"They represent our future!" said Lestocq, with decision. "You see that
man bound upon the wheel--that is myself! Now look at the second. This
young woman who is wringing her hands, and whose head one of these nuns
is shearing, while the other is endeavoring, in spite of her struggling
resistance, to envelope her in that black veil;--that is you, princess.
For you the cloister, for me the wheel! That will be our future,
Princess Elizabeth, if you now hesitate in your forward march in the
path upon which you have once entered.

"And to persevere in this conspiracy is to give ourselves up to certain
destruction, for doubt not they will be able to convict us. Among
Grunstein's enlisted friends there are drunkards enough who would betray
you for a flask of brandy! Princess Elizabeth, would you be a nun or
an empress? Choose between these two destinations. There is no middle
course."

"Then I would be an empress!" said Elizabeth, with flashing eyes,
trembling with anxiety and excitement, and still examining the two
drawings. "Ah, you are an accomplished artist, Lestocq, you have
designed this picture with a horrible truth of resemblance. How I stand
there! how I wring my hands, the pale lips opened for a cry of terror,
and yet silenced by a view of those dreadful shears before whose deadly
operations my hair falls to the earth, and that veil entombs me while
yet living!"

And casting away the drawings, the princess trod them under foot,
declaring in a loud and imperious tone: "These drawings are false,
Lestocq, and that will I prove to you--I, the Empress Elizabeth!"

"All hail, my empress!" cried Lestocq, throwing himself at her feet
and kissing the hem of her robe; "blessings upon you, for you have now
rescued me from the hands of the executioner! You have saved my life,
in return for which I will this day place an imperial crown upon your
heavenly brows."

"This day?" asked Elizabeth, with a shudder.

"Yes, it must be done this very night! We must improve the moment, for
only the moment is ours. Every hour of delay but brings us nearer to
our destruction. Yet one night of hesitation, and they will already
have rendered our success impossible. Ah, the Regent Anna has sworn to
believe only you, and never to doubt you, and yet she has ordered three
battalions of the guards to march early in the morning to join the army
in Viborg. Our friends and confidants are in these three battalions.
Judge, then, how very much Anna Leopoldowna confides in you!"

"Ah, if it be really so," said Elizabeth, "then can I no longer have
any regard for her. Anna will remove my friends from here, and that is
a betrayal of the friendship she has sworn for me. I have therefore
no further obligations toward her! I am free to act as I think best.
Lestocq, I will be no nun, but an empress! You now have my word, and are
at liberty to make all necessary arrangements. If it must be done, let
it be done quickly and unhesitatingly. I have yet to-day the courage to
dare any enormity, therefore let us utilize this day!"

"Expect me to-night at twelve o'clock!" said Lestocq, rising; "I will
then be here to bring you the imperial crown."

This firm confidence made Elizabeth tremble again. Until now all had
seemed like a dream, a play of the imagination; but when she read in
Lestocq's bold and resolved features that it was a reality, she shook
with terror, and an anxious fear overpowered her soul.

"And if it miscarry?" said she, thoughtfully.

"It will not and cannot miscarry!" responded Lestocq. "The right is on
your side, and God will watch over the daughter of the great czar."

"And then, when I am really empress," said Elizabeth, thoughtfully,
to herself, "what then? There is no happiness in it! They will give me
another title, they will place a crown upon my head, and bind me to a
throne. I shall no longer be free to act according to my will, to live
as I would. Thousands of spies will lurk around me. Thousands of eyes
will follow my steps, thousands of ears will listen for my every word,
in order to interpret and attach a secret meaning to it! They will call
me an empress, but I shall be a slave bound with golden fetters, upon
whose head sits a golden crown of thorns. And this toil and weariness!
These tiresome sittings of the ministers, this law-making and the
signing of orders and commands! How horrible!--Lestocq," suddenly
cried the princess aloud, "if I must always labor, and make laws, and
subscribe my name, and command and govern, then I will be no empress,
no, never!"

"You shall be empress only to enjoy life in its highest splendor.
We, your servants and slaves, we will work and govern for you!" said
Lestocq.

"Swear that to me! Swear to me that I shall not be constrained to labor,
swear that you will govern for me, that I may devote my time to the
enjoyment of life!"

"I swear it to you by all that is most sacred to me."

"Well, then, I will be your empress!" said Elizabeth, satisfied.

At this moment a secret door opened and gave admission to Alexis
Razumovsky.

By his entrance Elizabeth was reminded of her inflamed eyes, and of the
fair Countess Eleanore Lapuschkin.

She gave Alexis a searching, scrutinizing glance, and it seemed to her
that he appeared less tender and ardent than usual.

"Oh," she proudly said, motioning her favorite to approach her and
lightly kissing him upon the forehead, "oh, I will yet compel you to
adore me. When an imperial crown encircles my brow, then will you be
obliged to confess that I am the fairest of women! Alexis, on this night
shall I become an empress!"

With a cry of joy Alexis sank to her feet.

"Hail to my adored empress!" he exclaimed, with enthusiasm. "Hail
Elizabeth, the fairest of all women!"

"With the exception of the beautiful Countess Lapuschkin!" said
Elizabeth, with a bitter smile--"ah, when I am empress, I shall at
least have the power to render that woman harmless, and to annihilate
her!--You turn pale, Alexis," she continued with more vehemence--"your
hand trembles in mine! You must therefore love her very much, this
exalted queen of godlike beauty? Ah, I shall know how to punish her for
it!"

"Princess!" reproachfully exclaimed Alexis--"Elizabeth, you, my august
and gentle empress, you will not sacrifice an innocent woman to a
momentary jealous vagary!"

"Ah, he ventures to intercede for her!" cried Elizabeth, with a hoarse
laugh, and, turning to Lestocq, she continued, with anger-flashing eyes:
"Lestocq, I have yet a condition to make before consenting to become an
empress."

"Name your condition, princess, and if it be within the compass of human
power it shall be fulfilled."

Casting an angry glance at Razumovsky, Elizabeth said, with a sinister
smile:

"Swear to me, by all you hold most sacred, to find some fault in this
Countess Lapuschkin which shall give me the right to condemn her to
death!"

"I swear it by all I hold most sacred," solemnly responded Lestocq.

"And you will do well in that!" exclaimed Alexis. "For when a crime
rests upon her, and she, only with a word or look, offends against my
fair and noble empress, she will deserve such condemnation."

"You will, then, defend her no longer?" asked the somewhat appeased
princess, bending down to her kneeling lover.

"What is Countess Lapuschkin to me?" tenderly responded Alexis. "For
me there is but one woman, one empress, and one beauty, and that is
Elizabeth!"

The princess smiled with satisfaction. "Lestocq," said she, "this time
I keep my word. I am ready to dare all, in order to place the imperial
crown upon my head. I must and will be empress, that I may have the
power to reward you all, and to raise you, my Alexis, to me!"

And drawing the handsome Alexis up to herself, she gave him her hand to
kiss.

"I now go to make all necessary preparations," said Lestocq. "At
midnight I will come for you. Be ready at that time, Elizabeth!"

"I will then be ready!" said Princess Elizabeth, nodding a farewell to
Lestocq.

"At midnight!" she then thoughtfully continued. "Well, we have twelve
hours until then, which will suffice for the invention of a suitable
toilet. Alexis, tell me what sort of dress I shall wear. What color
best becomes me and in what shall I please the soldiers? The toilet,
my Alexis, is often decisive in such cases; an unsuitable costume might
cause me to displease the conspirators, and lead them to give up the
enterprise. You must aid me, Alexis, in choosing a costume. Come, let us
repair to the wardrobe, and call my women. I will try on all my dresses,
one after the other; then you shall decide which is most becoming, and
that will we choose."

The princess and her lover betook themselves to the wardrobe, and called
her women to assist in selecting a suitable revolution-toilet.



THE REVOLUTION

Night had come. The lights in palaces and houses were gradually
extinguished. St. Petersburg began to sleep, or at least to give itself
the appearance of sleeping. The regent, Anna Leopoldowna, also,
had already dismissed her household and withdrawn into her private
apartments.

It was a fine starlight night. Anna leaned upon the window-frame,
thoughtfully and dreamily glancing up at the heavens. Her eyes gradually
filled with tears, which slowly rolled down her cheeks and fell upon her
hands. She was startled by the falling of these warm, glowing drops. She
was thinking of Lynar, of the distant, warmly-desired one, to whom she
would gladly have devoted her whole existence, but to whom she could
belong only through falsehood. She thought it would be nobler and
greater to renounce him, that her love might be consecrated by her
abnegation, while actually devoting her life to the duties enjoined
by the laws and the Church. But these thoughts filled her bosom with a
nameless sorrow, and it was involuntarily that she wept.

"No," she murmured low, "I cannot make this sacrifice; I cannot make
an offering of my love to my virtue; for this bugbear of a compulsory
marriage I cannot give up a love which God Himself has inspired in my
heart. Then let it be so! Let the world judge and the priests condemn
me. I will not sacrifice my love to a prejudice. I know that this is
sinful, but God will have compassion on the sinner who has no other
happiness on earth than this only one--a love that controls her whole
being. And if this sin must be punished, oh, my Maker, I pray you to
pardon him, and let the punishment fall on me alone!"

Thus speaking, she raised her arms and directed her eyes toward the
heavens in fervent prayer. Suddenly a brilliant light flashed through
the air--a star had shot from its sphere, and, after a short course, had
become extinguished.

"That bodes misfortune," said Anna, with a shudder, her head sinking
upon her breast.

At this moment there was a loud knocking at her door, and Prince Ulrich,
Anna's husband, earnestly demanded admission.

Anna hastened to open, asking with surprise the cause of his unusual
visit.

"Anna," said the prince, hastily entering, "I come to warn you once
more. Again has a warning letter been mysteriously conveyed to me. I
have just found it upon my night-table. See for yourself. It implores
us to be on our guard. It informs us that we are threatened with a
frightful danger, that Elizabeth conspires, and that we are lost if we
do not instantly take preventive measures."

Anna read the warning letter, and then smilingly gave it back to her
husband.

"Always the same old song, the same croaking of the toad," said
she. "Count Ostermann has taken it into his head that Elizabeth is
conspiring, and doubtless all these warning letters come from him. Read
them no more in future, my husband, and now let us retire to rest."

"And what if it were, nevertheless, true," said the prince,
pressingly--"if we are really threatened with a great danger? A word
from you can turn it away. Let us, therefore, be careful! Remember your
son, Anna--_his_ life is also threatened! Protect him, mother of the
emperor! Allow me, the generalissimo of your forces, to take measures
of precaution! Let me establish patrols, and cause a regiment, for whose
fidelity I can be answerable, to guard the entrances of the palace!"

Anna smilingly shook her head. "No," said she, "nothing of all that
shall be done! Such precautions manifest suspicion, and would wound
the feelings of this good Elizabeth. She is innocent, believe me. I
yesterday sharply observed her, and she came out from the trial pure. It
would be ignoble to distrust her now. Moreover, she has my princely word
that I will always listen only to herself, and believe no one but her.
In the morning I will go to her and show her this letter, that she may
have an opportunity to justify herself."

"You therefore consider her wholly innocent?" asked the prince, with a
sigh.

"Yes, perfectly innocent. Her firm demeanor, her asseverations, her
tears, have convinced me that it was unjust in us to believe the hateful
rumors that had spread concerning her. Let us therefore retire in peace
and quiet. No danger threatens us from Elizabeth!"

There was something convincing and tranquillizing in Anna's immovable
conviction; the prince felt his inability to oppose her, and was ashamed
of his feminine fears in the face of her masculine intrepidity.

With a sigh he took his leave and returned to his own room. At the door
he turned once again.

"Anna," said he, with solemnity, "you have decided upon our destiny,
and God grant that it may eventuate happily! But should it be otherwise,
should the monstrous and terrible break in upon you, then, at least,
remember this hour, in which I warned you, and confess that I am free
from all blame!"

Without awaiting an answer, with a drooping head and deep sigh, the
prince left the room.

Anna looked after him with a compassionate smile.

"Poor prince!" she murmured low, "he is always so timid and trembling;
that indicates unhappiness! He loves me, and I cannot force my heart
to return the feeling. Poor prince, it must be very sad to love and be
unloved!"

With a sigh she closed the door through which her husband had passed.

"I will now sleep," said she. "Yes, sleep! Possibly Heaven may send me a
pleasant dream, and I may see my Lynar! But no, I must first go to Ivan,
to ascertain whether his slumber is tranquil."

With hasty steps she repaired to the adjacent chamber, which was that of
the young emperor.

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
emotion.

"Sleep, my dear child, my charming little emperor," she
murmured--"sleep, and in your dreams may you play with angels as
beautiful as yourself!"

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
the palace.

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
favorite.

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
Woronzow.

"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
the room.

Silently they hastened down the stairs--silently was Elizabeth handed
into her sledge, while Lestocq and Woronzow took their places in the
second.

"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
train!

They had now reached the casern of the Peobrajensky regiment. There they
halted. In the open door stands Grunstein with his thirty recruits.

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 sovereign!"

"All hail, Elizabeth, our empress!" cried the conspirators, prostrating
themselves.

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 drum.

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
corridor.

"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
imploring tone:

"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 blessing,
Julia!"

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
responded Anna.

"No, no, your head is sacred, and so is your freedom. They dare not
attack either."

"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
order.

"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
infantile brow.

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
and emperor.

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 nurse.

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.



THE RECOMPENSING

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 merciful empress!

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 realm!

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
Alexis.

"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
encountered."

"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,
gloomily.

"Well, let these traitors fare according to the common usage, and kill
them," responded Elizabeth, comfortably extending herself upon the
divan.

"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
sentence?"

"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 better."

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
their decision?"

"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!"



PUNISHMENT

"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 go!"

"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
the empress.

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 unspeakable
ecstasy.

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
be happy."

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
sledge.

"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
family!

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 the
time!

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
proofs adduced.

"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
indulgence."

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
forsake him.

"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 cheeks.

"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 hear
it!"

"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 wounded you?"

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 you!"

"Name your request once more, I have forgotten it!" said Elizabeth with
vehemence.

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
counter-order."

"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
pleasure."

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
border.

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 freedom!

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 the world."

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 smile.

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 her hand.

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 Riga!"

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 her.

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
her difficulties.

"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 all.

"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 title!"

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 fulfil.

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 czars!

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
official documents.

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 empress!

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 arms?

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.



ELEONORE LAPUSCHKIN

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 Eleonore Lapuschkin?

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
smile.

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
said.

"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
sacred?"

"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
Eleonore Lapuschkin."

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
my empress!"

"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 her
presence!"

"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
conspiracy!"

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 liberation!"

"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
her physician.

"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, what
punishment?"

"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
Elizabeth.

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 tribunal.

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
Siberia!

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 her.

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 mercy.

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
soul.

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 Siberia.

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."



A WEDDING

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
palace.

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
realm?"

"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 her
eyes.

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 bring her.

"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 heart!"

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 her!"

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
loudly shriek with mortal anguish, and she was dismayed at being left
alone with her thoughts.

"I will have society around me," said she, "and will never be alone; the
people about me shall always laugh and jest, to cheer me and distract
my thoughts. Hasten, hasten--call my court; the most jovial men shall
be most welcome! And, do you hear, above all things, bring me wine, the
best and strongest wine. When I drink plenty of it, I shall again become
gay and happy; it drives away all cares, and renders the heart light and
free!"

And they came, the merriest gentlemen of the court; it also came, the
strong, fiery wine; and, after an hour, Elizabeth's brow beamed with
renewed pleasure, while her heavy tongue with difficulty stammered:

"How beautiful it yet is to be an empress--for an empress there is only
joy and delight, and endless pleasures!"



SCENES AND PORTRAITS

Years passed--famous and glorious years for Russia. Peace within
her borders, and splendid victories gained over foreign enemies,
particularly over the Prussians. In songs of jubilee the people praised
and blessed their empress, whose wisdom had brought all to such a
glorious conclusion, and had made her country great, triumphant, and
happy.

The good Elizabeth! What had she to do with the victories of her
soldiers, with the happiness of her realm? She knew nothing of it, and
if peace prevailed throughout the Russian empire, it was absolutely
unknown in the imperial palace, where there was eternal war, a
never-ending feud! There the young Catharine contended with her husband,
whom she hated and abhorred; with Elizabeth, who saw in her a dangerous
rival. But it was an unequal struggle in which these two women were
engaged, for Elizabeth had on her side the power and dominion, while
Catharine had only her youth, her beauty, and her tears!

Elizabeth hated Catharine because she dared to remain young and
handsome, while she, the empress, saw that she was growing old, and her
charms were withering; and Catharine hated Elizabeth because the latter
denied her a right which the empress daily claimed for herself--the
right to choose a lover, and to love him as long as he pleased her.
She hated Elizabeth because the latter surrounded her with spies
and watchers, and required of her a strict virtue, a never-violated
matrimonial fidelity--fidelity to the husband who so far derided and
insulted his wife as to demand that she should receive into her circle
and treat with respect and kindness his own mistress, the Countess
Woronzow--fidelity to this husband, who had never shown her any thing
but contempt and neglect, and who had no other way of entertaining her
than teaching her to march in military fashion, and stand as a sentinel
at his door!

Wounded in her inmost being and her feminine honor, tired of the eternal
pin-prickings with which Elizabeth tormented her, Catharine retreated
into her most retired apartment, there in quiet to reflect upon her
dishonorable greatness, and yearningly to dream of a splendid future.
"For the future," said she, with sparkling eyes to her confidante,
Princess Daschkow, "the future is mine, they cannot deprive me of it.
For that I labor and think and study. Ah, when _my_ future shall have
become the present, then will I encircle my brows with a splendid
imperial diadem, and astonish you with all my greatness and
magnificence."

"But you forget your husband!" smilingly interposed Princess Daschkow.
"He will a little obscure the splendor of your imperial crown, as he
will always be the first in the realm. He is the all-powerful emperor,
and you will be powerless, although an empress!"

Catharine proudly tossed her head, and her eyes flashed.

"I shall one day remember all the mortifications he has inflicted upon
me," said she, "and an hour will come when I shall have a reckoning with
him, and full retribution! Ah, talk not to me of my husband--Russian
emperors have never been immortal, and why should he be so?"

"Catharine!" exclaimed the Princess Daschkow, turning pale, "you cannot
think--"

"I think," interposed Catharine, with an unnatural smile, "I think the
Russian emperors are not immortal, and that this good Empress Elizabeth
is very fortunate in having no emperor who presumes to stand over her
and have a will more potent than her own!"

"Ah, Elizabeth has no will at all!" laughingly responded the princess.

"But I shall have a will!" said Catharine, proudly.

The Princess Daschkow had spoken the truth. Elizabeth had no longer
any will; she let Bestuscheff govern, and was herself ruled by Alexis
Razumovsky, the field-marshal, her husband. She did whatever these two
required, willingly yielding to them in all cases demanding no personal
effort on her part. On this point only had she a will of her own, which
she carried through with an iron hand.

"I have not become empress that I might labor, but that I might amuse
myself," said she. "I have not set the crown upon my head for the
purpose of governing, but for the purpose of enjoying life. Spare me,
therefore, the labor of signing your documents. I will sign nothing
more, for my hand is not accustomed to holding the pen, and the ink
soils my fingers, which is unworthy of an empress!"

"It is only one signature that I implore of you to-day," said
Bestuscheff, handing her a letter. "Have the great kindness to make an
exception of this one single case, by signing this letter to King Louis
XV. of France."

"What have I to write to this King of France?" fretfully asked
Elizabeth. "Why should I do it? It is a long time since he has sent
me any new dresses, although he might well know that nothing is more
important for an empress than a splendid and varied wardrobe! Why, then,
should I write to this King of France?"

"You majesty, it is here question of a simple act of courtesy," said
Bestuscheff, pressingly; "an act the omission of which may be attended
with the most disagreeable consequences, perhaps indeed involve us in a
war. Think of the peace of your realm, the welfare of your people, and
sign this letter!"

"But what does it contain that is so important?" asked the empress,
with astonishment. "I now remember that for a year past you have been
importuning me about this!"

"Yes, your majesty, I have been for the last three years daily imploring
of you this signature, and you have refused it to me; and yet the letter
is so necessary! It is against all propriety not to send it! For it is
a letter of congratulation to the King of France, who in an autograph
letter announced to you the birth of his grandson. Reflect, your
majesty, that he wrote you with his own hand, and for three years you
have refused to give yourself the small trouble to sign the answer I
have prepared. This prince, for whose birth you are to congratulate the
king, is now old enough to express his own thanks for the sympathy you
manifest for him."

Elizabeth laughed. "Well," said she, "I shall finally be obliged to
comply with your wishes, that you may leave me in peace. For three
years I have patiently borne your importunities for this signature. My
patience is now at an end, and I will sign the letter, that I may be
freed from your solicitations. Give me, therefore, that intolerable pen,
but first pour out a glass of Malvoisie, and hold it ready, that I may
strengthen myself with it after the labor is accomplished."

Elizabeth, sighing, took the pen and slowly and anxiously subscribed her
name to this three-years-delayed letter of congratulation to the King of
France.

"So," said she, throwing down her pen after the completion of her
task--"so, but you must not for a long time again trouble me with any
such work, and to-day I have well earned the right to a very pleasant
evening. Nothing more of business--no, no, not a word more of it! I will
not have these delightful hours embittered by your absurdities! Away
with you, Bestuscheff, and let my field-marshal, Count Razumovsky, be
called!"

And when Alexis came, Elizabeth smilingly said to him: "Alexis, the air
is to-day so fine and fresh that we will take a ride. Quick, quick! And
know you where?"

Razumovsky nodded. "To the villa!" said he, with a smile.

"Yes, to the villa!" cried Elizabeth, "to see my daughter at the villa!"

She therefore now had a daughter, and this daughter had not died like
her two sons. She lived, she throve in the freshness of childhood, and
Elizabeth loved her with idolatrous tenderness!

But precisely on account of this tenderness did she carefully conceal
the existence of this daughter, keeping her far from the world, ignorant
of her high birth, unsuspicious of her mother's greatness!

The fatal words of the Countess Lapuschkin still resounded in the ears
of the empress: "Give this Elizabeth a daughter, and let that daughter
experience what I now suffer!"

Such had been the prayer of the bleeding countess, flayed by the
executioners of the empress, and the words were continually echoing in
Elizabeth's heart.

Ah, she was indeed a lofty empress; she had the power to banish
thousands to Siberia, and was yet so powerless that she could not banish
those words from her mind which Eleonore Lapuschkin had planted there.

Eleonore was therefore avenged! And while the countess bore the torments
of her banishment with smiling fortitude, Elizabeth trembled on her
throne at the words of her banished rival--words that seemed to hang,
like the sword of Damocles, over the head of her daughter!

Perhaps it was precisely for the reason that she so much feared for her
daughter, that she loved her so very warmly. It was a passionate, an
adoring tenderness that she felt for the child, and nevertheless she
had the courage to keep her at a distance from herself, to see her but
seldom, that no one might suspect the secret of her birth.

Eleonore's words had brought reflection to Elizabeth. She comprehended
that her legitimate daughter would certainly be threatened with great
dangers after her death; she had shudderingly thought of poor Ivan in
Schlusselburg, and she said to herself: "As I have held him imprisoned
as a pretender, so may it happen to my daughter, one day, when I am
no more! Ivan had but a doubtful right to my throne, but Natalie is
indisputably the grand-daughter of Peter the Great--the blood of the
great Russian czar flows in her veins, and therefore Peter will fear
Natalie as I feared Ivan; therefore will he imprison and torment her as
I have imprisoned and tormented Ivan!"

By this affectionate anxiety was Elizabeth induced to make a secret
of the existence of her daughter, which was imparted to but a few
confidential friends.

The little Natalie was raised in a solitary country-house not far from
the city, and her few servants and people were forbidden under pain
of death to admit any stranger into this constantly-closed and
always-watched house. No one was to enter it without a written order of
the empress, and but few such written orders were given.

Elizabeth, then, as it were to recompense herself for the trouble of
signing the letter to the King of France, resolved to visit her daughter
to-day with her husband.

"Rasczinsky may precede and announce us," said she. "We will take our
dinner there, and he may say to our major-domo that we are going to
Peterhoff. Then no one will be surprised that we make a short halt at my
little villa in passing, or, rather, they will know nothing of it. Call
Rasczinsky!"

Count Rasczinsky was one of the few who were acquainted with the secret,
and might accompany the empress in these visits. Elizabeth had unlimited
confidence in him; she knew him to be a silent nobleman, and she
estimated him the more highly from the fact that he seemed much attached
to the charming, beautiful, and delicate child, her daughter. She
remarked that he appeared to love her as a brother, that he constantly
and fondly watched over her, and that he was never better pleased than
when, as a child, he could jest and play with her.

"Rasczinsky, we are about to ride out to the villa on a visit to
Natalie!" she said, when the count entered.

The count's eyes beamed with pleasure. "And I may be permitted to
accompany your majesty?" he hastily asked.

The empress smiled. "How impetuous you are!" said she. "Would not one
think you were a dying lover, a sighing shepherd, and it was a question
of seeking your tender shepherdess, instead of announcing to a child of
eleven years the speedy arrival of her mother?"

"Your majesty," said Count Rasczinsky, laughing, "I am not in love, but
I adore this child as my good angel. I can never do or think any thing
bad in Natalie's presence. She is so pure and innocent that one casts
down his eyes with shame before her, and when she glances at me with
her large, deep, and yet so childish eyes, I could directly fall upon my
knees and confess to her all my sins!"

"You would not have many to confess," said Elizabeth, "for your sins are
few. You are the pride of my court, and, as I am told, a true pattern
of all knightly virtues. Remain so, and who knows, my fair young count,
what the future may bring you? Love my Natalie now only as an angel of
innocence; let her grow up as such, and then--"

"And then?" asked the count, as the empress stopped.

"Then we shall see!" smilingly responded Elizabeth. "But now hasten
forward to announce us."

"Your majesty forgets that, to enable one to penetrate into this
enchanted castle, your written command is required!"

"Ah, that is true!" said Elizabeth, stepping to her writing-table. This
time she was not too indolent to write; no representations nor prayers
were needed. It concerned the seeing of her daughter--how, then, could
she have thought writing painful or troublesome?

With the same pen with which, a short time before, she had so
unwillingly signed the congratulatory letter, she now wrote upon a sheet
of paper, provided with her seal these words:

"The Count Rasczinsky may be admitted.

"ELIZABETH."



She handed the paper to the count, who pressed it to his lips.

"You can retain this paper for all time," said the empress, as she
dismissed him. "I know that I can wholly confide in you. You will never
sell or betray my Natalie?"

"Never!" protested the count, taking his leave.

Hastily mounting his horse, he galloped through the streets, and when,
having left the city behind him, he found himself in the open country
where no one could observe him, he drew the paper Elizabeth had given
him from his bosom, and waving it high in the air, shouted:

"Good fortune, good fortune! This paper is my talisman and my future!
With this paper I will give Russia an empress, and make myself her
emperor!"



PRINCES ALSO MUST DIE

Yes, even princes must die, glorious and lofty as they are, proudly as
they stand over their trembling subjects! Even to them comes the dark
hour in which all the borrowed and artistically-combined tinsel of their
lives falls from them; a dark hour, in which they tremble and repent,
and pray to God for what they seldom granted to their fellow-men--mercy!
Mercy for those false tales which they have imposed upon the people,
for those false tales of the higher endowments of princes, of inherited
wisdom which raises them above the rest of mankind--mercy for their
arbitrariness, their pride, and their insolence--mercy for a poor
beggar, who, until then, had called himself a rich and powerful prince.

And this hour came for Elizabeth. After twenty years of splendor, of
absolute, unlimited power, of infallibility, of likeness to the gods,
came the depressing hour in which Elizabeth ceased to be an empress, and
became only a trembling earth-worm, imploring mercy, aid, amelioration
of her sufferings from her Creator!

She suffered much, this poor empress, dethroned by death; she suffered,
although reposing upon silken cushions, with a gold-embroidered covering
for her shaking limbs.

And she was yet so young, hardly fifty, and she loved life so intensely!
Oh, she would have given half of her empire for a few more years of life
and enjoyment. But what cares Death for the wishes of an empress?
Here ends her earthly supremacy! Groaning and writhing, the earth-worm
tremblingly submits.

Where, now, were all her favorites--those high lords of the court, those
grand noblemen, created from soldiers, grooms, lackeys, and serfs--where
were they now? Why stood they not around the death-bed of their empress?
Why were they not there, that the remembrance of the benefits conferred
upon them might drive away those terrible reminiscences of the torments
she had inflicted upon others? Where were they, her counts, barons,
field-marshals, and privy councillors, whom she had raised from nothing
to the first positions in the realm?

None were with her! They had all hastened thence for the preservation
of their ill-gotten wealth, to crawl in the dust before Peter, to be the
first to pay him homage, that he might pardon their greatness and their
possessions! From the death-bed they had fled to Peter, and kneeling
before him, they praised God for at length bestowing upon the happy
realm the noblest and best ruler, Peter III.!

But where were Elizabeth's more particular friends, who had made her an
empress?

Where was Lestocq?

Him the empress had banished to Siberia. Yielding to the prayers and
calumnies of his enemies, which she was too weak to withstand, she had
given him up; she had sacrificed him to procure peace and quiet for
herself, and in the same hour in which she had tenderly pressed
his hand, and called him her friend, had she signed his sentence of
banishment! Lestocq had for nine years languished in Siberia.

Where was Grunstein? Banished, cast off, like Lestocq.

Where was Alexis Razumovsky?

Ah, well for her! He stood at her bedside, he pressed her cold hand in
his; he yet, in the face of death, thanked her for all the benefits she
had heaped upon him. But alas! she was also surrounded by others--by
wild, pale, terrible forms, which were unseen by all except the dying
empress! She there saw the tortured face of Anna Leopoldowna, whom she
had let die in prison; there grinned at her the idiotic face of Ivan,
whose mind she had destroyed; there saw she the angry-flashing eyes and
bloody form of Eleonore Lapuschkin, and, springing up from her bed, the
empress screeched with terror, and folded her trembling hands in prayer
to God for grace and mercy for her daughter, for Natalie, that He would
turn away the horrible curse that Eleonore had hurled at her child.

Alexis Razumovsky stood by her bedside, weeping. Overcome, as it seemed,
by his sorrow, another left the death-chamber of the empress, and rushed
to his horse, standing ready in the court below! This other was Count
Rasczinsky, the confidant of the empress.

The bells rang in St. Petersburg, the cannon roared; there were both joy
and sorrow in what the bells and cannon announced!

The Empress Elizabeth was dead; the Emperor Peter III. ascended the
throne of the czars as absolute ruler of the Russian realm. The first to
bow before him was his wife. With her son of five years old in her arms,
she had thrown herself upon her knees, and touching the floor with her
forehead, she had implored grace and love for herself and her son; and
Peter, raising her up, had presented her to the people as his empress.

In St. Petersburg the bells rang, the cannon thundered--"The empress is
dead, long live the emperor!"

Before the villa stopped a foam-covered steed, from which dismounted a
horseman, who knocked at the closed door. To the porter who looked out
from a sliding window he showed the written order of Elizabeth for his
admission. The porter opened the door, and with the loud cry, "Natalie,
Natalie!" the Count Rasczinsky rushed into the hall of the house.

The bells continued to ring, the cannon to thunder. There was great
rejoicing in St. Petersburg.

Issuing from the villa, Count Rasczinsky again mounted his foaming
steed.

Like a storm-wind swept he over the plain--but not toward St.
Petersburg, not toward the city where the people were saluting their new
emperor!

Away, away, far and wide in the distance, his horse bounded and panted,
bleeding with the spurs of his rider. Excited constantly to new speed,
he as constantly bounds onward.

Like a nocturnal spectre flies he through the desert waste; the
storm-wind drives him forward, it lifts the mantle that enwraps him like
a cloud, and under that mantle is seen an angel-face, the smile of a
delicate little girl, two tender childish arms clasping the form of
the count, a slight elfish form tremblingly reposing upon the count's
breast.

"You weep not, my angel," whispered the count, while rushing forward
with restless haste.

"No, no, I neither weep nor tremble, for I am with you!" breathed a
sweet, childish voice.

"Cling closer to me, my sweet blossom, recline your head against my
breast. See, evening approaches!--Night will spread its protecting veil
over us, and God will be our conductor and safeguard! I shall save you,
my angel, my charming child!"

The steed continues his onward course.

The child smilingly reclines upon the bosom of the rider, over whom the
descending sun sheds its red parting beams.

Like a phantom flies he onward, like a phantom he disappears there on
the border of the forest. Was it only a delusive appearance, a _fata
morgana_ of the desert?

No, again and again the evening breeze raises the mantle of the rider,
and the charming angelic brow is still seen resting upon the bosom of
the count.

No, it is no dream, it is truth and reality!

Like a storm-wind flies the count over hill and heath, and on his bosom
reposes Natalie, _the daughter of the empress_!



THE CHARMED GARDEN

One must be very happy or very unhappy to love Solitude, to lean upon
her silent breast, and, fleeing mankind, to seek in its arms what is so
seldom found among men, repose for happiness or consolation for sorrow!
For the happy, solitude provides the most delightful festival, as it
allows one in the most enjoyable resignation to repose in himself, to
breathe out himself, to participate in himself! But it also provides
a festival for the unhappy--a festival of the memory, of living in the
past, of reflection upon those long-since vanished joys, the loss of
which has caused the sorrow! For the children of the world, for the
striving, for the seeker of inordinate enjoyments, for the ambitious,
for the sensual, solitude is but ill-adapted--only for the happy, for
the sorrow-laden, and also for the innocent, who yet know nothing of the
world, of neither its pleasures nor torments, of neither its loves nor
hatreds!

So thought and spoke the curious Romans when passing the high walls
surrounding the beautiful garden formerly belonging to the Count
Appiani. At an earlier period this garden had been well known to all
of them, as it had been a sort of public promenade, and under its
shady walks had many a tender couple exchanged their first vows and
experienced the rapture of the first kiss of love. But for the four last
years all this had been changed; a rich stranger had come and offered to
the impoverished old Count Appiani a large sum for this garden with its
decaying villa, and the count had, notwithstanding the murmurs of the
Romans, sold his last possession to the stranger. He had said to the
grumbling Romans: "You are dissatisfied that I part with my garden for
money. You were pleased to linger in the shady avenues, to listen to
these murmuring fountains and rustling cypresses; you have walked here,
you have here laughed and enjoyed yourselves, while I, sitting in my
dilapidated villa, have suffered deprivation and hunger. I will make you
a proposition. Collect this sum, you Romans, which this stranger offers
me; ye who love to promenade in my garden, unite yourselves in a common
work. Let each one give what he can, until the necessary amount is
collected, then the garden will be your common property, where you can
walk as much as you please, and I shall be happy to be relieved from
poverty by my own countrymen, and not compelled to sell to a stranger
the garden so agreeable to the Romans!"

But the good Romans had no answer to make to Count Appiani. They,
indeed, would have the enjoyment, but it must cost them nothing--in vain
had they very much loved this garden, had taken great pleasure under its
shady trees; but when it became necessary to pay for these pleasures,
they found that they were not worth the cost, that they could very well
dispense with them.

The good Romans therefore turned away from this garden, which threatened
them with a tax, and sought other places of recreation; while old Count
Appiani sold his garden and the ruins of his villa to the rich stranger
who had offered him so considerable a sum for them. From that day
forward every thing in the garden had assumed a different appearance.
Masons, carpenters, and upholsterers had come and so improved the villa,
within and without, that it now made a stately and beautiful appearance
amid the dense foliage of the trees. It had been expensively and
splendidly furnished with every thing desirable for a rich man's
dwelling, and the upholsterers had enough to relate to the listening
Romans of the elegant magnificence now displayed in this formerly
pitiable villa. How gladly would the former promenaders now have
returned to this garden; how gladly would they now have revisited this
villa, which, with its deserted halls and its ragged and dirty tapestry,
had formerly seemed to them not worth looking at! But their return to it
was now rendered impossible; for on the same day in which the new owner
took possession of the garden, he had brought with him more than fifty
workmen, who had immediately commenced surrounding it with a high wall.

Higher and higher rose the wall; nobody could see over it, as no
giant was sufficiently tall; no one could climb over it, as the
smoothly-hammered stones of which it was built offered not the least
supporting point. The garden with its villa had become a secret mystery
to the Romans! They yet heard the rustling of the trees, they saw the
green branches waving in the wind; but of what occurred under those
branches and in those shaded walks they could know nothing. At first,
some curious individuals had ventured to knock at the low, narrow door
that formed the only entrance into this walled garden. They had knocked
at that door and demanded entrance. Then would a small sliding window
be opened, and a gruff, bearded man with angry voice would ask what was
wanted, and at the same time inform the knocker that no one could be
admitted; that he and his two bulldogs would be able to keep the garden
clear of all intruders. And the two great hounds, as if they understood
the threats of their master, would show their teeth, and their
threatening growl would rise to a loud and angry bark.

They soon ceased to knock at that door, and, as they could not gain
admission, they took the next best course, of assuming the appearance of
not wishing it.

Four years had since passed; they had overcome the desire to enter the
premises or to look over the wall, but they told wondrous tales of
the garden and of a beautiful fairy who dwelt in it, and whose soft,
melodious voice was sometimes heard in the stillness of the night
singing sweet, transporting songs. No one had seen her, this fairy, but
she was certainly beautiful, and of course young; there were also some
bold individuals who asserted that when the moon shone brightly and
goldenly, the young fairy was then to be seen in the tops of the
trees or upon the edge of the wall. Light as an elf, transparent as a
moonbeam, she there swung to and fro, executing the singular dances
and singing songs that brought tears to the eyes and compassion to the
hearts of those who heard them. On hearing these tales, the Romans would
make the sign of the cross, and pass more quickly by the walls of this
garden, which thenceforth they called "_The Charmed Garden_." It was
indeed a charmed garden! It was an island of happiness, behind these
walls, concealed from the knavery of the world. Like an eternal smile of
the Divinity rested the heavens over this ever-blooming, ever-fragrant
garden, in whose myrtle-bushes the nightingales sang, and in whose
silver-clear basins the goldfishes splashed.

Yes, it was indeed a charmed garden, and also had its fairy, who, if she
did not compete with the moonbeams in rocking herself on the tops of the
trees and the edges of the wall, was nevertheless as delicate as an elf,
and who tripped from flower to brook and from brook to hill as lightly
and gracefully as the gazelle. The whole spring, the whole youth of
nature, flashed and beamed from this beautiful maiden-face, so full of
childlike innocence, purity, and peace. No storm had as yet passed over
these smiling features, not the smallest leaf of this rose had been
touched by an ungentle hand; freely and freshly had she blossomed in
luxuriant natural beauty; she had drunk the dews of heaven, but not
the dew of tears, for those deeply-dark beaming eyes had wept only such
tears as where called forth by emotions of joy and happiness.

She sat under a myrtle, whose blossoming branches bent down to her as if
they would entwine that pure and tender brow with a bridal wreath. With
her head thrown back upon these branches, she reposed with an inimitable
grace her reclining form. A white transparent robe, held by a golden
clasp, fell in waves to her feet, which were encased in gold-embroidered
slippers of dark-red leather. A blushing rose was fastened by a diamond
pin in the folds of her dress upon her budding bosom, finely contrasting
with the delicate flush upon her cheeks. A guitar rested upon her full
round arm. She had been singing, this beautiful fairy child, but her
song was now silenced, and she was glancing up to the clouds, following
their movements with her dreamy, thoughtful eyes. A smile hovered about
her fresh, youthful lips--the smile peculiar to innocence and happiness.

She dreamed; precious, ecstatic images passed before her mental eyes;
she dreamed of a distant land in which she had once been, of a distant
house in which she had once dwelt. It was even more beautiful and
splendid than this which she now occupied, but it had lacked this blue
sky and fragrant atmosphere; it lacked these trees and flowers, these
myrtle bushes, and these songs of the nightingale, and upon a few summer
days had followed long, dull winter months with their cold winding-sheet
of snow, with their benumbing masses of ice, and the fantastic flowers
painted on the windows by the frost. And yet, and yet, there had been a
sun which shone into her heart warmer than this bright sun of Italy, and
the thought of which spread a purple glow upon her cheeks. This sun had
shone upon her from the tender glances of a lady whom she had loved as
a tutelar genius, as a divinity, as the bright star of her existence!
Whenever that lady had come to her in the solitary house in which she
then dwelt, then had all appeared to her as in a transfiguration; then
had even her peevish old servant learned to smile and become humble and
friendly; then all was joy and happiness, and whoever saw that beautiful
and brilliant lady, had thought himself blessed, and had fallen down to
adore her.

Of that lady was the young maiden now thinking, of that memorable woman
with the flashing eyes whose tender glance had always penetrated the
heart of the child with delight, whose tender words yet resounded like
music in her ears.

Where was she now, this lady of her love, her longings? why had she been
brought away from that house with its snowy winding-sheet and the ice
drapery upon its windows? Where lay that house, and where had she to
seek it with her thoughts? What was the language she had there spoken,
and which she now secretly spoke in her heart, although nobody else
addressed her in it, no one about her understood it; and wherefore had
her friend and protector, he who had brought her here, who had always
been with her, wherefore had he suddenly given himself the appearance of
no longer understanding it?

And even as she was thinking of him, of this dear friend and protector,
he came along down the alley; his tall form appeared at the end of the
walk; she recognized his noble features, with the proud eagle glance and
the bold arched brow.

The young maiden arose from her seat and hastened to meet him.

"How charming that you have come, Paulo," she gayly said, stretching
forth her little hands toward him. "I must ask you something, and that
directly, Paulo. Tell me quickly what is that language called in which
we formerly conversed together, and why have we ceased to speak it since
we came here to Rome?"

Paulo's brow became slightly clouded, but when he looked into her
beautiful face, animated by expectant curiosity, this expression of
displeasure quickly vanished from his features, and, threatening her
with his finger, he said:

"Always this same question, Natalie; and yet I have so often begged of
you to forget the past, and live only in the present, my dear, sweet
child! The past is sunken in an immeasurable gulf behind you, which you
can never pass, and if it stretches out its arms to you, it will only be
for the purpose of dragging you down into the abyss with it. Forget
it, therefore, my Natalie, and yield thyself to this beautiful and
delightful present, to increase for you the attractions of which will
ever be the dearest task of my life."

"It is true," said the young maiden, sighing, "I am wrong to be always
recurring to those long-past times; you must pardon me, Paulo, but you
will also acknowledge that my enigmatical past justifies me in feeling
some curiosity. Only think how it began! You one day came rushing to my
room, you pressed me all trembling to your heart, and silently bore me
away. 'Natalie,' said you, 'danger threatens you; I will save, or
perish with you!' You mounted your horse with me in your arms. Behind us
screamed and moaned the servants of my house, but you regarded them
not, and I trustingly clung to your heart, for I knew that if danger
threatened me, you would surely save me! Oh, do you yet remember that
fabulous ride? How we rested in out-of-the-way houses, or with poor
peasant people, and then proceeded on farther and farther! And how the
sun constantly grew warmer, melting the snow, and you constantly became
more cheerful and happy, until, one day, you impetuously pressed me to
your bosom, and said: 'Natalie, we are saved! Life and the future are
now yours! Look around you, we are in Italy. Here you can be free and
happy!'"

"And was not that a good prophecy?" asked Paulo. "Has it not been
fulfilled? Are you not happy?"

"I should be so," sighed Natalie, "could I avoid thinking so often of
that past! Those words which you then spoke to me were the last I ever
heard in that language, which I had always spoken until then, but of
which I know not the name! From that hour you spoke to me in an unknown
tongue, and I felt like a poor deserted orphan, from whom was taken her
last possession, her language!"

"And yet whole peoples have been robbed of that last and dearest
possession!" said Paulo, his brow suddenly darkening, "and not, as in
your case, to save life and liberty, but for the purpose of enslaving
and oppressing them."

Natalie, perceiving the sudden sadness of her friend, attempted to
smile, and, grasping his hand, she said:

"Come, Paulo, we are naughty children, and vex ourselves with vagaries,
while all nature is so cheerful and so replete with divine beauty. Only
see with what glowing splendor the departing sun rests upon the tops of
the cypresses! Ah, it is nowhere so beautiful as here in my dear garden.
This is my world and my happiness! Sometimes, Paulo, it makes me shudder
to think that the walls surrounding us might suddenly tumble down, and
all the tall houses standing behind them, and all the curious people
lounging in the streets, could then look in upon my paradise! That
must be terrible, and yet Marianne tells me that other people live
differently from us, that their houses are not surrounded by walls, and
that no watchman with dogs drives away troublesome visitors from them.
And yet, she says, they smilingly welcome such inconvenient people,
receiving them with friendly words, while they only thank God when they
finally go and leave the occupants in peace. Is it then true, Paulo,
that people can be so false to each other, and that those who live in
the world never dare to speak as they think?"

"It is, alas! but too true, Natalie," said Paulo, with a sad smile.

"Then never let me become acquainted with such a world," said the young
maiden, clinging to Paulo's arm. "Let me always remain here in our
solitude, which none but good people can share with us. For Marianne is
good, as also Cecil, your servant; and Carlo--oh, Carlo would give his
life for me. He is not false, like other people; I can confide in him."

"Think you so!" asked Paulo, looking deep into her eyes with a
scrutinizing glance.

She bore his glances with a cheerful and unembarrassed smile, and a
roguish nod of her little head.

"You must certainly wish to paint me again, that you look at me so
earnestly. No, Paulo, I will not sit to you again, you paint me much
too handsome; you make an angel of me, while I am yet only a poor little
thing, who lives but by your mercy, and does not even know her own
name!"

"Angels never have a name, they are only known as angels, and need no
further designation. As there is an Angel Gabriel, so there is an Angel
Natalie!"

"Mocker," said she, laughing, "there are no feminine angels! But now
come, be seated. Here is my guitar, and I will sing you a song for which
Carlo yesterday brought me the melody."

"And the words?" asked Paulo.

"Well, as to the words, they must come in the singing--to-day one set of
words, to-morrow another. Who can know what glows in your heart at any
given hour, and what you may feel in the next, and which will escape you
in words unknown to yourself, and which unconsciously and involuntarily
stream from your lips."

"You are my charming poetess, my Sappho!" exclaimed Paulo, kissing her
hand.

"Ah, would that you spoke true!" said she, with sparkling eyes and a
deeper flush upon her cheeks. "Let me be a poetess like Sappho, and I
would, like her, joyfully leap from the rocks into the sea. Oh, there
are yet poetesses--Carlo has told me of them. All Rome now worships the
great improvisatrice, Corilla. I should like to know her, Paulo, only to
adore her, only to see her in her splendor and her beauty!"

"If you wish it, you shall see her," said Paulo.

"Ah, I shall see her then!" shouted Natalie, and, as if to give
expression to her inward joy, she touched the strings of her guitar, and
in clear tones resounded a jubilant melody. Then she began to sing,
at first in single isolated words and exclamations, which constantly
swelled into more powerful, animated and blissful tones, and finally
flowed into a regular dithyramb. It was a song of jubilee, a sigh of
innocence and happiness; she sang of God and the stars, of happy love,
and of reuniting; of blossom, fragrance, and fanning zephyrs; and in
unconscious, foreboding pain, she sang of the sorrows of love, and the
pangs of renunciation.

All Nature seemed listening to her charming song; no leaflet stirred,
in low murmurs splashed the waves of the fountain by which she sat, and
occasionally a nightingale wailed in unison with her hymn of rejoicing.
The sun had descended to a point nearer the horizon, and bordered it
with moving purple clouds. Natalie, suddenly interrupting her song,
pointed with her rosy fingers to the heavens.

"How beautiful it is, Paulo!" said she.

He, however, saw nothing but her face, illuminated by the evening glow.

"How beautiful art thou!" he whispered low, pressing her head to his
bosom.

Then both were silent, looking, lost in sweetest dreams, upon the
surrounding landscape, which, as if in a silence of adoration, seemed
to listen for the parting salutation of the god of day. A nightingale
suddenly came and perched upon the myrtle-bush under which Natalie and
her friend were reposing. Soon she began to sing, now in complaining,
now in exulting tones, now tenderly soft, now in joyful trumpet-blasts;
and the night-wind that now arose rustled in organ-tones among the
cypress and olive trees.

Natalie clung closer to her friend's side.

"I would now gladly die," said she.

"Already die!" whispered he. "Die before you have lived, Natalie?"

Then they were again silent, the wind rustled in the trees, the
fountains murmured, the birds sang, and in golden light lay the moon
over this paradise of two happy beings.

But what is that which is rustling in the pines close to the wall--what
is that looking out with flashing eyes and a poisonous glance? Is it the
serpent already come to expel these happy beings from their paradise?

They see nothing, they hear nothing, they are both dreaming, so sure do
they feel of their happiness.

But there is a continued rustling. It is unnatural! It resembles not
the rustling of the evening wind! It is not the rustling of a bird,
balancing itself upon the branch of the tree! What, then, is it?

An opening is made in the foliage, and it is the arm of a man that makes
it. Upon the wall is to be seen the form of a man, and near him slowly
rises a second form. Cautiously he glances around, and then makes a
scornful grimace, while his eyes shine like those of a hyena. He has
discovered the two sitting together in happy security, and enjoying the
tranquil beauty of the evening in silent beatitude. He has seen them,
and points toward them with his finger, while, at the same time, he
lightly touches the arm of the other man, who has boldly swung himself
up on the wall. The glance of the latter follows the direction in which
the other points; he also now sees the reposing pair, and over his
features also flits an unnatural smile. He suddenly fumbles in his
bosom, and when his hand is withdrawn a small dagger glistens in it.
With a bold leap, the man is already on the point of springing from the
wall into the garden. The other holds him back, and makes a threatening
counter-movement. He, it seems, is the commander, and uses his power
with an indignant negative shake of the head; his commanding glance
seems to say: "Be silent, and observe!"

Staring and immovably their eyes were now fixed upon the silent pair
sitting in the bright moonlight which surrounded them as with a glory.
One of the men still holds the dagger in his hand, and with a powerful
arm the other holds him in check. Then they whisper low together--they
seem to be consulting as to what is to be done. The man with the dagger
seems to yield to the arguments or persuasions of the other. He nods his
consent. The first disappears behind the wall, and the armed one slowly
follows him. Yet once again, he glances over the wall, raising his
arm and shaking his dagger toward Natalie and her friend. Then he
disappeared, and all was again peaceful and still in this smiling
paradise!

Was it, perhaps, only an illusive dream that bantered us, only a _fata
morgana_ formed by the moonbeams? Or does the serpent of evil really
lurk about this paradise? Will destruction find its way into this
charmed garden? Ah, no solitude and no wall can afford protection
against misfortune! It creeps through the strongest lock, and over the
highest wall; and while we think ourselves safe, it is already there,
close to us, and nearly ready to swallow us up.



THE LETTERS

It was suddenly lively in the garden. Cecil, Paulo's old servant,
approached from the house, with a lantern in his hand.

He comes down the alley with hasty steps, and with an anxious
countenance approaches his master.

"What is it, Cecil?"

"Two letters, sir, that have just arrived. One comes from the hotel
of the Russian legation, and the other from that of the Lord-Cardinal
Bernis."

Paulo shuddered slightly, and his hand involuntarily grasped after the
first letter, but he suddenly constrained himself, and his glance fell
upon Natalie, whose eyes were fixed with curiosity upon the two letters.

"We will first see what the good Cardinal Bernis writes us!" said
Count Paulo, placing the Russian letter in his pocket with apparent
indifference.

"Bernis?" asked Natalie. "Is not that the French Cardinal, who is at
the same time a poet, and whom the pope, the great Ganganelli, so dearly
loves?"

"The same," said Paulo, "and besides, the same Cardinal Bernis whom
I had months ago promised to allow the pleasure of making your
acquaintance! He already knows you, Natalie, although he has never yet
seen your fair face; he knows you from what I have told him."

"Oh, let us quickly see what the good cardinal writes!" exclaimed
Natalie, clapping her hands with the impatience of a child.

Count Paulo smilingly broke the seal and read the letter.

"You are in truth a witch," said he; "you must have some genius in your
service, who listens to every wish you express, in order to fulfil it
without delay! This letter contains an invitation from the cardinal. He
gives a great entertainment to-morrow, and begs of me that I will bring
you to it. The improvisatrice Corilla will also be there!"

"Oh, then I shall see her!" exclaimed the delighted young maiden. "At
length I shall see a poetess! For we shall go to this entertainment,
shall we not, Paulo?"

The count thoughtfully cast down his eyes, and his hand involuntarily
sought the letter in his pocket. An expression of deep care and anxiety
was visible on his features, and Cecil seemed to divine the thoughts of
his master, for he also looked anxious, and a deep sigh escaped from his
breast.--Natalie perceived nothing of all this! She was wholly occupied
by the thought of seeing Corilla, the great improvisatrice, of whom
Carlo, Natalie's music-teacher, had told her so much, and whose fame was
sounded by children and adults in all the streets of Rome.

"We go to this festival, do we not, Paulo?" repeated she, as the count
still continued silent.

Recovering from his abstraction, he said: "Yes, we will go! It is time
that my Natalie was introduced into this circle of influential Romans,
that she may gain friends among people of importance, who may watch over
and protect her when I no longer can!"

"You will, then, leave me?" cried the young maiden, turning pale and
anxiously grasping the count's arm. "No, Paulo, you cannot do that!
Would you leave me because I, a foolish child, desired to go to this
festival, and was no longer contented with our dear and beautiful
solitude? That was wrong in me, Paulo, as I now plainly see, and I
desire it no longer! Oh, we will prepare other pleasures for ourselves
here in our delightful paradise. You have often called me a poetess,
and I will now believe I am, and no longer wish to see another. I will
suffice for myself! Come, I will immediately sing you a song, a festival
song, my friend!"

And taking her guitar, Natalie struck some joyous accords; but Count
Paulo lightly laid his hands upon the strings so as to silence them, and
drawing the tips of her fingers to his lips, with a slight shaking of
his head, he said: "Not now, my charming poetess, I am not worthy of
hearing you."

"And it is late," added Cecil, coming as it were to the aid of his
master.

The count rose. "Yes, you are right--it is late," said he, "and I must
not longer keep Natalie from her slumber. Come, my sweet child, you must
retire; you must sleep, that your brow may beam with blooming freshness
to-morrow!"

Natalie made no answer; with a light sigh she mechanically took the
count's offered arm.

Cecil preceded them with the lantern in his hand. Thus they proceeded up
the alley leading to the villa, all three silent and thoughtful. The sky
had become obscured, a black cloud intercepted the light of the moon,
and Natalie's charmed garden was suddenly wrapped in gloom.

A cold shudder ran through her delicate frame.

"A feeling of anxiety has come over me!" she whispered, clinging close
to the count's side.

"Poor child!" said the count. "Are you already oppressed with fear?"

"What if the wall should give way, and bad people should intrude into
our garden! Ah, Marianne says that misfortune lurks everywhere in the
world, lying in ambush for those who think themselves safe, destroying
their happiness, and making them wholly miserable; and people only laugh
and rejoice that another man's hopes have been wrecked! Ah, and I
have felt so secure in my happiness! If misfortune should now actually
come--if these walls should prove not high enough to keep it off! Ah,
Paulo, protect me from lurking misfortune!"

They had now arrived at the door of the villa. Paulo pressed the
trembling young maiden with paternal tenderness to his breast, and,
lightly touching her forehead with his lips, he said: "Good-night, my
love! Sleep gently, and be not anxious! So long as I live, misfortune
shall never approach you! Rest assured of that!"

Thus speaking, he led her into the house, where Marianne was waiting to
accompany her to her chamber.

Natalie silently followed her, but before entering her room she once
more turned, and, pressing her fingers to her lips, wafted kisses in the
air toward her friend.

"Good-night, Paulo!"

"Good-night, Natalie!"

The door closed behind her, and the smile instantly vanished from
Paulo's lips. With impetuous haste, beckoning Cecil to follow him, he
strode through the corridor leading to his own apartments.

When he had arrived there, and Cecil had closed the door behind him, the
count with a deep sigh threw himself upon a chair, whilst Cecil silently
busied himself in lighting the wax-candles and placing them upon the
table beside his master.

"Will not your grace now read the other letter?" he timidly asked, as
Count Paulo still remained buried in his silent reflections.

"Oh, this unblessed letter!" exclaimed the count, with a shudder. "I
tell you, Cecil, I feel that it contains misfortune. It has lain with
a heavy weight like a nightmare upon my breast and I yet felt not the
strength in me to draw it forth and read it in Natalie's presence!"

"That was well!" said Cecil, "and it was for that reason that I told you
in advance that the letter was from Russia, that you might be on your
guard. But now, Sir Count, we are alone, and now you can read it!"

"Yes, away with this childish fear!" cried the count, with resolution.
"I will be a man, Cecil, and whatever this letter may contain, I will
bear it like a man!"

Drawing forth the letter, he broke the seal with a trembling hand, and
threw the cover across the room. Then unfolding the letter, he
read. Behind him stood Cecil, involuntarily trembling with anxious
expectation.

The letter fell from the count's hands, and a deadly paleness spread
over his face, which bore the expression of utter despair.

"Oh, my prophetic soul!" he sighed.

"Your presentiment is then fulfilled!" anxiously asked Cecil.

"Yes, it is fulfilled! My property is sequestrated; they refuse to send
me the money I required; they command my immediate return to Russia, as
my _conge_ has expired and my respite is at an end!"

"And you are lost, my lord, if you do not obey this command!" said
Cecil.

"And Natalie?" reproachfully asked the count. "Can I, dare I leave her?"

"She is much safer without than with you! They may not yet suspect who
she is! It is very possible that it in reality only is because your
leave of absence has expired, as the laws of Russia require that every
absentee should return to his country once in every four years. Fulfil,
therefore, this hard duty. Pretend to suppose that your recall is for
no other reason than the renewal of your passport, and the giving you
an opportunity to pay your homage to the empress. Appear innocent and
unconcerned, and all may yet go well!"

"No," gloomily replied the count, "nothing will go well any more! The
whole future stands before me in clear and distinct traits--a future
full of shame and horror! Oh, would it not be better to flee from that
future and seek in some remote and hidden valley a place where, perhaps,
misfortune cannot reach, nor destruction overtake us!"

"How?" reproachfully asked Cecil. "Is it Count Paulo who speaks thus?
Is it the pupil whom I taught to defy misfortune and rise superior to
disaster with courageous self-confidence? Is it the son of my heart
for whom I have left all, sacrificed all, for whom I have offered up my
fatherland, my freedom, and my independence; whom I shall love until my
last breath? Paulo, pluck up a good heart, my son! You have proposed
to yourself a great end, which was only to be reached by thorny and
dangerous paths; will you now stop at the first cross-road and return
upon your steps, instead of pressing forward sword in hand! No, no, I
know you better, my son; this momentary hesitation will pass away, and
you will again be great and strong for the struggle and the victory!"

With a faint smile Count Paulo gave him his hand. "You know not, my
friend, how great is the sacrifice you demand of me!" said he, in a
subdued tone. "I must leave Natalie. I must never see her more, never
more draw consolation from her glance, nor hope from her charming smile!
Oh, Cecil, you have not idea of what Natalie is to me; you know not that
I--"

"I know," interposed Cecil, solemnly, "I know that you have sworn upon
the holy book to protect her with your life from every injury; I know
that you have sworn never to give rest to yourself until you have
reinstated her in her inherited rights, and that, until then, she shall
be sacred to you, sacred as a sister, sacred as a daughter whose honor
you will protect and defend against every outrage, against even every
sinful thought. That have you sworn, and I know you will hold your word
sacred and keep your oath!"

Count Paulo dropped his head upon his breast and sighed deeply.

"I must therefore leave her!" said he.

"Your own welfare demands it."

"But how is she to live during our absence? Our money will not suffice
to the end. Alas! we had so surely calculated on this remittance from my
estates, and now it fails us!"

"We will sell that costly ornament of brilliants which you had destined
as a present for Natalie on her seventeenth birthday."

"Ah," sighed the count, "you have a means for the removal of every
obstacle. I must therefore go!"

"And I go with you," said Cecil. "I would, if it must be so, be able to
die for you!"

"They will destroy all three of us!" said the count. "Believe me, the
knife is already sharpened for our throats! Believe also, Cecil, that
I tremble not from fear of death. But I fear for Natalie! Ah, I already
seem to see the approach of her murderers, to see them seize her with
their bloody hands, and I shall not be there to protect her!"

While Count Paulo thus spoke, with a sad, foreboding soul, those two
mysterious men, who had so threateningly watched and listened to Natalie
and her friend, still remained under the wall.

The one still held the dagger in his hand, and was unquietly walking
back and forth near his companion, who had calmly thrown himself upon
the ground.

"You did wrong to hinder me, Beppo," he angrily said. "It would have
been best to have finished them at once. The occasion could not have
been more favorable--the solitary garden, the nightly stillness and
obscurity. Ah, one blow would have done the business!"

"Well, and what if the gentleman who sat near her had seized you before
the blow was struck? How then?" asked the other. "You are yet but a
novice and a bungler, friend Giuseppo. You yet lack discretion, the
tranquil glance, the sure hand! You always suffer yourself to become
excited, which is unartistic and even dangerous. We went out today only
to obtain information; we were only to discover and observe the signora,
and perhaps to watch for an opportunity. But to fall upon her in this
garden would have been the extreme of stupidity, for we had all
the servants and the hounds against us, and it is one of the first
principles of our profession to put others in danger, but never to incur
it themselves."

"Wherefore, then, have we come here?" cried Giuseppo, with vehemence.

"To see her and know her, that we may surely recognize her again when
the right hour comes. And that hour will come--I will answer for it.
Did not the signora tell us that this lady would probably attend the
festival of Cardinal Bernis?"

"She said so."

"Well, and we have come here that we might see and know her in advance.
She is very beautiful, and a truly respectable person, Giuseppo. I am
pleased with the idea of this festival of the French cardinal. I think
it will afford much business in our line."



DIPLOMATIC QUARRELS

In the palace of the French ambassador at Rome, Cardinal Bernis, there
was an unusually busy movement to-day. From the kitchen-boys to the
major-domo, all were in a most lively motion, in the most passionate
activity. For this morning, while taking his chocolate, the cardinal had
sent for his major-domo, and, quite contrary to the usual joviality
of his manner, had very seriously and solemnly said to him: "Signor
Brunelli, I to-day intrust you with a very important and responsible
duty, that of making as splendid as possible the grand festival we are
three days hence to give in honor of the Archduke Ferdinand. No pains
must be spared, nothing must be wanting; the most luxurious richness,
the most tasteful decoration, the most extravagant splendor must be
exhibited. For this entertainment must excite the attention not only of
Rome, but of all Europe; it must become the subject of conversation at
all the courts, and, above all, it must cause the despair of all present
ambassadorial housekeeping. I have very important diplomatic reasons
for this. All Europe shall see how devoted France is to the empire of
Austria, and what a good understanding subsists between the two courts.
Therefore, Signor Brunelli, strain your inventive head, that it may on
this occasion hit upon whatever is most distinguished and pre-eminent,
for this must be an entertainment never before equalled. That is what
I expect, what I demand of you; and if you satisfy my demands, it will
give me pleasure to reward your zeal by a present of a hundred ducats."

Thus with solemn dignity spoke the cardinal, while sipping his
chocolate; and Signor Brunelli had pledged himself by a solemn oath
punctually to fulfil his master's commands, and to astonish Rome with
an entertainment such as had never been recorded in the annals of
diplomatic history.

With a proud step had Brunelli gone to his own private cabinet,
where, having shut himself up, he had devoted several hours to serious
meditation upon the deep plans presenting themselves to his mind. But
Signor Brunelli had, in fact, a very experienced and inventive head, and
the cardinal acted wisely in confiding in his major-domo and leaving to
him the ordering of the entertainment.

He had now, with the sharp glance of a military commander, arranged his
plan of battle, and felt perfectly sure of victory. He therefore rang
for a servant, and commanded the attendance of the chief cook in the
cabinet of the major-domo. Then with a gentlemanlike listlessness he
threw himself upon the divan and began to sip his coffee with the exact
dignified deportment that had been displayed by his excellency the
cardinal.

"Signor Gianettino," said he, to the entering cook, "I propose honoring
you to-day with a very important and significant affair. I wish, on the
day after to-morrow, to prepare an entertainment which in splendor and
magnificence shall surpass anything hitherto seen. You know that the
major-domos of the other diplomatists have become my irreconcilable
enemies through envy; they cannot forgive me for having more inventive
faculties and better taste than any of them! We must bring these
major-domos to despair, and with a gnashing of teeth they shall
acknowledge that in all things I am their master. You, however, must
aid me in this great work; in your hands, Signor Gianettino, lies a
considerable part of my triumph and my laurels. For what does it help
me, if the arrangements and decorations, if the whole establishment,
are excellent, should there be a failure in the highest and most sublime
part of the entertainment--in the food. The food, my dear sir, and a
well-ordered table, is the gist of a festival, and should there be the
least failure in that, the whole is profaned and desecrated, and must
be covered with a mourning-veil. Take my words to heart, signor; let
us have a table covered with food the mere odor of which shall set our
first gourmets in ecstatic astonishment, while its judicious arrangement
will give pleasure to the poetic mind! This is what I expect of you, and
if you succeed in satisfying my requirements, I am ready to reward your
exertions with fifty bottles of our best French wines."

Signor Gianettino returned his thanks with a pleasant, thoughtful smile,
and with a majestic step repaired to his boudoir, where he was seen for
a long time, walking back and forth in deep thought and with a wrinkled
brow. Then, stepping to his writing-table, he sketched the plan of this
inordinately great dinner, at first slowly and thoughtfully, and then
with constantly more and more fire and enthusiasm, carried away by the
greatness of the occasion, and animated by the importance of his mission
and his calling.

Then, throwing aside the pen, and exhausted by so great an effort,
he gently glided down upon the divan, at the same time ringing for a
servant whom he directed to bring his breakfast and afterward to summon
all the cooks and scullions to his cabinet. He then stretched himself
with eminent grace upon the divan, as he had seen the major-domo do;
with a serious thoughtfulness he sipped the glass of Malvoisie the
servant had brought him, with sundry _pates_ and rare _entremets_.

And they came, the cooks and scullions, they came in their white
jackets, with their white aprons and snow-white caps; they came in
solemn silence, fully impressed with the importance of the moment.

"Signors," said the chief cook, "it is on a beautiful and sublime affair
that I have assembled you here to-day. It concerns an increase of the
fame and triumphs we have so many times gained over our diplomatic
rivals, and an increase of the laurels we have won in the sacred realms
of our art! I propose to prepare a banquet for to-morrow, and for that I
require your support and aid, gentlemen. For what is the use of ever
so good a plan of battle of a commander-in-chief, if his troops fail in
courage and skill to carry out the plan of their general? Gentlemen, I
doubt not your courage or skill! You will contend for the sake of the
fame we have acquired and hitherto enjoyed without dispute, for the sake
of the fame which the French _cuisine_ has enjoyed for centuries, and
which must be preserved until the end of all things! You will stand
by me, gentlemen, in the praiseworthy effort to acquire new glory for
France, by showing these little Austrian princes and these gentlemen
diplomatists what wonderful things the French art of cookery can bring
to pass. The plan is devised and sketched, and all that is now required
is its execution. If this great work succeeds, then, gentlemen, you may
feel assured of my eternal gratitude--a gratitude which I will prove to
you by leaving all the remains of the dinner to your free use and sole
benefit! Here is the plan, hasten to the work; I have assigned to each
one the part he is to take in its accomplishment. Hasten, therefore! I,
however, by way of exception, will myself go to the market to-day and
make the necessary purchases. On such an important occasion, no one,
however highly placed, must decline labor and the faithful performance
of duty. I go, therefore, and six of the kitchen-boys may follow me with
their baskets."

Thus speaking, the chief cook, Signor Gianettino, took his hat and
gold-headed cane to go to the market. Six kitchen-boys, armed with large
baskets, followed him at a respectful distance.

At the great vegetable and fish-market of Rome there was to-day a very
unusual and extraordinary life and movement. There was a crowd and
tumult, a roaring and screaming, a shouting and laughing, such as had
not been heard for a long time. It was partly in consequence of the fact
that the whole diplomatic corps had been for some days agitated with
preparations for entertainments in honor of the Archduke Ferdinand,
who had come to Rome to see the wonders of the holy city, and who could
hardly find time and leisure for the festivities offered him. But for
the tradesmen and dealers, for the country people in the vicinity of
Rome, this presence of the Austrian prince was a happy circumstance; for
these banquets and festivals scattered money among the people, and the
dealers and honest country people could fearlessly raise their prices,
as they were sure of a sale for their commodities. The cooks and
servants of the diplomatists and cardinals were seen running hither and
thither in busy haste, everywhere selecting the best, everywhere buying
and cheapening.

But in one place in the market there was to-day an especial liveliness
and activity among the crowd, and to that spot Signor Gianettino bent
his steps. He had seen the cook of the Spanish ambassador, the Duke of
Grimaldi, among those collected there, and as this cook was one of his
bitterest enemies and opponents, Signor Gianettino resolved to watch
him, and, if possible, to play him a trick. He therefore cautiously
mingled with the crowd, and made a sign to his followers to keep at a
distance from him.

It was certainly a very important affair with which the Spanish cook
Don Bempo was occupied, as it concerned the purchase of a fish that a
countryman had brought to the city, of such a monstrous size and weight
that the like had never been seen there. It was the most remarkable
specimen with which the Roman fish-market had ever been honored. But the
lucky fisherman was fully aware of the extraordinary beauty of his fish,
and in his arrogant pride demanded twenty ducats for it.

That was what troubled Don Bempo. Twenty ducats for one single fish,
and the major-domo of the Spanish ambassador had urged upon him the most
stringent economy; but he had, indeed, at the same time urged upon him
to provide everything as splendid as possible for the banquet which the
Duke of Grimaldi was to give in honor of the Archduke Ferdinand; indeed,
he had with an anxious sigh commanded him to outdo if possible the next
day's feast of Cardinal Bernis, and to provide yet rarer and more costly
viands than the French cook.

That was what Don Bempo was now considering, and what made him waver in
his first determination not to buy the fish.

There was only this one gigantic fish in the market; and, if he bought
it, Signor Gianettino, his enemy, of course, could not possess it; the
triumph of the day would then inure to the Spanish embassy, and Don
Bempo would come off conqueror. That was indeed a very desirable object,
but--twenty ducats was still an enormous price, and was not at all
reconcilable with the recommended economy.

At any rate he dared not buy the fish without first consulting the
major-domo of the duke.

"You will not, then, sell this fish for twelve ducats?" asked Don Bempo,
just as Gianettino had unnoticedly approached. "Reflect, man, twelve
ducats are a fortune--it is a princely payment!"

The fisherman contemptuously shook his head. "Rather than sell it for
twelve ducats I would eat it myself," said he, "and invite my friends,
these good Romans, as guests! Go, go, sublime Spanish Don, and buy
gudgeons for your pair of miserable ducats! Such a fish as this is too
dear for you; you Spanish gentlemen should buy gudgeons!"

"Bravo! bravo!" cried the laughing spectators. "Gudgeons for the Spanish
gentlemen with high-nosed faces and empty pockets!"

Don Bempo blushed with anger and wounded pride. "I shall unquestionably
buy this fish," said he, "for nothing is too dear for my master when the
honor of our nation is to be upheld. But you must allow me time to go
home and get the money from the major-domo. Keep the fish, therefore, so
long, and I will return with the twenty ducats for it."

And majestically Don Bempo made himself a path through the crowd, which
laughingly stepped aside for him, shouting: "Gudgeons for the Spanish
gentleman! _Viva_ Don Bempo, who pays twenty ducats for a fish!"

"He will certainly not come back," said the fisherman, shaking his head.

"He goes to buy gudgeons!" cried another.

"What will you bet that he returns to buy the fish?" said a third.

"He will not buy it!" interposed a fourth. "These Spaniards have no
money; they are poor devils!"

"Who dares say that?" shrieked another, and now suddenly followed one of
those quarrels which are so quickly excited on the least occasion among
the passionate people of the south. There was much rage, abuse, and
noise. How flashed the eyes, how shook the fists, what threats resounded
there!

"Peace, my dear friends, be quiet, I tell you!" cried the fisherman,
with his stentorian voice. "See, there comes a new purchaser for my
fish. Be quiet, and let us see how much France is disposed to offer us."

The disturbance subsided as suddenly as it had arisen, and all pressed
nearer; all directed interrogating, curious, expectant glances at Signor
Gianettino, who just at that moment approached with a proud and grave
step, followed by the solemn train of six scullions with their baskets.

No one had before remarked him in the crowd, for they had been all eyes
and ears for Don Bempo, and hence every one supposed that he had only
just then arrived.

The shrewd chief cook also assumed the appearance of having only
accidentally passed that way without the intention of buying any thing.

But he suddenly stopped before the great fish as if astonished at its
enormous size, and seemed to view it with admiration and delight.

"What a rare and splendid animal is this!" he finally exclaimed with
animation. "Really, one must come to Rome to see such a wonder!"

"That is understood!" exultingly cried the bystanders, who had a
reverence for the fishes of Rome.

"This is no niggard! _He_ will not be so mean as to offer twelve ducats
for such a miracle as this!"

"Twelve ducats!" cried Gianettino, folding his hands. "How can you think
me so pitiful as to offer such a miserable sum for so noble a fish. No,
truly, he must have a bold forehead who would offer so little money for
this splendid animal!"

"Hear him! hear!" cried the people. "This is a learned man. He knows
something of the value of rarities!"

"_Viva!_ Long life to the French cook, _il grande ministre della
cucina!_"

Gianettino bowed politely in response to the compliment, and then
civilly asked the price of the fish.

The fisherman stood there with an expression of regretful sadness upon
his face. "I fear it will be of little use to name the price!" said he,
"the fish is as good as sold!"

"Nevertheless, name the price!"

"Twenty ducats!"

"Twenty ducats!" exclaimed Gianettino, with an expression of the
liveliest astonishment. "You jest, my friend! How can such a splendid
animal be possibly sold for twenty ducats?"

"Here! hear!" shouted the crowd. "He finds the price too low!"

"He is a real gentleman!"

"He will not buy gudgeons like the Spaniard!"

"In earnest, friend, tell me the price of this fish!" said Gianettino.

"I have demanded twenty ducats for it," sadly responded the fisherman,
"and it is sold for that sum."

"Impossible! In that case it would not be lying here!" replied
Gianettino. "Or had the man paid you the money, and now gone for a cart
for the conveyance of the giant?"

"I have not yet been paid."

"The purchaser, then, has given you earnest money?"

"No, not even that. I have yet received nothing upon it."

"And you can pretend that you have sold this fish," cried Gianettino,
"and that, too, for the ridiculously small sum of twenty ducats! Ah,
you are a joker, my good man; you wish to excite in me a desire for this
rare specimen, and therefore you say it is sold. But how can a fish that
yet lies exposed for sale, and for which no one had made you a suitable
offer, be already sold?"

And gravely approaching the giant of the waters, Gianettino laid his
hand upon his head and solemnly said: "The fish is mine. I purchase it;
you demand twenty ducats! But I shall give you what you ought to have,
and what the creature is worth! I shall pay you six-and-thirty ducats
for him!"

The crowd, which had maintained an anxious and breathless silence during
this negotiation, now broke out with a loud and exulting shout.

"That is a real nobleman!"

"_Evviva il ministro della cucina! Il grande Gianettino!_"

"That is no parsimonious Spaniard! He is a French cavalier. He will buy
no gudgeons, but will have the right Roman fish."

"Gentlemen," said Gianettino, modestly casting down his eyes, "I do not
understand your praises, and it seems to me I only deal like a man of
honor, as every one of you would do! This honest man taxes his wares too
low; I give him what they are worth! That is all. If I acted otherwise I
should not long remain in the service of the lofty and generous Cardinal
Bernis! Justice and generosity, that is the first command of his
excellency!"

"_Evviva_ the French ambassador!"

"Praise and honor to Cardinal Bernis!"

And while the people were thus shouting, Gianettino from his well-filled
purse paid down the six-and-thirty ducats upon the fisherman's board. He
then commanded his six attendant scullions to bear off the fish.

It was, indeed, a heavy work to place the enormous animal upon their
baskets, but the active Romans cheerfully lent a hand, and when they had
succeeded in the difficult task, and the six youngsters bent under their
heavy load, Signor Gianettino gravely put himself at the head of the
train, and proudly gave the order: "Forward to the kitchen of his
excellency Cardinal Bernis!"

At this moment a man was seen making his way through the crowd;
thrusting right and left with his elbows, he incessantly pushed on, and,
just as Signor Gianettino had fairly got his troop in motion, the man,
who was no other than Don Bempo, succeeded in reaching the fisherman's
table.

"Here, I bring you the twenty ducats," he proudly called out. "They will
no longer say that the Spaniards buy gudgeons. The fish is mine! There
are your twenty ducats!"

And, with a supercilious air, Don Bempo threw the money upon the table.

But just as proudly did the fisherman push back the money. "The fish is
sold!" said he.

"Forward, march!" repeated Signor Gianettino his word of command.
"Forward to the kitchen of his excellency Cardinal Bernis!"

And with solemn dignity the train began to move.

Don Bempo with a cry of rage rushed upon the fish.

"This fish is mine," he wildly cried, "I was the first to offer its
price, I offered twenty ducats, and only went home to get the money!"

"And I," exclaimed Signor Gianettino, "I offered thirty-six ducats, and
immediately paid the cash, as I always have money by me."

"It is Signor Gianettino, the cook of the French ambassador, and I am
ruined!" groaned Don Bempo, staggering back.

"Yes, it is the cook of his excellency the cardinal!" cried the crowd.

"And the cardinal is an honorable man!"

"He is no Spanish niggard!"

"He does not haggle for a giant fish; he pays more than is demanded!"

"I hope," said Signor Gianettino to Don Bempo, who still convulsively
grasped the fish, "that you will now take your hands from my property
and leave me to go my way without further hindrance. It is not noble to
lay hands on the goods of another, Don Bempo, and this fish is mine!"

"But this is contrary to all international law!" exclaimed the enraged
Don Bempo. "You forget, signor, that you insult my master, that you
insult Spain, by withholding from me by main force what I have purchased
in the name of Spain."

"France will never stand second to Spain!" proudly responded
Gianettino, "and where Spain _offers_ twenty ducats, France _pays_
six-and-thirty!--Forward, my youngsters! To the kitchen of the French
ambassador!"

And urgently pushing back Don Bempo, Gianettino solemnly marched through
the crowd with his retinue, the people readily making a path for him and
cheering him as he went.

It was a brilliant triumph in the person of the chief cook of their
ambassador, which the French celebrated to-day; it was a shameful defeat
which Spain suffered to-day in the person of her ambassador's chief
cook.

Proud and happy marched Signor Gianettino through the streets,
accompanied by his gigantic fish, and followed by the shouts of a Roman
mob.

Humiliated, with eyes cast down, with rage in his heart sneaked Don
Bempo toward the Spanish ambassador's hotel, and long heard behind him
the whistling, laughter, and catcalls of the Roman people.



THE FISH FEUD

Cardinal Bernis was in his boudoir. Before him lay the list of those
persons whom he had invited to his entertainment of the next day, and he
saw with proud satisfaction that all had accepted his invitation.

"I shall, then, have a brilliant and stately society to meet this
Austrian archduke," said the well-contented cardinal to himself. "The
_elite_ of the nobility, all the cardinals and ambassadors, will make
their appearance, and Austria will be compelled to acknowledge that
France maintains the best understanding with all the European powers,
and that she is not the less respected because the Marquise de Pompadour
is in fact King of France."

"Ah, this good marquise," continued the cardinal, stretching himself
comfortably upon his lounge and taking an open letter from the table,
"this good marquise gives me in fact some cause for anxiety. She writes
me here that France is in favor of the project of Portugal for the
suppression of the order of the Jesuits, and I am so to inform the pope!
This is a dangerous thing, marquise, and may possibly burn your tender
fingers. The suppression of the Jesuits! Is not that to explode a
powder-barrel in the midst of Europe, that may shatter all the states?
No, no, it is foolhardiness, and I have not the courage to apply the
match to this powder-barrel! I fear it may blow us all into the air."

And the cardinal began to read anew the letter of Madame de Pompadour
which a French courier had brought him a few hours before.

"Ahem, that will be dangerous for the good father!" said he, shaking his
head. "Austria also agrees to this magnificent plan of the Portuguese
Minister Pombal, and I am inclined to think that this Austrian archduke
has come to Rome only for the purpose of bringing to the pope the
consent of the Empress Maria Theresa! Ha, ha! how singular! their chaste
and virtuous Maria Theresa and our good Pompadour are both agreed in
the matter, and in taking this course are both acting against their own
will. The women love the Jesuits, these good fathers who furnish them
with an excuse for every weakness, and hold a little back door open for
every sin. That is very convenient for these good women! Yes, yes, the
women--I think I know them."

And, smiling, the cardinal sank deeper into himself, dreaming of past,
of charming times, when he had not yet counted sixty-five years. He
dreamed of Venice, and of a beautiful nun he had loved there, and who
for him had often left her cloister in the night-time, and, warm and
glowing with passion, had come to him. He dreamed of these heavenly
hours, where all pleasure and all happiness had been compressed into one
blessed intoxication of bliss, where the chaste priestess of the Church
had for him changed to a sparkling priestess of joy!

"Yes, that was long ago!" murmured the cardinal, as at length he awoke
from his blissful dreams of the past.

"Those were beautiful times--I was then young and happy; I was then a
man, and now--now am old; love has withered, and with it poesy! I am now
nothing but a diplomatist."

There was a low knock at the door. The cardinal hastily but carefully
returned the portrait of his beautiful nun to the secret drawer in his
writing-table whence it had been taken, and bade the knocker to enter.

It was Brunelli, the major-domo of the cardinal, who came with a proud
step, and face beaming with joy, to make a report of his plans and
preparations for the morrow's entertainment.

"In the evening the park will be illuminated with many thousand lamps,
which will outshine the sun, so that the guests will there wander in a
sea of light," said he, in closing his report.

The cardinal smiled, and with a stolen glance at the small box that
contained the portrait of this beautiful nun, he said: "Spare some
of the walks in the alleys from your sea of light, and leave them in
partial obscurity. A little duskiness is sometimes necessary for joy
and happiness! But how is it with your _carte du diner_? What has Signor
Gianettino to offer us? I hope he has something very choice, for you
know the cardinals like a good table, and my friend Duke Grimaldi has a
high opinion of our cuisine."

"Ah, the Spanish ambassador, your excellency?" exclaimed Brunelli,
contemptuously. "The Spanish ambassador knows nothing of the art of
cookery, or he would not possibly be satisfied with his cook! He is
a niggard, a poor fellow, of whom all Rome is speaking to-day, and
laughing at him and his master, while they are praising you to the
skies!"

And Signor Brunelli related to his listening master the whole story of
the gigantic fish, and of the humiliation of the Spanish cook.

The cardinal listened with attention, and a dark cloud gradually
gathered upon his thoughtful brow.

"That is a very unfortunate occurrence," said he, shaking his head, as
Brunelli ended.

"But at least it was an occurrence in which France triumphed, your
excellency," responded Brunelli.

"I much fear the Duke of Grimaldi will do as you have done," said the
cardinal; "he will confound my cook with France, and in his cook see all
Spain insulted."

"Then your excellency is not satisfied?" asked Brunelli, with
consternation. "The whole palace is full of jubilation; all the servants
and lackeys and even the secretary of the legation are delighted with
this divine affair!"

The cardinal paid no attention to these panegyrics of his major-domo,
but thoughtfully paced the room with long strides.

"And you think Gianettino had the right of it?" at length he asked.

"He was entirely in the right, your excellency. Nothing had been paid
for the fish, and Gianettino's right to purchase was perfect, and nobody
could dispute it!"

"Well, when we are in the right, we must maintain our right," said the
cardinal, after a pause, "and as the affair is known to all Rome, it
must be fought through with _eclat_! The fish, in all its pride of
greatness shall grace our table to-morrow!"

"We have no dish of sufficient size in which to serve it."

"Then let a new one be made," laughed the cardinal. "Take the measure of
this Goliath, and hasten to the silversmith, that he may make a silver
dish of the proper size. But see that it is completed by to-morrow
morning, and that it is richly ornamented. If Rome has heard of the
fish, so also must it hear of the dish. Hasten, therefore, Signor
Brunelli, and see that all is done as I have ordered!"

"This is, in fact, a very diverting story," said the cardinal, laughing,
when he was again alone. "We have here a monster fish which will
probably swallow my friendship with the Duke of Grimaldi! Well, we shall
see!"

The cardinal then rang for his body-servant, whom he ordered to dress
him.

"Court toilet?" asked the servant, astonished at being called to this
service at so unusual an hour.

"No, house toilet!" said the cardinal. "I shall soon receive visitors."

The shrewd cardinal had not deceived himself! In a few minutes an
equipage rolled into the court and the footman announced his highness
the Spanish ambassador, the Duke of Grimaldi.

"He is a thousand times welcome!" cried the cardinal, and as the door
now opened and the Spanish duke entered, the cardinal advanced to
receive him with open arms and a friendly smile.

"My dear, much-beloved friend, what a delightful surprise is this!" said
the cardinal.

But the duke observed neither the open arms nor the pleasant smile,
nor yet the friendly welcome of the cardinal. He strode forward with a
serious, majestic _grandezza_, and placing himself directly before the
cardinal, he solemnly asked: "Know you of the outrage which a servant of
your house has inflicted on mine!"

"Of an outrage?" asked the cardinal, without embarrassment. "I have been
told that your cook had a dispute with mine, because mine had bought a
fish that was too dear for yours. That is all I know."

"Then they have not told you," thundered the duke, "that your servant,
like an impudent street robber, has wrongfully seized my property. For
that fish was mine, it belonged to the Spanish embassy, and therefore
to Spain; and your servant has with outrageous insolence committed a
trespass upon the property of a foreign power!"

"Did this fish, then, actually belong to the Spanish crown?" asked
Bernis. "Was it already paid for, and legally yours?"

"It was not paid for, but was ordered, and my servant had gone home for
the money."

"As long as it was not paid for, no one could have any claim upon it."

"You are, then, disposed to dispute the fish with me?" cried the duke.

"Should I dispute it," smilingly responded the cardinal, "that would
be the equivalent to a recognition of your right to it, which I have no
idea of making. Besides, my friend, what does this quarrel of our cooks
concern us, and what has Spain and France to do with these disputes of
our servants? They may fight out their own quarrels with each other; let
us give them leave to do so, and if they give each other bloody heads,
very well, we will bind them up, that is all!"

"You take the affair with your usual practical indifference," said the
duke with bitterness, "and I can only regret being compelled to look
at it in a different light. The question here is not of a difficulty
between our servants, but of an insult which Spain has received from
France in the face of all Rome. Yes, all Rome has witnessed this insult,
and these miserable Romans have even dared to dishonor us with irony and
satire, and to mock and deride Spain, while they overload you with their
praises!"

"The good Romans, as you know, are like children. This contest of our
cooks has delighted them, and they shouted a _viva_ to the conqueror.
But I beg you not to forget that I have nothing to do with the victories
of my cook."

"But I have something to do with the defeats of mine! Whoever insults
my servants insults me; and whoever insults me, insults the kingdom I
represent--insults Spain! It is therefore in the name of Spain that I
demand satisfaction. Spain has a right to this fish! I demand my right,
I demand the surrender of the fish!"

"If you take this matter in earnest," said the cardinal, "then am I
sorry to be compelled also to be serious! If Spain can find offence in
the fact that France has bought a fish which is too dear for the Spanish
cook, I cannot see how I can here make satisfaction, as we cannot be
taxed with any fault."

"You refuse me the fish, then?" exclaimed the duke, bursting with rage.

"As you say that all Rome knows of this affair, and takes an interest in
it, I cannot act otherwise. It must not have the appearance that
France feels herself less great and powerful than Spain; that France
pusillanimously yields when Spain makes an unjust demand!"

"That is to say, you wish to break off all friendly relations with us?"

"And can those relations be seriously endangered by this affair?"
asked the cardinal with vivacity. "Is it possible that this trifling
misunderstanding between two servants can exercise an influence upon
a long-cherished friendship and harmony of two powers whose relations,
whether friendly or otherwise, may uphold or destroy the peace of
Europe?"

"Honor is the first law of the Spaniard," proudly responded the duke
"and whoever wounds that can no longer be my friend! France has attached
the honor of Spain, and all Rome has chimed in with the insulting
acclamations of France--all Rome knows the story of this fish!"

"Then let us show these silly Romans that we both look upon the whole
affair merely as a jest. When you to-morrow laughingly eat of this
fish, the good Romans will feel ashamed of themselves and their childish
conduct."

"You propose then, to-morrow, when the nobility of Rome, when all the
diplomatists are assembled, to parade before them this fish, which
to-day sets all tongues in motion?" asked the duke, turning pale.

"The fish was bought for this dinner, and must be eaten!" said the
cardinal, laughing.

"Then I regret that I cannot be present at this festival!" cried the
duke, rising. "You cannot desire that I should be a witness to my own
shame and your triumph. You are no Roman emperor, and I am no conquered
hero compelled to appear in your triumphal train! I recall my consent,
and shall not appear at your to-morrow's festival!"

"Reflect and consider this well!" said the cardinal, almost sadly. "If
you fail to appear to-morrow, when the whole diplomacy are assembled
at my house for an official dinner, that will signify not only that the
duke breaks with his old friend the cardinal, but also that Spain wishes
to dissolve her friendly relations with France."

"Let it be so considered!" said the duke. "Better an open war than a
clandestine defeat! Adieu, Sir Cardinal!"

And the duke made for the door. But the cardinal held him back.

"Have you reflected upon the consequences?" he asked. "You know what
important negotiations at this moment occupy the Catholic courts. Of
the abolition of the greatest and most powerful of orders, of the
extirpation of the Jesuits, is the question. The pope is favorable
to this idea of the Portuguese minister, Pombal, but he desires the
co-operation of the other Catholic courts. Austria gives her consent,
as do Sardinia and all the other Italian states; only the court of Spain
has declared itself the friend and defender of the Jesuits, and for
your sake has France hitherto remained passive on this most important
question, and has affected not to hear the demands of her subjects;
for your sake has France stifled her own convictions and joined in your
support. Therefore, think well of what you are about to do! To break off
your friendly relations with France, is to compel France to take sides
against Spain; and if the powerful voice of France is heard against the
Jesuits, the single voice of Spain will be powerless to uphold them."

"Well, then, let them go!" cried the duke. "What care I for the Jesuits
when the defence of our honor is concerned? Sir Cardinal, farewell;
however France may decide, Spain will never submit to her arrogance!"

The duke abruptly left the room, slamming the door after him.

Cardinal Bernis saw his departure with an expression of sadness.

"And such are the friendships of man," he murmured to himself; "the
slightest offence is sufficient to destroy a friendship of many years.
Well, we must reconcile ourselves to it," he continued after a pause,
"and, at all events, it has its very diverting side. For many months I
have taken pains to support Grimaldi with the pope in his defence of
the Jesuits, and now that celebrated order will be abolished because a
French cook has bought a fish that was too dear for the Spanish cook! By
what small influences are the destinies of mankind decided!

"But now I have not a moment to lose," continued the cardinal, rousing
himself from his troubled thoughts. "Grimaldi has rendered it impossible
for me longer to oppose the views of the Marquise de Pompadour; I must
now give effect to the commands of my feminine sovereign, and announce
to the pope the assent of France to his policy. To the pope, then, the
letter of the marquise may make known the will of Louis."

The cardinal hastily donned his official costume, and ordered his
carriage for a visit to the Vatican.



POPE GANGANELLI (CLEMENT XIV)

Two men were walking up and down in the garden of the Quirinal, engaged
in a lively discourse. One of them was an old man of more than sixty
years. Long white locks waved about his forehead, falling like a halo on
both sides of his cheeks. An infinite mildness and clearness looked out
from his dreamy eyes, and a smile of infinite kindness played about his
mouth, but so full of sorrow and resignation that it filled one's heart
with sadness and his eyes with tears. His tall herculean form was bent
and shrunken; age had broken it, but could not take away that noble and
dignified expression which distinguished that old man and involuntarily
impelled every one to reverence and a sort of adoration. To his friends
and admirers this old man seemed a super-terrestrial being, and often in
their enthusiasm they called him their Saviour, the again-visible Son
of God! The old man would smile at this, and say: "You are right in one
respect, I am indeed a son of God, as you all are, but when you compare
me with our Saviour, it can only be to the crucified. I am, indeed, a
crucified person like Him, and have suffered many torments. But I have
also overcome many."

And, when so speaking, there lay in his face an almost celestial
clearness and joyfulness, which would impel one involuntarily to bow
down before him, had he not been, as he was, the vicegerent of God upon
earth, the Pope Ganganelli.

The man who was now walking with him formed a singular contrast with
the mild, reverence-commanding appearance of the pope. He was a man of
forty, with a wild, glowing-red face, whose eyes flashed with malice and
rage, whose mouth gave evidence of sensuality and barbarity, and whose
form was more appropriate for a Vulcan than a prince of the Church. And
yet he was such, as was manifested by his dress, by the great cardinal's
hat over his shoulder, and by the flashing cross of brilliants upon his
breast. This cardinal was very well known, and whenever his name was
mentioned it was with secret curses, with a sign of the cross, and a
prayer to God for aid in avoiding him, the terror of Rome, the Cardinal
Albani.

Sighing and reluctantly had the pope finally resolved to have the
cardinal near his person, that he might attempt by mild and gentle
persuasion to soften his stubborn disposition; but the cardinal had
replied to all his gentle words only with a contemptuous shrug of the
shoulders, with low murmured words, with a darkly clouded brow.

"It is in no one's power to change and make a new being of himself," he
finally said, in a harsh tone, as the pope continued his exhortations
and representations. "You, my blessed father, cannot convert yourself
into a monster such as you describe me; and I, Cardinal Albani, cannot
attain to the sublime godliness which we all admire in your holiness.
Every one must walk in his own path, taking especial care not to disturb
others in theirs."

"But that is exactly what you do," gently replied Ganganelli. "All the
streets of Rome bear witness to it. Did you not yesterday, in one of
those streets, with force and arms rescue a bandit from the hands of
justice, and with your murderous dagger take the life of the servant of
the law?"

"They wanted to lead one of my servants to death, who had done nothing
more than obey my commands," vehemently responded the cardinal. "I
liberated him from their hands as was natural; and if some of the
_sbirri_ were killed in the encounter, that was their fault. Why did
they not voluntarily give up their prisoner and then run away?"

"And was it really your command that this bandit fulfilled?" asked the
pope, shuddering. "You know he killed a young nobleman, the pride and
hope of his family, and was caught in the act, which he did not attempt
to deny?"

"That young nobleman had mocked and made a laughing-stock of me in a
public company," calmly replied the cardinal; "hence it was natural that
he must die. Revenge is the first duty of man, and whoever neglects to
take it is dishonored!"

"And such men dare to call themselves Christians!" exclaimed Ganganelli,
with uplifted arms--"and such men call themselves priests of the
religion of love!"

"I am a priest of love!" said Albani.

"But of what love?" responded the pope, with an appearance of
agitation--"the priest of a wild, beastly passion, of a rough animal
inclination. You know nothing of the soft and silent love that ennobles
the heart and strengthens it for holy resolutions; which inculcates
virtue and decency, and lifts up the eyes to heaven--of that love
which is full of consolation and blessed hope, and desires nothing for
itself."

"God save me from such a love!" said the cardinal, crossing himself.
"When I love, I desire much, and of virtue and perfection there is,
thank God, no question."

"Repent, amend, Francesco," said the pope. "I promised your uncle, the
very worthy Cardinal Alessandro Albani, once more to attempt the course
of mildness, and exhort you to return to the path of virtue. Ah, could
you have seen the poor old man, with tears streaming from his blind
eyes--tears of sorrow for you, whom he called his lost son!"

"My uncle did very wrong so to weep," said the cardinal. "Blind as he
was he yet kept a mistress. How, then, can he wonder that I, who can
see, kept several? Two eyes see more than none; that is natural!"

"But do you, then, so wholly forget your solemn oath of chastity and
virtue?" excitedly exclaimed the pope. "Look upon the cross that covers
your breast, and fall upon your knees to implore the pardon of God."

"This cross was laid upon my breast when I was yet a boy," gloomily
responded the cardinal; "the fetters were attached to me before I had
the strength to rend them; my will was not asked when this stone was
laid upon my breast! Now I ask not about your will when I seek, under
this weight, to breathe freely as a man! And, thank God, this weight has
not crushed my heart--my heart, that yet glows with youthful freshness,
and in which love has found a lurking-hole which your cross cannot fill
up. And in this lurking-hole now dwells a charming, a wonderful woman,
whom Rome calls the queen of song, and whom I call the queen of beauty
and love! All the world adjudges her the crown of poesy, and only you
refuse it to her."

"Again this old complaint!" said the pope, with a slight contraction of
his brow. "You again speak of her--"

"Of Corilla," interposed the cardinal--"yes of Corilla I speak, of that
heavenly woman whom all the world admires; to whose beautiful verses
philosophers and poets listen with breathless delight, and who well
deserves that you should reward her as a queen by bestowing upon her the
poetic crown!"

"I crown a Corilla!" mockingly exclaimed the pope. "Shall a Corilla
desecrate the spot hallowed by the feet of Tasso and Petrarch? No, I
say, no; when art becomes the plaything of a courtesan, then may the
sacred Muses veil their heads and mourn in silence, but they must not
degrade themselves by throwing away the crown which the best and noblest
would give their heart's blood to obtain. This Corilla may bribe you
poor earthly fools with her smiles and amorous verses, but she will not
be able to deceive the Muses!"

"You refuse me, then, the crowning of the renowned improvisatrice
Corilla?" asked the cardinal, with painfully suppressed rage.

"I refuse it!"

"And why, then, did you send for me?" exclaimed the cardinal with
vehemence. "Was it merely to mock me?"

"It was for the purpose of warning you, my son!" mildly responded the
pope. "For even the greatest forbearance must at length come to an
end; and when I am compelled to forget that you are Alessandro Albani's
nephew, I shall then only have to remember that you are the criminal
Francesco Albani, whom all the world condemns, and whom I must judge!
Repent and reform, my son, while there is yet time; and, above all
things, renounce this love, which heaps new disgrace upon your family
and overwhelms your relatives with sorrow and anxiety!"

"Renounce Corilla!" cried the cardinal. "I tell you I love her, I adore
her, this heavenly, beautiful woman! How can you ask me to renounce
her?"

"Nevertheless I do demand it," said the pope with solemnity, "demand it
in the name of your father, in the name of God, against whose holy laws
you have sinned--you, His consecrated priest."

"But that is an impossibility!" passionately exclaimed Francesco. "One
must bear a heart of stone in his bosom to require it; and that you can
do so only proves that you have never known what it is to love!"

"And that I can do so should prove to you that I have indeed known it,
my son!" sadly responded the pope.

"Whoever has known love knows that there can be no renunciation!"

"And whoever has known love can renounce!" exclaimed the pope, with
animation. "Listen to me, my son, and may the sad story of a short
happiness and long expiation serve you as a warning example! You think
I cannot have known love? Ah, I tell you I have experienced all its joys
and all its sorrows--that in the intoxication of rapture I once forgot
my vows, my duties, my holy resolutions, and, doubly criminal, I also
taught her whom I loved to forget her own sacred duties and to sin! Ah,
you call me a saint, and yet I have been the most abject of sinners!
Under this Franciscan vesture beat a tempestuous, fiery heart that
derided God and His laws; a heart that would have given my soul to the
evil one, had he promised to give me in exchange the possession of my
beloved! She was beautiful, and of a heavenly disposition; and hence,
when she passed through the aisles of the church, with her slight fairy
form, her angelic face veiled by her long dark locks, her eyes beaming
with love and pleasure, a heavenly smile playing about her lips--ah,
when she thus passed through the church, her feet scarcely touching the
floor, then I, who awaited her in the confessional, felt myself nearly
frantic with ecstasy, my brain turned, my eyes darkened, there was a
buzzing in my ears, and I attempted to implore the aid and support of
God."

"You should have appealed to Cupid!" said the cardinal, laughing. "In
such a case aid could come only from the god of ancient Rome, not of the
modern!"

The old man noticed not his words. Wholly absorbed in his reminiscences,
he listened only to the voice of his own breast, saw only the form of
the beautiful woman he had once so dearly loved!

"God listened not to my fervent prayers," he continued, with a sigh, "or
perhaps my stormily beating heart heard not the voice of God, because I
listened only to her; because with intoxicated senses I was listening
to the modest, childishly pure confession which she, kneeling in the
confessional, was whispering in my ears; because I felt her breath
upon my cheeks and in every trembling nerve of my being. And one day,
overcome by his glowing passion, the monk so far forgot his sworn duty
as to confess his immodest and insane love for the wife of another man!"

"Ah, she was, then, married?" remarked the cardinal.

"Yes, she was married; sold by her own parents, sacrificed at the shrine
of mammon, married to a man whom she did not and could not love, and who
pursued her with an insane jealousy. Ah, she suffered and suffered with
the uncomplaining calmness of an angel. And I, did I not also suffer? We
wept together, we complained together, until our hearts at length forgot
complaining, and an unspeakable, a terrible happiness, made us forget
our troubles. I had forgotten all--my God, my clerical vows; she also
had forgotten all--her husband, her vow of fidelity; and if a thought of
these things sometimes intruded upon our moments of happiness, it only
caused us to plunge into new delights, and to lull ourselves anew into a
blessed forgetfulness!"

"And the good, jealous husband remarked nothing?" asked the cardinal.

"He remarked nothing! He loved me, he confided in me, he called me his
friend; and when he was compelled to take a long journey, he confided to
me his house and his wife, establishing me as the guard of her virtue!"

The cardinal broke out into loud laughter. "These good husbands," said
he, "they are all alike to a hair. Every one has a friend in whom he
confides, and it is that very friend who betrays him. They must all
fulfil their destinies, these good husbands! Relate further, holy
father! Your story is very entertaining. I am curious to hear the end!"

"The end was terrible, replete with horror and shame," said the pope.
"We lived blessed days, heavenly nights. Oh, we were so happy that we
hardly had a thought for our criminality, but only for our love. One
night there was a knocking at the closed door of the house, and we
shudderingly recognized the voice of the husband demanding admission."

"And you were not at all in a situation to grant it to him," laughingly
interposed the cardinal. "He might, perhaps, have been not a little
astonished, this good husband, that you watched by night as well as by
day the temple of his wedded happiness."

"With tears of anguish and terror she conjured me to fly, to save her
from the derision of the world and the anger of her husband. She led me
to a secret stairway, and I, like a madman pursued by the furies, was
hastening to descend, when my foot slipped and I fell down the stairs
with a loud clattering noise. I felt the blood oozing from my breast
and pouring from my mouth in a warm stream--my limbs pained me
frightfully--but I picked myself up and with extremest suffering fled
to my cloister, when, having reached my cell, I fell senseless. A long
illness now confined me to my bed and tortured my body with frightful
pains; but far more frightful were the tortures of my soul, more
frightful the voices that day and night whispered to me of my crime and
guiltiness! My conscience was fully awakened; it spoke to me in a voice
of thunder, and like a worm I turned upon my bed of pain, imploring of
God a little mercy for the torments that burned my brain! This time God
permitted Himself to be found by me; I heard his voice, saying: 'Go and
repent, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee! Shake off the sinfulness
that weighs upon thy head, and peace will return to thy bosom.' I heard
this voice of God, and wept with repentant sorrow. I vowed to obey and
reconcile myself to God by renouncing my love and never again seeing its
object! It was a great sacrifice, but God demanded it, and I obeyed!"

"That is, this sickness had restored you from intoxication to sobriety;
you were tired of your mistress!"

"I had, perhaps, never loved her more warmly, more intensely, than in
those dreadful hours when I was struggling with my poor tortured heart
and imploring God for strength to renounce her and separate myself from
her forever. But God was merciful and aided my weakness with His own
strength. Letters came from her, and I had the cruel courage to read
them; I had condemned myself to do it as an expiation, and while I read
her soft complainings, her love-sorrows, I felt in my heart the same
sorrows, the same disconsolate wretchedness; tears streamed from my
eyes, and I flayed my breast with my nails in utter despair! Ah, at such
moments how often did I forget God and my repentance; how often did
I press those letters to my lips and call my beloved by the tenderest
names; my whole soul, my whole being flew to her, and, forgetting all,
all, I wanted to rush to her presence, fall down at her feet, and be
blessed only through her, even if my eternal salvation was thereby lost!
But what was it, what then restrained my feet, what suddenly arrested
those words of insane passion upon my lips and irresistibly drew me
down upon my knees to pray? It was God, who then announced Himself to
me--God, who called me to Himself--God, who finally gave me strength to
understand my love and always leave her letters unanswered until they
finally ceased to come--until her complaints, which, however, had
consoled me, were no longer heard! The sacrifice was made, God accepted
it, my sin was expiated, and I was glad, for my heart was forever
broken, and never, since then, has a smile of happiness played upon
my lips. But in my soul has it become tranquil and serene, God dwells
there, and within me is a peace known only to those who have struggled
and overcome, who have expiated their sins with a free will and flayed
breast."

"And your beloved, what became of her?" asked the cardinal. "Did she
pardon your treason, and console herself in the arms of another?"

"In the arms of death!" said Ganganelli, with a low voice. "My silence
and my apparent forgetfulness of her broke her heart; she died of grief,
but she died like a saint, and her last words were: 'May God forgive
him, as I do! I curse him not, but bless him, rather; for through him
am I released from the burden of this life, and all sorrow is overcome!'
She therefore died in the belief of my unfaithfulness; she did, indeed,
pardon me, but yet she believed me a faithless betrayer! And the
consciousness of this was to me a new torment and a penance which I
shall suffer forever and ever! This is the story of my love," continued
Ganganelli, after a short silence. "I have truly related it to you as
it is. May you, my son, learn from it that, when we wish to do right, we
can always succeed, in spite of our own hearts and sinful natures, and
that with God's help we can overcome all and suffer all. You see that
I have loved, and nevertheless had strength to renounce. But it was God
who gave me this strength, God alone! Turn you, also, to God; pray to
Him to destroy in you your sinful love; and, if you implore Him with the
right words, and with the right fervor, then will God be near you with
His strength, and in the pains of renunciation will He purify your soul,
preparing it for virtue and all that is good!"

"And do you call that virtue?" asked the cardinal. "May Heaven preserve
me from so cruel a virtue! Do you call it serving God when this virtue
makes you the murderer of your beloved, and, more savage than a wild
beast, deaf to the amorous complaints of a woman whom you had led into
love and sin, whose virtue you sacrificed to your lust, and whom you
afterward deserted because, as you say, God called to yourself,
but really only, because satiated, you no longer desired her. Your
faithfulness cunningly clothes itself in the mantle of godliness,
nothing further. No, no, holy father of Christendom, I envy you not this
virtue which has made you the murderer of God's noblest work. That is a
sacrilege committed in the holy temple of nature. Go your way, and think
yourself great in your bloodthirsty, murderous virtue! You will not
convert me to it. Let me still remain a sinner--it at least will not
lead me to murder the woman I love, and provide for her torment and
suffering, instead of the promised pleasure. Believe me, Corilla has
never yet cursed me, nor have her fine eyes ever shed a tear of sorrow
on my account. You have made your beloved an unwilling saint and
martyr--possibly that may have been very sublime, and the angels may
have wept or rejoiced over it. I have lavished upon my beloved ones
nothing but earthly happiness. I have not made them saints, but only
happy children of this world; and even when they have ceased to love me,
they have always continued to call me their friend, and blessed me for
making them rich and happy. You have set of crown of thorns upon the
head of your beloved, I would bind a laurel-crown upon the beautiful
brow of my Corilla, which will not wound her head, and will not cause
her to die of grief. You are not willing to aid me in this, my work?
You refuse me this laurel-wreath because you have only martyr-crowns to
dispose of? Very well, holy father of Christendom, I will nevertheless
compel you to comply with my wishes, and you shall have no peace in your
holy city from my mad tricks until you promise me to crown the great
improvisatrice in the capitol. Until then, _addio_, holy father of
Christendom. You will not see me again in the Vatican or Quirinal, but
all Rome shall ring with news of me!"

With a slight salutation, and without waiting for an answer from the
pope, the cardinal departed with hasty steps, and soon his herculean
form disappeared in the shadow of the pine and olive trees. But his loud
and scornful laugh long resounded in the distance.



THE POPE'S RECREATION HOUR

The pope followed his retreating form with a glance of sadness and a
shake of the head.

"He is past help," murmured he; "he runs to his ruin, and the voice of
warning is unheeded. But how, if he should happen to be right? How, if
he with his worldly wisdom and his theory of earthly happiness, should
be more conformable to the will of God than we with our virtue and our
doctrine of renunciation? Ah, yes, the world is so beautiful, it seems
made entirely for pleasure and enjoyment, and yet men wander through it
with tearful eyes, disregarding its beauty, and refusing to share
its pleasures. All, except man, is free on earth. He alone lies in
constraining bands, and his heart bleeds while all creation rejoices.
No, no, that cannot be; every individual does what he can to render
mankind free and happy, and I also will do my part. God has laid great
power in my hand, and I will use it so long as it is mine."

Thus speaking, the pope left the garden, and hastened up to his study.

"Signor Galiandro," said he, to his private secretary, "did you not
speak to me to-day of several petitions received, in which people begged
for dispensations from monk and cloister vows?"

Signor Galiandro smilingly rummaged among a mass of papers that covered
the pope's writing-table.

"In the last four weeks some fifty such petitions have been received.
Since your holiness has released several monks and nuns from their vows,
all these pious brides of Christ and these consecrated priests seem
to have tired of their cloister life, and long to be out in the world
again."

"Whoever does not freely and willingly remain in the house of the Lord,
we will not retain them," said Ganganelli. "Compelled service of the
Lord is no service, and the prayer of the lips without the concurrence
of the heart is null! Give me all these petitions that I may grant them!
The love of the world is awakened in these monks and nuns, and we will
give back to the world what belongs to the world. With their resisting
and struggling hearts they will make but bad priests and nuns; perhaps
it will be better for them to become founders of families. And they
who honestly do their duty, equally serve God, whether they are in a
cloister or in the bosoms of their families."

The pope seated himself at his writing-table, and after having carefully
examined all the petitions for dispensations, signed his consent, and
smilingly handed them back to his secretary.

"I hope we have here made some people happy," said he, rising, "and
therefore it may, perhaps, be allowed us also to be happy in our own way
for a quarter of an hour."

He lightly touched the silver bell suspended over his writing-table, and
at the immediately opened door appeared the pleasant and well-nourished
face of brother Lorenzo, the Franciscan monk, who performed the whole
service of the pope.

"Lorenzo," said Ganganelli, with a smile, "let us go down into the
poultry-yard. You must show me the young chickens of which you told me
yesterday. And hear, would it be asking too much to beg of you to bring
my dinner into the garden?"

"I would that you could ask too much," said brother Lorenzo, waddling
after his master, who was descending the stairs leading to the
court-yard. "I really wish, your holiness, that it were asking too
much, for then your dinner would be at least a little more desirable
and heavier to transport! Was such a thing ever heard of? the father of
Christianity keeps a table like that of the poorest begging monk, and is
satisfied with milk, fruit, bread, and vegetables, while the fattest of
capons and ducks are crammed in vain for him, and his cellar is replete
with the most generous wines."

"Well, well, scold not," said Ganganelli, smiling; "have we not for
years felt ourselves well in the Franciscan cloister, it never once
occurring to us to wish ourselves better off! Why should I now quit the
habits of years and accustom myself to other usages? When I was yet a
Franciscan monk, I always had, thanks to our simple manner of living, a
very healthy stomach, and would you have me spoil it now, merely because
I have become pope? It has always remained the same human body, Lorenzo,
and all the rest is only falsehood and fraud! How few years is it since
you and I were in the cloister, and you served the poor Franciscan monk
as a lay brother! You then called me brother Clement, and they all did
the same, and now you no longer call me brother, but holy father! How
can your brother of yesterday be your father of to-day? We are here
alone, Lorenzo; nobody sees or hears us. We would for once cease to be
holy father, and for a quarter of an hour become again brother Clement."

"Ahem! it was not so bad there," simpered Lorenzo. "It was yet very
pleasant in our dear cloister, and I often think, brother, that you were
far happier then than now, when every one falls upon his knees to kiss
your slipper. It must be very dull to be always holy, always so great
and sublime, and always revered and adored!"

"Therefore let us go to our ducks and hens," said the pope. "The people
have made a bugbear of me, before which they fall upon the earth. But
the good animals, who understand nothing of these things, they
cackle and grunt, and gabble at me, as if I were nothing but a common
goose-herd and by no means the sainted father of Christendom! Come, come
to my dear brutes, who are so frank and sincere that they cackle and
gabble directly in my face as soon as their beaks and snouts are grown.
They are not so humble and devoted, so adoring and cringing, as these
men who prostrate themselves before me with humble and hypocritical
devotion, but who secretly curse me and wish my death, that there may be
a change in the papacy! Come, come, to our honest geese!"

Brother Lorenzo handed to the pope the willow basket filled with corn
and green leaves, and both, with hasty steps and laughing faces, betook
themselves to the poultry-yard; the ducks and geese fluttered to
them with a noisy gabbling as soon as they caught sight of the
provender-basket, and Ganganelli laughingly said: "It seems as if I were
here in the conclave, and listening to the contention of the cardinals
as they quarrel about the choice of a new pope. Lorenzo, I should well
like to know who will succeed me in the sacred chair and hold the keys
of St. Peter! That will be a stormy conclave!--Be quiet, my dear ducks
and geese! Indeed, you are in the right, I forgot my duty! Well, well, I
will give you your food now--here it is!"

And the pope with full hands strewed the corn among the impatiently
gabbling geese, and heartily laughed at the eagerness with which they
threw themselves upon it.

"And is it not with men as with these dear animals?" said he, laughing;
"When one satisfies them with food, they become silent, mild, and
gentle. Princes should always remember that, and before all things
satiate their subjects with food, if they would have a tranquil and
unopposed government! Ah, that reminds me of our own poor, Lorenzo! Many
petitions have been received, much misery has been described, and many
heart-rending complaints have been made to me!"

"That is because they know you are always giving and would rather suffer
want yourself than refuse gifts to others," growled Lorenzo. "Hardly
half the month is past, and we are already near the end of our means!"

"Already?" exclaimed the pope, with alarm. "And I believe I yet need
much money. There is a father of fourteen children who has fallen from
a scaffolding and broken both legs. We must care for him, Lorenzo; the
children must not want for bread!"

"That is understood, that is Christian duty," said Lorenzo, eagerly.
"Give me the address, I will go to him yet to-day! And how much money
shall I take with me?"

"Well, I thought," timidly responded Ganganelli, "that five scudi would
not be too much!"

Lorenzo compassionately shrugged his shoulders. "You can never learn
the value of money," said he; "I am now to take _five_ scudi to these
_fourteen_ children."

"Is it not enough?" joyfully asked Ganganelli. "Well, I thank God that
you are so disposed! I only feared you would refuse me so much, because
my treasury, as you say, is already empty. But if we have something
left, give much, much more! At least a hundred scudi, Lorenzo!"

"That is always the way with you; from extreme to extreme!" grumbled
Lorenzo. "First too little, then too much! I shall take to them twenty
scudi, and that will be sufficient!"

"Give them thirty," begged Ganganelli, "do you hear, thirty, brother
Lorenzo. Thirty scudi is yet a very small sum!"

"Ah, what do you know about money?" answered Lorenzo, laughing; "these
geese here understand the matter better than you, brother Clement."

"Well, it is for that reason I have made you my cashier," laughed
Ganganelli. "A prince will always be well advised when he chooses
a sensible and well-instructed servant for that which he does not
understand himself. To acknowledge his ignorance on the proper occasion
does honor to a prince, and procures him more respect than if he sought
to give himself the appearance of knowing and understanding everything.
Come, Lorenzo, let us go into the garden; you see that these fowls care
nothing for us now; as they are satiated, they despise our provender.
Come, let us go farther!"

"Yes, into the garden!" exclaimed Lorenzo, with a mysterious smile.
"Come, brother Clement, I have prepared a little surprise for you there!
Come and see it!"

And the two old men turned their steps toward the garden.

"Follow me," said Lorenzo, preceding the pope, and leading him to a more
solitary and better screened part of the garden. "Now stoop a little and
creep through here, and then we are at the place."

The pope carefully followed the directions of his leader, and worked his
way through the obstruction of the myrtle-bushes until he arrived at
a small circular place, in the centre of which, shaded by tall
olive-trees, was a turf-seat surrounded by tendrils of ivy, and before
which was a small table of wood, yet retaining its natural covering of
bark.

"See, this is my surprise!" said Lorenzo.

Ganganelli stood silent and motionless, with folded hands. A deep
emotion was visible in his gentle mien, and tears rolled slowly down
over his cheeks.

"Well, is it not well copied, and true to nature?" asked Lorenzo, whose
eyes beamed with satisfaction.

"My favorite spot in the garden of the Franciscan convent!" said
Ganganelli in a tone trembling with emotion. "Yes, yes, Lorenzo,
you have represented it exactly, you know well enough what gives me
pleasure! Accept my thanks, my dear good brother."

And, while giving his hand to the monk, his eye wandered with gentle
delight over the place, with its beautiful trees and green reposing
bank, and thoughtfully rested upon each individual object.

"So was it," he murmured low, "precisely so; yes, yes, in this place
have I passed my fairest and most precious hours; what have I not
thought and dreamed as a youth and as a man, how many wishes, how
many hopes have there thrilled my bosom, and how few of them have been
realized!"

"But one thing has been realized," said Lorenzo, "greater than all you
could have dreamed or hoped! Who would ever have thought it possible
that the poor, unknown Franciscan monk would become the greatest and
most sublime prince in the whole world, the father of all Christendom?
That is, indeed, a happiness that brother Clement, upon his grass-bank
in the Franciscan convent, could never have expected!"

"You, then, consider it a happiness," said Ganganelli, slowly letting
himself down upon the grass-bank. "Yes, yes, such are you good human
beings! wherever there is a little bit of show, a little bit of outward
splendor, you immediately conclude that there is great happiness. This
proves that you see only the outward form, paying no regard to what is
concealed under that form, and which is often very bitter. Believe me,
Lorenzo, in these times there is no very great happiness in being pope
and the so-called father of Christendom. The princes have become very
troublesome and disobedient children; they are no longer willing to
recognize our paternal authority, and if the holy father does not
manifest a complaisant friendliness toward these refractory princely
children, and wink at their independence, they will renounce the whole
connection and quit the paternal mansion. We should then, indeed, be the
holy father of Christendom, but no longer have any children under the
paternal authority! For having so expressed myself, I shall never be
pardoned by the cardinals and princes of the Church; it has made them
my deadly enemies, and yet it is with these principles alone that I have
succeeded in bringing the refractory Portuguese court again under my
parental control!

"But here in this pleasant place let us dismiss such unpleasant
thoughts," the pope more cheerfully continued, after a pause. "Here
I will forget that I am pope; here I will never be anything more than
brother Clement of the Franciscan convent, nor shall the cares and
troubles of the pope, nor his holiness or infallibility, accompany him
to this dear quiet place. Here I will only be a man, and forgetting my
cramping highness and my forced splendor, will here right humanly enjoy
the sun and this soft green grass, and in deep draughts inhale this
sweet balsamic air. Ah, how happy one may yet be if he can for a moment
escape from the envelope of dignity by which he is kept a chrysalis, and
freely exercise the butterfly wings of manhood! And hear me for once,
brother Lorenzo, so very human has your pope here become, that he feels
a right fresh human appetite. If all here is as it used to be at the
convent, then must you have something to appease my hunger."

Brother Lorenzo nodded with a sly smile. Stepping to the side of the
grassy bank, and slipping aside a small door concealed by the grass, he
disclosed a walled excavation, filled with fruits and pastry.

"I see you have forgotten nothing!" joyfully exclaimed Ganganelli,
taking some of the fragrant fruit which Lorenzo tendered him. "Ah, you
make me very happy, Lorenzo."

Saying this, he threw his arm around Lorenzo's neck, and silently
pressed him to his bosom.

Brother Lorenzo was equally silent, but he no longer laughed;
his usually cheerful face assumed a wonderfully clear and pleased
expression, and two large tears rolled down over his cheek--but they
were tears of joy.



A DEATH-SENTENCE

An approaching bustling, a vehement calling and screaming, disturbed
the two old men. It was Lorenzo who was called, and he quickly glided
through the bushes to look after the cause of this disturbance. But soon
he returned with a melancholy face and depressed mien.

"Brother Clement," said he, "it is already all over with our enjoyment,
which has been so great for me that I forgot to remind you that the pope
cannot neglect the hour in which he gives audience. That hour has now
come, and your anteroom is already filled with princes and prelates."

"And yet you speak of the great happiness of being pope," said
Ganganelli, rising with a sigh from the grassy bank. "I am not allowed
an hour for recreation, and yet people think--but no," said Ganganelli,
interrupting himself and laughing, "we should not be ungrateful, and it
would be ungrateful for me now to complain. If I have not had an hour
for recreation, well, I have had half an hour, and even that is much!"

And, beckoning to brother Lorenzo to follow him, the pope crept through
the bushes that separated the place from the more frequented part of the
garden.

As he then walked up the grand alley, his face and his whole form
assumed a very different appearance. The mild friendliness had vanished
from his features, pride and dignity were now expressed by them, and
his tall, erect form had in it something noble and imposing; it was no
longer the stooping form of age, but only that of a somewhat elderly
hero. The brother Clement had been transformed into the prince of the
Church, who was about to receive his vassals.

They now saw a tall, manly form hastening down the alley directly toward
the pope.

"Who is it?" asked Ganganelli, half turning toward Lorenzo, who was
following him.

"It is Juan Angelo Braschi, the former treasurer, to whom you yesterday
sent the cardinal's hat."

"Ah, the beautiful Braschi," sadly murmured Ganganelli. "The beloved of
the favorite of my nephew, of the Cardinal Rezzonico. Ah, how bad the
world is!"

In fact, he whom Ganganelli called the "beautiful" Braschi, well
deserved that epithet. No nobler or more plastic beauty was to be
seen; no face that more reminded one of the divine beauty of ancient
sculpture, no form that could be called a better counterfeit of the
Belvedere Apollo. And it was this beauty which liberal Nature had
imparted to him as its noblest gift, which helped Juan Angelo Braschi,
the son of a poor nobleman of Cesara, to his good fortune, his highest
offices and dignities. Not for his merits, but solely for his beauty,
did the women bestow upon him their love; and as among these women there
were some who exercised an important influence upon powerful cardinals,
Braschi had quickly mounted from step to step, crowding aside those who
had nothing but their merits and services to speak for them.

With a free and noble demeanor, Braschi now approached the pope, who
remained standing at some distance awaiting him, with a calm and proud
self-possession. Braschi dropped upon one knee, and pressing the hem of
the pope's garment in his lips, said:

"Pardon me, most holy father, that I have ventured to seek you here.
But my lively gratitude would not be longer restrained. It impelled me
toward you with the wings of the wind. I must be the first to fall at
your feet to stammer out to you my inexpressible thanks."

Proudly nodding his head the pope motioned him to rise.

"It is well," said he, "and you have lent your gratitude an abundance of
words. It is true you were only treasurer, and I have permitted you
to take a great step in making you a cardinal. But remember, my lord
cardinal, that I have promoted you only because I wished to take from
you the office of treasurer, as I need a man for that post whose honesty
no one could call in question!"

Thus speaking he passed on with a ceremonious salutation, leaving
the new cardinal rooted to the earth with terror, his beautiful brow
distorted with rage.

"He shall expiate that," muttered Braschi, gnashing his teeth, as the
pope slowly pursued his way. "By the Eternal, the proud Franciscan shall
expiate that! Ah, the day will come when he will fully remember these
words!"

Meantime, Ganganelli wandered calmly on, followed by his faithful
Lorenzo, with a smile of joy at this dismissal and humiliation of the
proud and handsome Cardinal Braschi.

The pope suddenly stopped, and turning to Lorenzo said:

"What a strange thought has passed through my head! I have made this
miserable coxcomb Braschi a cardinal because he was not honest enough
for a treasurer, but in doing so I have paved the way for him to the
papal throne! Would it not be strange, Lorenzo, if I have thus myself
provided my successor? His dishonesty and intriguing disposition has
made him a cardinal. Why can it not also make him a pope? The world is
indeed so strange!"(*)

     (*) Juan Angelo Braschi, whom Pope Clement XIV. made a
     cardinal, was in fact Ganganelli's successor, and took
     possession of the papal chair as Pius VI. He was chosen
     after a very stormy conclave and indeed the different
     parties voted for him on the ground that he belonged to no
     party, and because they thought he was so very much occupied
     with his own beauty that he would think of nothing else,
     and, while occupied with the care of his face, would leave
     the cares of state to others.

"What dreams those are," murmured Lorenzo, shrugging his shoulders; "the
idea that a Braschi could be the successor of the noble Ganganelli!"

Many cardinals and princes of the Church, many noblemen and foreign
ambassadors, were assembled in the pope's audience-room, and as
Ganganelli entered, they all received him with joyful acclamations,
and humbly fell upon their knees before the head of the church, the
vicegerent of God, who, with solemn majesty, bestowed upon them his
blessing, and then condescendingly conversed with them. That was a
ceremony to which the pope was obliged to subject himself once a week,
and which he reckoned as not one of the least of the troubles attendant
upon his exalted position. Hence he was well pleased when this hour
was over, and he at length was relieved of the presence of all these
eulogistic and flattering gentlemen.

Only Cardinal Bernis had remained behind, and to him Ganganelli, giving
him his hand, and drawing a deep breath, said:

"What a mass of false and hypocritical phrases we have again been
obliged to swallow! These cardinals have the impudence to speak to me of
their love and veneration; they do not hesitate so to lie with the same
lips which to-day have already pronounced blessings and pious words of
edification! But let us forget these hypocrites. Business is over, and
it is kind of you to come and chat with me for one little hour. You know
I love you very much, my good friend Bernis, although you do pay homage
to the heathen divinities, and, as a real renegade, have constituted
yourself a priest of the muses."

"Ah, you speak of my youthful sins," said the cardinal, smiling. "They
are long since past, and sleep with my youthful happiness."

"That must be a wide bed which enables them all to find place side by
side," responded Ganganelli, laughing, and holding up his forefinger
threateningly to the cardinal.

"But what is that you are drawing from your breast-pocket with such an
important air?"

"A letter from the Marquise de Pompadour, holy father," seriously
replied the cardinal--"a letter in which I am commanded to communicate
to you, the father of Christendom, the acquiescence of France in your
proposed abolition of the order of the Jesuits. Here is a private letter
addressed to me by the marquise, and here the official letter signed by
King Louis, which is destined for your holiness."

The pope took the papers, and while he was reading them his face turned
deadly pale, and a dark cloud gathered upon his brow.

"France also acquiesces," said he, when he had finished the reading.
"How is it, then--were you not yourself against the abolition of the
order, and were you not in accordance with the Spanish ambassador, your
friend of many years?"

"This friendship of many years is to-day destroyed by a fish, and drives
us a helpless wreck upon the wildly-rolling waves," said the cardinal,
shrugging his shoulders.

Ganganelli paid no attention to him. Serious and thoughtful, he walked
up and down the room, while his heavenward-directed eye seemed to
address a great and all-important question to the Being there above,
which received no answer.

"I clearly see how it will be," finally murmured the pope, as if talking
to himself. "I shall complete the work I have begun--it is God Himself
who has opened the way for it, but this way will at the same time lead
me to my grave."

"What dark thoughts are these?" said Bernis, approaching him. "This
bold and high-hearted resolution will not bring you death, but fame and
immortality."

"It will at least lead me to immortality," said the pope, with a faint
smile. "The dead are all immortal. But think not so little of me as to
suppose I would now timidly shrink from doing that which I have once
recognized as right and necessary. Only there are necessities of a very
painful and dreadful kind. Such a necessity is war. And is it not a war
that I commence, and does it not involve the destruction of all those
thousands who call themselves the followers of Loyola, and belong to the
Society of Jesus? Ah, believe me, this Society of Jesus is a hydra, and
we shall never succeed in entirely extirpating it. I may now separate my
own head from my body; but a day will come when the head of this hydra
will have grown again, and when it will rise from the dead with renewed
vitality, while I shall be mouldering in my grave. Say not, therefore,
that I know not how to destroy them, and if you do say it, at least add
that I lacked not the will, but that I gave for it my own life."

Thus speaking, the pope slightly nodded an adieu to the cardinal, and
withdrew into his study, the door of which he carefully closed after
him.

There was he long heard to walk the room with measured steps. Then all
was still. No one ventured to disturb him. Hours passed. Lorenzo, with
a fearful presentiment, knelt before the door. He laid his ear to the
keyhole and tried to listen. All was still within, nothing stirred.
At length he ventured to call the pope's name--at first low and
tremulously, then louder and more anxiously, and as no answer was
received, he at last ventured to open the door.

At his writing-table sat the pope; his face deadly pale, with staring
eyes and great drops of perspiration on his forehead. Immovable sat he
there, his right hand, which held a pen, resting on a parchment lying
upon the table before him.

Like an image of wax, so stiff, so motionless was he, that Lorenzo,
shuddering, made the sign of the cross upon his brow. Then, noiselessly
advancing, he timidly and anxiously touched the pope's shoulder.
Ganganelli shuddered, and a slight trembling pervaded his members; he
then drew a long breath, and, casting a dull glance at his faithful
friend, said:

"Lorenzo, let my coffin be ordered, and pray for my soul. I have just
now signed my own death-sentence. See, there it lies. I have signed
the decree abolishing the order of the Jesuits! I must therefore
die, Lorenzo. It is all over and past with our shady place and our
recreations. My murderers are already prowling around me, for I tell you
I have myself signed my death-sentence!"



THE FESTIVAL OF CARDINAL BERNIS

And this day of the festival had finally come. With what joyful
impatience, with what anxious desire, had Natalie looked forward to
it--how had she importuned her friend, Count Paulo, with questions
about Cardinal Bernis, about the people she would meet there, about the
manners and usages with which she would have to conform!

"I am anxious and fearful," said she, with amiable modesty; "they will
find occasion to laugh at me, and you will be compelled to blush for me,
Paulo. But you must tell these wise men and great ladies that it is my
very first appearance in society, and that they must have consideration
for the awkwardness and ineptitude of a poor child who knows nothing of
the world, its forms, or its laws."

"For you no excuse will be necessary," responded Paulo, pressing the
delicate tips of her fingers to his lips. "Only be quite yourself,
perfectly true and open, inoffensive and cheerful! Forget that you are
in an assemblage; imagine yourself to be in our garden, under the trees
and among the flowers, and speak to people as you speak to your trees
and flowers."

"But will the people give me as true and cordial answers as my trees and
flowers?" asked Natalie, thoughtfully.

"They will say to you more beautiful and more flattering things," said
Paulo, smiling. "But now, Natalie, it is time to be thinking of your
toilet. See, the sun is already sinking behind the pines, and the
sky begins to redden! The time to go will soon arrive, and your first
triumph awaits you!"

"Oh, it will not have long to wait," said Natalie, laughing, and, light
and graceful as a gazelle, she tripped to the house.

Count Paulo gazed after her with a melancholy rapture. "And I am to
leave this angel," thought he, "to lose the brightest and noblest jewel
of my life, and drive myself out of paradise. And wherefore all this?
Perhaps to chase a phantom that will never become a reality, to follow
a chimera which may be only a meteor that dances before me and dissolves
into mist when I think to reach it? No, no, the world is not worth
so much that one should sell himself and his soul's happiness for its
splendor and its greatness. Natalie herself shall decide. Loves she me,
and is she satisfied with the quiet circumscribed existence that I
can henceforth only offer her, then away, ye vain dreams and ye proud
desires for greatness; then shall I be, if not the greatest, certainly
the happiest of human beings!"

It was a wonderfully brilliant festival that Cardinal Bernis had to-day
prepared for his guests--a festival hitherto unequalled in Rome. The
walls were decorated with garlands and festoons of flowers, the flaming
candelabras among which found their reflection in the tall Venetian
mirrors that rose in their golden frames from the floor to the ceilings;
and in the corners of the rooms were niches, here furnished with
orange-trees, and there with heavy silk curtains, behind which were
grottoes adorned with shells, in the midst of which were fountains where
splashed waters rendered fragrant by oil of roses and other essences.
And ever-new surprises, new grottoes and groves in those rich halls
offered themselves to the eyes of the beholders. Now one suddenly found
himself in a quiet boudoir lighted only by a solitary lamp, where the
most artistic engravings and the rarest drawings were spread out upon
a table; then again one entered a hall sparkling with a thousand lights
and resounding with music, where the gayly-dressed crowd undulated in
mazy waves; then again grottoes opened here and there, or one stepped
out through the open doors into the garden where one could enjoy the
balsamic coolness of the evening in walks brilliantly lighted with
colored lamps, or listen to the music of performers concealed in the
shrubbery, or, again, fleeing from the throng and the lights, seek a
resting-place upon some grassy bank or under some myrtle-bush, whether
for solitary musing or for encircling in sweet and silent familiarity
the waist of some chosen fair one who understanding the stolen glance,
had strayed here unnoticed.

But the central point of the festival was the monstrous gigantic hall
which the cardinal had caused to be erected in the centre of the garden
expressly for this occasion. The walls of muslin and flowers were held
together by more than a hundred gilded pillars, the girandoles attached
to each of which diffused a sea of light. Silken carpets covered
the floor, and the _plafond_ of this gigantic hall was formed by the
thousand-starred arch of heaven. Here, also, niches and grottoes
were everywhere to be found; in them one could, in the midst of the
constantly moving and noisy crowd, enjoy quiet and repose.

Only one of these niches was inaccessible, as it appears, to the
company, and yet it was precisely this which excited the curiosity of
all, and which all, whispering, approached, anxious to get a peep behind
the closed thick silken curtains, before which two richly gallooned
servants of the cardinal walked back and forth with solemn earnestness,
but respectfully requesting every one to comply with the cardinal's
wishes and not approach the mysterious drapery, but await his own time
for the solution of the enigma! A few steps led up to this closed and
covered niche; these steps were strewed with roses, that was plainly
seen; but, to what did these steps lead, and what was thus carefully
concealed?

A precious surprise, certainly, for it was the forte of the cardinal
to prepare surprises for the agreeable entertainment of his guests. The
ladies and gentlemen, the cardinals and princes of the Church, crowded
around him begging for an explanation of the mystery, a disclosure of
the secret.

"I am myself uninitiated," said Cardinal Bernis, laughing; "some
divinity may have taken a seat there, or perhaps it is a sphinx which
will from thence give us the solution of her enigma. But let us see what
belated guests are now coming to us."

And the cardinal with zealous precipitation approached the principal
entrance to the hall, the _portieres_ of which had just been drawn
aside, and behind was seen Natalie at the hand of Paulo.

As if blinded by the sudden flood of light, she stood for a moment
still, a purple glow flushing her delicate cheeks, and clinging to
Paulo's arms, she whispered: "Protect me, Paulo, I am so frightened by
this crowd!"

Just at that moment the doorkeeper cried with a loud voice: "Princess
Natalie Tartaroff and Count Paulo!"

At the sound of these strange names all glanced toward the door, and
all flaming, curious, prying eyes were fixed with astonishment and
admiration upon the young maiden.

But Natalie did not remark it. She glanced at Paulo with a glad smile,
and a proud happiness beamed from her features. She had, then, a name;
she was no longer an abandoned, nameless orphan. At length the enigma of
her birth was solved, and what she had so often prayed for, Count Paulo
had vouchsafed her as a surprise to-day.

He had at the same time announced her name to herself and the world, and
she not only had a name, but she was a princess; she took a rank in the
company, and Count Paulo and Carlo had no reason to be ashamed of her.
But where was Carlo? At the thought of him this feeling of effervescing
pride vanished from the young maiden's heart; she even forgot that she
was a princess, to remember only that Carlo, her music-teacher, had
promised her to be present at this festival, and to wonder that she
could not discover him in this gay and confused assemblage.

She did not remark that, since her appearance, a deep stillness had
supervened in the hall, that all eyes were upon her, that people
secretly whispered to each other, and gave utterance to murmured
expressions of astonishment and delight; she saw not how the beauties
here and there turned pale and indignantly bit their proud lips; she saw
not how the eyes of the men glowed and flashed, and what eagerly lusting
glances the cardinals and princes of the Church cast upon her.

She was so unconstrained, this charming child, she knew not how handsome
she was. But she was to-day of a wonderfully touching beauty. Like a
white and delicate lily stood she there in the heavy white satin robe
that enveloped her graceful form, and the brilliants that adorned her
hair, neck, and arms, shone and sparkled like sun-lighted dew-drops in
the calyx of the flower. So beautiful was she that even Cardinal Bernis
stood speechless and as if blinded before her, finding no expression for
his joyful surprise and astonishment.

"Oh," at length he smilingly said, with a low bow, "I shall have to
quarrel with Count Paulo! He promised us the presence of a mortal woman,
and now he leads into our circle a divinity who must look down upon us
poor human beings with a smile of contempt."

Natalie smiled. "I know," said she, with her clear, sweet, childish
voice--"I know that Cardinal Bernis is a poet, and therefore it will not
be very difficult for him to change a young maiden into a divinity. Nor
is this the first time he has done so! I remember a lovely poem of his,
the complaint of a shepherd, who considers the object of his love a
divinity because she is so beautiful, and at last she proves to be no
divinity, but on the contrary a regular little quarrelsome wrangler,
who has nothing beautiful about her but her hands and face. Take care,
cardinal, that it does not prove with you and me as with the shepherd in
your charming poem!"

She said that with such childish ingenuousness, and in so cheerful and
jesting a tone, that the cardinal listened to her as if intoxicated,
and with unconcealed admiration he looked into that delicate, childishly
pure face, over which no trace of sorrow nor any sign of care had ever
yet passed.

Without answering, he took her arm, and, beckoning Count Paulo to his
side, led the princess to the circle of ladies.

Behind those closed curtains that still concealed the mysterious niche
it had meanwhile become stirring. Busy servants hastened hither and
thither, lighting the lamps and arranging the festoons and draperies. It
seems they had here erected a little stage, and the large wall-picture
that formed the background of this stage bore the appearance of a
decoration. A side curtain, serving as a partition, formed a second
room, which seemed destined for a sort of greenroom, in the centre of
which was a large and well-lighted mirror, and before it stood a young
woman regarding herself with the greatest attention, here plucking
at her dress and there arranging her train or an ornament. She was
evidently the one who was to appear upon the stage; her costume betrayed
it. It was not the fashionable costume of the day, such as was worn by
the distinguished ladies of Roman society; it was an ideal Greek
dress that seemed to have been made for the purpose of displaying and
rendering yet more voluptuous and enticing the great beauty of the
wearer.

She was very beautiful, this woman, with her sparkling black eyes
and dark shining hair, which had been gathered into a Grecian knot
behind--beautiful, with the laurel-wreath resting upon her high
forehead--beautiful, in the transparent Grecian robe which only so far
concealed the luxuriant forms of her full figure as to allow them to be
divined--beautiful, with those full, round, and entirely uncovered arms,
with their jewelled bracelets--beautiful, with her graceful neck, her
fully exposed, naked shoulders, and her voluptuously swelling bosom.

She was, in her appearance, a Greek, only her face was not Grecian. It
was wanting in the noble forms, the still cheerfulness and repose of
Grecian beauty, modest even in its voluptuousness. It was only the face
of a sensual and passionate Roman woman, and no Lais would have ventured
such a smile as played upon the dark-red lips of this Roman woman, or
such glowing glances as she shot like arrows from her dark eyes.

Standing before the glass, she viewed herself, her lips murmuring low
words, occasionally turning her eyes from the mirror to the little table
standing near it, upon which lay several open books.

What murmured she, and what read she in those books? Singular! she
was uttering single, isolated, unconnected words, which had nothing in
common with each other but the sound of melody; they were rhymes, but
without connection or sense, without inward mental correlation.

"So," she now said to herself, with a satisfied smile, "I am now
perfectly armed and prepared. All these rhymes ready for use, and I
have not to fear embarrassment in repeating any of them. Ah, they shall
admire me, these good Romans. I will animate and inflame them, and
excite all my enamored cardinals to such an ecstasy that they must
finally prevail upon the silly, obstinate old pope against his own will
to fulfil my only desire. I will attain my end, even if I am compelled
to pawn my honor and my salvation for it! Bah! honor; what can honor be
to a woman? Beauty is our honor, further nothing! And fair, it seems to
me, I yet am! And if I am fair," she more glowingly continued, after
a pause, "how comes it that Carlo has ceased to love me? Ah, the false
one, to betray and desert me when I love him most!"

A dark flush of anger now overspread her cheeks, and threateningly
raising her hands, with compressed lips she continued: "And to desert me
for another woman--me, the pride and delight of all Rome; me, whom all
the princes and cardinals worship! Ah, while thousands lie at my feet,
imploring for a glance or a smile, this little, unknown singer dares to
scorn me and deride my love!"

"And why should he not dare it?" asked a voice behind her, and the face
of a young man became visible.

"Carlo!" she cried, hastening to meet him with outspread arms.

He almost ungently checked her. "You forget," said he, "that this
little, insignificant, and unknown singer loves you no longer, Corilla!
Grant, then, henceforth to the thousands who languish at your feet a few
of your enticing smiles and glowing glances--I have nothing against it,
and am not at all jealous!"

"But you should be!" cried she, stamping her feet with rage. "I tell you
I will not suffer you to leave me; I will be loved by you, and no one
shall you dare to look at, and no one shall you dare to love, but me
alone."

Carlo broke out into a scornful laugh, and then seriously and proudly
said: "I am a Neapolitan, and with us men do not allow themselves to be
constrained to love, and no woman there dares utter the command, 'Thou
shalt love me!'--I will not, Signora Corilla!"

"You will not!" screamed she, gnashing her teeth. "Then woe to you and
to her!"

"I fear no serpents!" said Carlo, laughing, "and if an adder attempts to
sting me, I tread it under foot!"

"But fear at least for her you love!" she threateningly said. "Oh, you
think I shall not be able to discover this secret love of yours, and
not spy out this new divinity to whom you have consecrated your heart?
Tremble therefore now, for I know her! I know the garden in which she
lives, and there is a place in the wall just opposite her favorite seat;
whoever knows that place and possesses a steady hand and a sharp dagger
will know how to hurl it so as to pierce her bosom."

Carlo felt a deadly terror, he felt his heart stand still, but he
collected himself and said, with a contemptuous smile: "Cardinal
Francesco Albani indeed possesses among his _bravi_ many such skilful
hands, and surely it will not require many of your highly-prized glances
to induce him to favor you with the loan of one of them."

The signora slightly bit her lips. "You mock me," she almost sadly
said, "and yet you should remember that it is only love that makes me
so savage and fills my heart with a thirst for vengeance! Carlo, I so
warmly love you!"

And the beautiful, glowing woman humbly and imploringly bent before her
beloved.

The latter laughingly said: "How well you know how to say that--with
what variations and modulations! I yesterday heard you say the same to
Cardinal Albani; to be sure, it sounded a little different, but not less
warm and glowing!"

"You know why I do that!" said she. "He is an enamored fool, whom I
would win with tender words that I may make him my instrument. You know
the object for which I strive, and which I must attain at any price! Ah,
Carlo, when once they have crowned me in the capitol, then, I am sure,
you will be compelled to love me again!"

"Never again!" he harshly and roughly said.

"Is that your last word?" shrieked she, with flashing eyes and the wild
rage of a tigress.

"It is my last word!"

She flew to him like a mad person, seized his hands and fixedly stared
him in the face.

"Ungrateful!" said she, gnashing her teeth. "Is it thus you reward my
love, is this your return for all I have done for you? Can you forget
that it was I who withdrew you from poverty and baseness? What were you
but a poor, unnoticed singer in the streets, on whom people bestowed
scanty alms? Was it not I who rescued you from that shame, and clothed
you and gave you a home? Was it not I who gave you a name and procured
you consideration and respect by making you my singer and companion, and
allowing you to play upon the harp at my improvisations? How has not
all Rome admired you when you sang the canzones I wrote for you, thereby
procuring you honor and respectability, and making you a popular man
from a low beggar? Go, you cannot leave me, for you are my creature, my
property!"

He wildly thrust her aside, and his eyes flashed with indignation.
"Signora," said he, his lips tremulous with rage, "you have rent the
last band that bound me to you, and in twitting me of your benefits you
have annihilated them! We now have nothing in common with each other,
except perhaps mutual hatred, and that, I hope, will have a longer
duration than our love!"

And Carlo turned toward the door. Corilla rushed after him with an
exclamation of terror.

"You will leave me now!" cried she, with anguish, "now, in this hour
when you are so indispensable to me? now, when I am to celebrate a new
triumph before this notable assembly? when all eyes are expectantly
turned to the curtain behind which I am to appear? No, no, Carlo, from
compassion remain with me only one hour, only this evening!"

Carlo smiled contemptuously. "I will remain," said he, "for I have
promised _her_ that she shall hear you!"

"She has therefore come?" cried Corilla, with an outburst of joy.

"She is now here," he laconically said.

Corilla no longer listened to him, she walked back and forth with a
triumphant mien, a cruel, malicious smile playing upon her lips.

At this moment there was a slight knock at the door, which was opened,
and a man who appeared upon the threshold glanced into the room with a
grinning laugh.

Corilla gave him a sign, and at the same time pointed at Carlo, who,
having his back toward her, seemed to have no suspicion of what was
occurring behind him. But he saw it, nevertheless, in the tall mirror
that stood in the middle of the room; he saw Corilla make signs of
intelligence with that man who was in the livery of Cardinal Francesco
Albani; he saw the man make answer with his fingers, and then draw forth
a dagger, which he threateningly swung over his head.

Oh, Carlo had very well understood what that man said, as he also did
that language of the fingers, this much-used language of the Romans and
Neapolitans.

The man had said: "She is here, that beautiful lady! She can no longer
escape us!"

"You will strike her?" had Corilla asked.

The man had swung the dagger over his head and held up two fingers of
his right hand. That signified: "In two hours she will be dead."

"Good! you shall be satisfied with me," had been Corilla's answer.

The door was again closed. Corilla turned smiling to Carlo, her former
rancor seemed to have vanished; she was in high spirits.

"Carlo," said she, "how good you are not to leave me! Let us now begin.
I feel myself glowing with inspiration. Ah, I shall enrapture these good
Romans, I think!"

"How long will this improvisation last?" Carlo gruffly asked.

"Well, one or two hours, according to the delight we give our public."

"If this farce continues longer than an hour and a half, I shall throw
down my harp and go away," said Carlo, in a tone of severity. "I swear
it to you by the spirit of my mother! Remember it; I shall show you the
time every quarter of an hour."

"You are a tyrant," said she, laughing. "But I suppose I must submit.
Give, therefore, the signal that we are ready."



THE IMPROVISATRICE

All the guests of the cardinal were assembled in the gigantic hall, and
all eyes were anxiously bent upon the mysterious curtain, which still
remained closed.

Now resounded a little bell, and Cardinal Bernis smilingly turned to
Natalie, who sat by his side.

"I think this mystery is about to be unveiled," said he.

"And I am quite anxious about it," said the young maiden, gracefully
laying her hand upon her heart. "My heart beats as violently as if a
mystery were about to be unveiled in my own breast. Do you believe in
presentiments, Sir Cardinal?"

Bernis had not time to answer her. Just at that moment the curtain drew
up, a general "Ah!" of admiration was heard, and, suddenly carried
away by their feelings, the whole audience broke into extravagant
and long-enduring applause, crying and shouting, "_Evviva Corilla!
l'improvisatrice Corilla!_"

And in fact it was an admirable picture which was there presented to the
audience. Those flower-strewed steps led up to an altar, upon the centre
of which, between wreaths of flowers, shot up two dark-red flames.
Against that altar leaned, exalted and august as a Grecian priestess,
the improvisatrice Corilla. Her eyes raised to the heavens, her features
lighted up with a rosy glow by the red flames, her half-raised right
arm resting upon an urn, while her left arm was stretched upward toward
heaven, she thus resembled an inspired priestess, just receiving a
message from on high, listening with ecstasy, with suppressed breath and
parted lips, to the voice of the Deity, and forgetting the world in
a blissful intoxication, she seemed about to take her flight to the
empyrean!

And while Corilla, as if absorbed in spiritual contemplation, continued
to stand immovable there, began the low notes of a harp, which,
gradually becoming fuller and stronger, at length resounded in
powerfully rushing and exultant tones. From Corilla all eyes were now
turned upon Carlo, who, in the light dress of a Greek youth, his harp
upon his arm, was leaning against a pomegranate tree placed in the
background of the stage, and with his pale, serious face, with his
noble, manly features, formed a beautiful contrast to the inspired and
love-beaming priestess Corilla.

Natalie, feeling something like a slight puncture in her heart,
involuntarily carried her hand to her bosom. It was a strange, a
wonderful feeling, which stirred within her, partly partaking of joy at
seeing and hearing her friend Carlo, as people were murmuring praises of
his beauty, and of his great skill upon the harp, and partly a feeling
of painful emotion. She knew not why, but as her glance met his, it
quickly turned toward Corilla, and quite sadly she said to herself: "She
is much handsomer than I!"

Carlo now opened his lips, and to a beautifully simple melody he sweetly
sang an introductory song, as it were to prepare the audience for the
coming solemnity. Having finished this, two lovely _amourettes_ came
forward, with silver vases in their hands, and hastened down the steps
to the audience, politely requesting them to furnish themes for the
great improvisatrice Corilla.

Then, returning to the altar, they threw into the urn the small scraps
of paper on which the guests has proposed themes. The harp again
resounded, and with a solemn earnestness, her face and glance still
directed upward, Corilla drew one of the little strips of paper from the
urn. Accident, or perhaps her own dexterity, had favored her.

"Sappho's lament before throwing herself from the rocks"--that was the
theme proposed.

Corilla's face immediately took an expression of sadness; her eyes
flashed with an unnatural fire; her previously raised arm fell powerless
by her side; her head, like a broken rose, sank upon her breast; her
other hand convulsively grasped the urn, and in this position she in
fact resembled an abandoned mourner, weeping over the ashes of her lost
happiness. She was now the repudiated and forsaken one who, ready to
resign her life, was brooding upon thoughts of death. And while her face
took this expression, and she, staring upon the earth before her, seemed
to be meditating upon irremediable fate, thought Corilla: "This is a
charming theme which the good Cardinal Albani has thrown into the urn
for me. I found it directly by the small pin which, according to his
promise, he inserted in the paper. This cardinal is an agreeable imp,
and I must give him a kiss for his complaisance. Besides, the Tasso
rhyme will here be the most appropriate!"

Again she directed her gaze, with a gloomy expression, toward the
heavens, and with a violently heaving bosom, with feverishly flitting
breath, she began the lament of Sappho. Now like rattling thunder,
now like the gentle breathings of the flute, rolled this sweet and
picturesque language of Italy from her lips--like music sounded those
full, artistic rhymes, of which but few of the hearers had the least
suspicion that they came from Tasso. To improvise in the Italian
language is an easy and a grateful task! What wonder, then, that Corilla
acquitted herself so charmingly? The audience paid no attention to the
thoughts expressed; they asked not after the quintessence; they were
satisfied with the agreeable sound, without inquiring into the sense of
her words; it was their melody which was admired. They listened not
for the thought, but only for the rhyme, and with ecstatic smiles and
admiring glances they nodded to each other when, thanks to the studies
which Corilla had made in Tasso, Marino, and Ariosto, she seemed of
herself to find rhymes for the most difficult words.

An immense storm of applause resounded when she ended; and as if
awakening from an intoxicating ecstasy, Corilla glanced around with an
expression of astonishment on her features; she looked around as if she
knew not whence she came, and in what strange surroundings she now found
herself.

After a short pause, which Carlo filled out with his harp, she again put
her hand into the urn and drew out a new theme; again the inspiration
seemed to pass over her, and the holy Whitsuntide of her muse to be
renewed. Constantly more and more stormily resounded the plaudits of her
hearers; it was like a continued thunder of enthusiasm, a real salvo
of joy. It animated Corilla to new improvisations; she again and
again recurred to the urn, drawing forth new themes, and seemed to be
absolutely inexhaustible.

"It is now enough," whispered Carlo, just as she had drawn forth a new
theme. "You have but a quarter of an hour left!"

"Only this theme yet," she begged in a low tone. "It is a very
happy one, it will win for me the hearts of all these cardinals and
gentlemen!"

"Yet a quarter of an hour, and then your time is up," said he. "Remember
my oath, I shall keep my word!"

An inexplicable anxiety, a tormenting uneasiness, came over him; he had
hardly strength and recollection sufficient to enable him to accompany
Corilla, who was discussing in verse the question, "Which Rome was the
happiest, ancient or modern?"

Carlo's eyes, fixed and motionless, rested upon Natalie; it fearfully
alarmed him not to be near her, not to be able to watch every one of
her steps, every one of her motions; it seemed to him as if he saw that
savage man with his naked dagger lurking near her! And she, was she not
pale as a lily; seemed she not, in that white robe, to be already the
bride of death?

"I must hasten to her, I must protect her or die!" thought he, and, with
a threatening glance at Corilla, he showed her the hour. Corilla read in
the expression of his face that he was in earnest with his threat, and
as if her inspiration lent wings to her words, she spoke on as in a
storm of inward agitation, and with words of fire she decided that
modern Rome was the happiest, as she had the holy father of Christendom,
her pope, and his cardinals!

The applause, the general delight, was now unbounded; cardinals were to
be seen weeping with enthusiasm and joy; others with heartfelt emotion
were showering words of blessing upon the improvisatrice, and all
pressed toward the tribune in order to accompany her down the steps and
in among the company.

A sudden thought of rescue had like a flash of lightning arisen in
Carlo's soul.

"Natalie must first be completely separated from this society, and then
I will seek this man and render him incapable of mischief!" thought he.

By main strength he made himself a path through the crowd surrounding
Corilla, and now stood near Cardinal Bernis, at whose side still
remained Natalie and Count Paulo.

"You have struck the lyre like an Apollo," exclaimed the cardinal to the
singer.

Carlo bowed with a smile, and hastily said: "And are you ignorant,
your eminence, that a much greater poetess and improvisatrice than our
Corilla is in your society?"

The cardinal smilingly threatened him with his finger. "Poor Carlo, has
it already come to this?" said he. "You are jealous of our delight in
Corilla, and would lessen her fame, that you may make her more your
own!"

"I speak the truth," said Carlo; "a poetess is among us whom the
muses themselves have consecrated, an improvisatrice, not of human
composition, but by the grace of God, to whom the angels whisper the
rhymes, and the muses the ideas!"

"And who, then, is this divinely-gifted artist, this consecrated
daughter of the muses?" wonderingly asked the cardinal.

Carlo indicated Natalie, and bowed to the ground before her.

"Princess Tartaroff?" asked the cardinal, with astonishment.

"That she is a princess, I know not," said Carlo, "but I am quite
certain she is a poetess!"

What was it that at this moment stirred the soul of the young maiden?
She now felt a pride, a blessed joy, and yet she had previously felt so
sad at Corilla's triumph! It seemed as if enthusiasm raised its wings in
her, as if the word, the right word, pressed to her lips, as if she must
utter in song her rejoicings and lamentings for her simultaneously
felt pleasures and pains! A pure and genuine child of Nature, she felt
herself the natural impulse to pour out in words, tones, and even in
tears, what agitated her soul, and to which she was unable to give a
name.

Cardinal Bernis had first turned imploringly to Count Paulo, praying for
his permission to invite the young princess to surprise and delight
the company with some of her improvisations. Others, overhearing this,
mingled in the conversation, and added their requests to those of
the cardinal; and, the feeling becoming general, the requests for
an improvisation became universal and pressing; people, momentarily
forgetting the great and celebrated improvisatrice Corilla, with a
feverish curiosity turned to the new and unknown star. Corilla stood
almost alone--only Cardinal Albani remaining by her side; but his tender
words were not competent to appease the violent storm of jealousy that
raged in her soul.

The solicitations of the curious Romans became constantly more urgent,
and Count Paulo, unable longer to resist them, finally consented to
leave the decision to his ward, the young princess herself.

And Natalie? She was so real and ingenuous a child of Nature that she
felt no timidity in the presence of this crowd; she was so full of
faith and confidence, so full of trust and human love. She thought: "Why
should I not give a little pleasure to these good people who approach me
with such warm sympathies? And why should I tremble before them? Did not
Paulo tell me that I should feel as if I were in my garden, and it was
only my trees and flowers that were looking at me with human faces?
Well, then, I will so think and feel, and speak only to my dear trees
and flowers!"

Beckoning Carlo with a charming smile, guided by his hand, she hastily
ascended the steps. And as they saw her there upon the stage, this
delicate, lovely maiden--as they looked upon her spiritual maiden
beauty, with the childlike expression of her noble features, with eyes
that beamed with pleasure and inspiration--there arose such a storm of
applause that Natalie slightly trembled, and with a sweet smile she said
to Carlo: "The people here are much more boisterous than the zephyrs
in our garden, but they are not so melodious, and it almost saddens the
heart!"

Cardinal Bernis now approached with the silver vase. On this occasion he
had taken it upon himself to collect the themes, and with a respectful
bow he handed them to the princess. With a gracious smile she took one
of the papers and unfolded it. The subject was, "Longing for home."

That was a theme well calculated to inspire Natalie, and to reawaken
in her all her longings, sorrows, loves, and remembrances. She suddenly
felt something like a cold shudder in her heart, and glancing around
with a feeling of solitude and desertion, she saw nothing but curious
faces and strange, staring eyes! She, also, was repudiated and homeless,
and an excessive longing for the distant unknown home of her childhood
now took possession of her.

Perhaps Carlo had read her thoughts upon her brow; low and plaintive
melodies poured from his harp, as it were the rustling murmurs of
far-off remembrances, the sighing and sobbing of a yearning heart.
And Natalie, carried away by these tones, forgetful of all around her,
mindful only of the happiness of her childhood and of the lady she had
so dearly loved, began to sing.

Of what she said and what she sang she was unconscious. She stood there
as if elevated by inward inspiration; her eyes flashed as she stared
into the far distance, and the images she saw there caused her to smile
and weep at the same time; all the glow, all the childlike purity of her
soul, came in words from her lips in a stream of inspiration, of painful
ecstasy!

She saw nothing, heard nothing! She saw not the ladies weeping with
emotion, not the rapturous glances of the men; she had entirely
forgotten all those strange, unknown people; and when the constantly
increasing storm of applause finally reminded her of them, it was all
over with her inspiration--the words died upon her lips, and with a sad
smile she hastened to the conclusion.

And now arose a shout and an outbreak of rapture which caused Natalie to
tremble with anxious timidity. She cast a searching glance around her;
it seemed to her that Paulo must come to her relief, that he must rescue
and redeem her from the enthusiastic and flattering men who surrounded
her. She saw him not! Where was Paulo, where was Carlo? These
inquisitive lord cardinals had formed a circle around her, she seemed
to herself a prisoner; it alarmed her to thus find herself the central
point of all these attractions.

Not far from her stood Corilla, with glowing cheeks and anger-flashing
eyes.

"I will avenge this affront or die!" thought she, as, grasping Albani's
hand with convulsive violence, she whispered to him: "Free me from this
woman, and I will realize all your wishes."

Francesco Albani smiled. "Then you are mine, Corilla, and no power on
earth shall take you from me. That child is dead. See, see how she makes
herself a path through the crowd--ah, it is too sultry for her here in
the hall, she approaches the garden door, she slips out. Ah, give me
your hand, Corilla. Yet a few moments and the fairest woman on earth is
mine!"

Light as a gazelle, timid and trembling, Natalie had fled the crowd, and
now, stepping out into the garden, she breathed easier, it seeming to
her that she had escaped a danger.

"This night air will cool and refresh me, and I shall soon succeed in
finding Paulo," thought she, constantly wandering farther and farther
into the garden. But the brightness of the illuminated alleys annoyed
her. A more obscure and secluded path opening, Natalie entered it.
Ah, she needed solitude and stillness, and what knew she, this simple,
harmless child of Nature--what knew she whether it was proper and seemly
for a young woman thus alone to venture into these dark walks? She knew
not that she incurred any risk, or that one needed protection among
people!

Even farther resounded the noise of the festival--the clang of the music
sounded fainter and fainter. Natalie wandered farther and farther, happy
because alone!

Alone? What, then, was it that noiselessly and cautiously haunted her
steps, following every movement she made, constantly nearing her the
farther she found herself, as she supposed, from all other living
beings? What was it inaudibly creeping through the bushes, even its dark
shadow imperceptible, that followed her like a ghost?

It became stiller and stiller, and nearer crept the gloomy form that
lurked in her steps. Now with a sudden spring he rushes upon the maiden.
What gleams in his hand? It is a dagger. He swings it high, that he
may sink it deep. Then some one rushes from the bushes, seizes the
murderer's arm, wrests the dagger from his hand, hurls him to the earth,
and a dear, well-known voice cries: "Fly, Natalie, fly quickly to Count
Paulo! This serpent will no longer follow you! I have him fast, the
assassin!"

And Carlo broke out into a happy and triumphant laugh.

Natalie made no answer, she was paralyzed with terror; there was a
roaring in her ears, it darkened before her eyes, and she fell senseless
to the earth!

But her disarmed murderer sought to free himself from Carlo's grasp.
Struggling with his captor, he finally succeeded in half rising. Carlo
thought not of his own danger, but only of Natalie's, and it was only
on her account that he now loudly called for help, at the same time
exerting a superhuman strength to hold on upon his prisoner.

Voices were heard, lights approached, and Paulo's cry of anguish
resounded.

"Here, here!" anxiously cried Carlo, his strength already beginning to
fail him. And his call being recognized, people soon came with lights.
Count Paulo was already distinguishable, already Cardinal Bernis, with a
light in his hand, was hastening on in advance of the rest.

With a last powerful effort the prisoner succeeded in freeing himself.

"She is saved for this time, but my dagger will yet make her
acquaintance!" said he, with a scornful laugh, and like a serpent he
glided away among the bushes.

"She is saved!" cried Carlo, sinking back toward Count Paulo, and
pointing with a happy smile to Natalie, who, awaking from her momentary
stupefaction, stretched forth her arms toward the count.

"Paulo," she whispered low, "let us hasten from here! I dread these
people! I fear them! Let us go! But take him with us, that they may not
kill him, my saviour, my friend Carlo!"



THE DEPARTURE

The morning dawned. Count Paulo rose from the arm-chair in which he had
passed the night. He had occupied the whole fearfully anxious night in
writing; he now laid the pen aside and stood up.

His face had an expression of firmness and decision; he had formed a
firm resolution, had come to an irrevocable determination.

With a firm step advancing to the door opening into the adjoining
chamber, he called to his friend Cecil.

The latter immediately made his appearance, and, entering the count's
chamber, laconically said: "All is ready."

Count Paulo smiled sadly. "You are then sure there are no other means of
saving her and ourselves?" he asked.

"None whatever," said Cecil. "Every moment's delay increases her and
your danger. The occurrence of last night is a proof of it. They sought
the death of Natalie--without Carlo's help she would have been murdered,
and all our plans would have come to an end."

"Her life is threatened, and yet you can urge me to go and leave her
alone and unprotected?"

"Was it you who saved her from the danger of last night?" asked Cecil.
"Believe me, it is your presence that threatens her with the most
danger. Precisely because you are at her side, they suspect her and
watch her every step; the circumstance that she is with you creates
distrust, and in Natalie they will think they see her whose mysterious
flight has long been known in Russia. And Catharine will have her
tracked in all countries and upon all routes. Therefore, save Natalie,
by seeming to give her up. Return home and relate to them a fable of a
false princess by whom you had been deceived, and whom you abandoned as
soon as you discovered the deception. They will everywhere lend you
a believing ear, as people gladly believe what they wish, and by this
means only can you assure the future of Natalie and yourself."

"That is all just and true. I myself have so seen and recognized it,"
said the count; "and yet, my friend, I nevertheless still waver, and
it seems to me that an internal voice warns me against that which I am
about to do!"

Cecil smilingly shook his head. "Trust not such voices," said he; "it is
the whispering of demons who envelop themselves in our own wishes, who
entice us to what we would, by seeming to warn us against what we fear.
Nothing but your departure can give you safety. Leave Natalie here
in quiet solitude, and without you she will be well concealed in the
solitude of this garden, and you, in the mean time, will pursue your
affairs in Russia, and deceive the enemy, while you yourself seem to
be the deceived party. They threaten you with the confiscation of your
property, and they will fulfil those threats if you do not obey the
call of the government. Go, therefore, go! We will secretly sell your
property; and when this is accomplished, then, laden with treasure, let
us return to Natalie, no longer fearing their threats."

"And when all this is done," exclaimed Count Paulo, glowing, "it shall
be our task to conduct Natalie back in triumph to the country to which
she belongs, there to place the diadem upon her fair brows, and to raise
her above all other mortal beings!"

"God grant us the attainment of our ends!" sighed Cecil.

"We must and shall attain them!" responded Paulo, with enthusiasm. "I
must fulfil this great task of my life, or die! Away, now, with all
wavering or hesitation! What must be, shall be! They shall not say of
the man who took compassion upon the deserted and threatened orphan and
raised her for his own egotistical wishes, and pusillanimously failed to
finish the work he began! No, no, history shall not so speak of me. It
shall at least represent me as a brave man capable of sacrificing his
heart and his life for the attainment of his higher ends! Seal these
letters, Cecil. They contain my last will, and my bequest to Natalie,
which I wish to place in her own hands. Ah, Cecil, I have been an
enthusiastic fool until this hour! I thought--alas, what did I not think
and dream!--I thought that all these plans and objects were not worth
so much as one sole smile of her lips and that if she would say to me
'I love thee,' this sweet word would not be too dearly purchased with an
imperial crown. Perhaps, ah, perhaps, I think so yet, but I will never
more suffer myself to be swayed by such thoughts. We must go--Natalie's
happiness demands it. And besides, she will not lack friends and
protectors. It was not without an object that I last evening presented
her to the most notable people of Rome; not without an object that I
consented to her allowing herself as a poetess. They now know her name,
which is repeated with highest praise in every quarter of the city; all
Rome is to-day enthusiastic in her praise, and all Rome will protect
and defend her. Add to which, I shall yet recommend her to the special
protection of Cardinal Bernis!"

"And it was exactly in his house where she was almost murdered!" said
Cecil. "Without that singer, Carlo, she would have been forever lost!
If, then, you would choose a protector for her, let it be Carlo."

Count Paulo's brow darkened. "This singer loves her!" said he.

"Precisely for that reason," smilingly responded Cecil. "One who loves
will best know how to protect her."

Count Paulo made no answer; he continued thoughtfully walking back and
forth. Then he said with decision: "Seal these letters, Cecil. I will
take them to Natalie myself."

"You will, then, see her again?" asked Cecil while folding the letters.
"You will render the parting more painful!"

"I will it!" said Paulo, with decision, and, taking the letters, he left
the room with a firm and resolute step.

He found Natalie in her room. She did not hear him coming, and thus did
not turn to receive him. She was sitting motionless at the window and
dejectedly looking out into the garden, her head supported by her hand.

The events of the previous evening had made a great change in her. She
now felt older, more experienced, more earnest. A dark shadow had passed
over her sun-bright happiness, a dark power had threateningly approached
her; the seriousness of life had been suddenly unfolded to her and
had brushed off the ether-dust of harmless and joyful peace from her
childish soul. The happy child had become a conscious maiden, and new
thoughts, new feelings had sprung up within her. The first tears of
sorrow had, with a mighty creative power, called all these slumbering
blossoms of her heart into existence and activity, and her unconscious
feelings had become conscious thoughts.

But what had not happened, what had she not experienced and felt since
last evening? First, had not a new happiness broken in upon her, had
she not now a name, was she not a princess? Then, had she not achieved a
triumph--a triumph in the presence of Corilla? But then, also, how many
_desillusions_ had she not experienced in a few hours? How had her heart
been cooled by the rich flow of words in Corilla's poesy! Her whole soul
had languished for the acquaintance of a poetess, and she had heard only
a rhymed work of art. And then the last terrible event! Why had they
wished to murder her? Who were her unknown enemies, and why had she
enemies?

"I should have been dead had he not rescued me!" murmured she, and her
lovely face was illuminated by a sunny smile. "Yes, without Carlo I
should have been lost--I have to thank him for my life! Oh," said she
then aloud, "to him therefore belongs my existence, and for every joy I
am yet capable of feeling I am indebted to him, my friend Carlo! Ah, how
shall I ever be able to reward him for all this happiness?"

And while she was thus speaking, Count Paulo, pale and silent, stood
behind her; she saw him not, and after a pause she continued: "How
strange it is! To-day, when I think of him, my heart beats as never
before, and I feel in it something like heavenly bliss, and yet at
the same time like profound sorrow. Ah, what can it be, and why do I,
to-day, think only of him? I could weep because he does not yet come!
How strange it all is, and at the same time how sad! Seems it not that
I love Carlo more than any one else, more even than Paulo, who
formerly was the dearest to me? How is it now, and am I, then, truly so
ungrateful to Paulo?"

Count Paulo still stood behind her, pale and silent. A painfully ironic
smile flitted over his face, and he thought: "I came to ask a question,
and Natalie has already given me the answer before I had time to ask it.
Perhaps it is better thus. I have now nothing to ask!"

The young maiden became more and more deeply absorbed in her thoughts.
Count Paulo laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder. She was startled,
and involuntarily cried, "Carlo!"

"No, Paulo!" said he, with a melancholy smile, "but at all events a
friend, Natalie, though a friend who is about to leave you!"

"You leave me?" she anxiously exclaimed.

"That means only outwardly, only with my body, never with my soul," said
he, deeply moved. "That, Natalie, will remain with you eternally, that
will never leave you--do you hear, never! Always remember this, my
charming child, my sweet blossom! Never entertain a doubt of me; and if
my voice does not reach you, if you receive no news of me, then think
not, 'Paulo has abandoned me!' no; then think only, 'Paulo is dead, but
my name was the last to linger upon his lips, and his last sigh was for
me!'"

"You desert me?" said she, wringing her hands. "What am I, what shall I
do, without you? You have been my protector and my reliance, my teacher
and my friend! Alas, you were all to me, and I have ever looked up to
you as my lord and father."

Count Paulo sadly smiled. "Love me always as your father," said he;
"while I live you shall never be an orphan, that I swear to you!"

"And must you go," cried she, clinging to him; "well, then let me
go with you! You will be my father--well, I demand my right as your
daughter; to accompany her father is a daughter's right."

"No," he firmly said, "you must remain while I go; but I go for you, to
assure your future power and splendor. Remember this, Princess Natalie,
forget it not; and when one day they brand me as a traitor, then say:
'No, he was no traitor, for he loved me!' And now hear what I have yet
to say," continued the count, after a pause, while the still
weeping Natalie looked up to him through her tears. "But look at
me, Natalie--no, not that sad glance, I cannot bear it! Leave me my
self-possession and my courage, for I need them! Weep not!"

And Natalie, drying her eyes with her long locks, sought to smile.

"I no longer weep," said she, "I listen to you."

Paulo placed two sealed letters in her hand.

"Swear to me," said he, "to hold these letters sacred as your most
precious possession."

"I swear it!" said she.

"Swear to me to discover them to no human eye, to betray their
possession to no human ear! Swear it to me by the memory of your mother,
who now looks down from heaven upon you and receives your oath!"

"Then she is dead?" said the young maiden, sadly drooping her head upon
her breast.

"You have not yet sworn!" said he.

The young maiden raised her head, and, turning her eyes toward heaven as
if in the hope of encountering the tender maternal glance, she solemnly
said: "By the sacred memory of my mother I swear to discover these
papers to no human eye, to betray their existence to no human ear, but
to hold them sacred as my most precious and mysterious treasure!"

"Swear, further," said Count Paulo, "that whenever a danger may threaten
you, you will sooner forget all other things than these papers, that
they should be the first which you will endeavor to save. Yes, swear to
me that you will ever bear them upon your heart and never permit them to
be separated from you!"

"I swear it!" said Natalie. "I will defend the possession of these
papers, if necessary, with my life!"

"And thereby will you defend your honor," said Paulo, "for your honor
rests in these papers. Yet ask me not what they contain. You must not
yet know; there is danger in knowing their contents! But when a whole
year has passed without my return or your hearing from me, and if in
this whole year no messenger comes to you from me, then, Natalie, then
open these letters; you will then possess my testament, and you will
consider it a sacred duty to execute it!"

Natalie, sobbing, said: "Ah, why did not that dagger pierce my heart
yesterday? I should then have died while I was yet happy?"

"You will yet do so!" said Count Paulo, with a slight tincture of
bitterness; "Carlo and your future yet remain to you!"

She looked at him with a clear, bright glance, but without answering.
She had again become an enigma to herself. Now, when her friend, when
Paulo, was about to leave her, it seemed to her she had done wrong to
love another, even for a moment, better than him, her benefactor and
protector; indeed, as if she in fact loved no one so well as him, as
if she could resign and leave all others to insure Paulo's permanent
presence!

But she was suddenly startled, and a glowing flush overspread her
cheeks. She had, quite accidentally, glanced through the window into
the garden, and had there discovered Carlo, as with slow and hesitating
steps he descended the alley leading to the villa.

Count Paulo had followed her glance, and, as he now observed the singer,
he said: "He shall henceforth be your protector! Promise me to love him
as a brother. Will you?"

He looked at her with a fixed and searching gaze, and she cast not down
her eyes before that penetrating and interrogating glance, but met it
directly with clear and innocent eyes.

"Yes, I will love him as a brother!" she said.

"One more thing, and then let us part!" said Paulo. "Marianne is honest
and true--let her never leave you. I have amply provided her with funds
for the necessary expenses for the next six months, and I hope long
before the expiration of that time to send a further supply. If I do
not, then conclude that I am dead, for only with my life can I be robbed
of the sweet duty of caring for you! And now let me go to Carlo!"

Slightly nodding to her, he hastily left the room.

At that moment Carlo mounted the steps leading to the door of the villa.
Paulo met him with a hearty greeting.

"Let us go down into the garden," said he, "I have many things to say to
you."

The two men remained a long time in the garden. Natalie, standing at the
window, occasionally saw them, arm in arm, at some turning of the walks,
and then they would again disappear as they pursued their way in earnest
conversation. Strange thoughts flitted through the soul of the young
maiden, and when she saw the two thus wandering, arm in arm, she
thoughtfully asked herself: "Which is it, then, that I most love? Is it
Carlo, is it Paulo?"

"I now understand you perfectly," said Count Paulo, as they again
approached the house after a long and earnest conversation. "Yes, it
seems to me I know you as myself, and know I can confide in you. You
have perfectly tranquillized me, and I thank you for your confidence.
It was then Corilla, that vain improvisatrice, who would have destroyed
her? That is consoling, and I can now depart with a lighter heart.
Against such attacks you will be able to protect her."

"I will protect her against every attack," responded Carlo. "You have my
oath that the secret you have confided to me shall be held sacred, and
you have thereby secured her from every outbreak of my passion. She
stands so high above me that I can only adore her as my saint, can love
her only as one loves the unattainable stars!"



AN HONEST BETRAYER

At about the same time Cecil was hastening through the streets of Rome,
often looking back to see if any one was following him, and viewing with
suspicious eyes every one he met. He finally stopped before the backdoor
of a palace, and, after having satisfied himself that he had not been
followed, he lightly knocked three times at the door. Upon its being
opened, a grim, bearded Russian face presented itself.

Cecil drew a ring from his bosom and showed it to the porter.

"Quick! conduct me to his excellency," said he.

The Russian nodded his recognition of the token, and beckoned Cecil to
follow him. After a short reflection, Cecil entered and the door was
closed.

Guided by his conductor through a labyrinth of rooms and corridors,
Cecil finally succeeded in reaching a little boudoir, whose
heavily-curtained windows hardly admitted a ray of dim twilight.

The conductor, bidding Cecil to wait here, left him alone.

In a few moments a concealed door was opened, and a man of a tall, proud
form entered.

"At length!" he said, on perceiving Cecil. "I had begun to doubt your
coming."

"I waited until I could bring you decisive intelligence, your
excellency," said Cecil.

"And you bring it today?" quickly asked the unknown.

"In an hour we leave Rome for St. Petersburg!"

Uttering a loud cry of joy, the stranger walked the room in visible
commotion. Cecil followed him with timid, anxious glances, and, as he
still kept silence, Cecil said:

"Your excellency, I have truly performed what you required of me. I have
persuaded the count to make the journey, notwithstanding his opposition
to it, and, as you commanded, his ward remains behind in Rome, alone and
unprotected."

"Ah, you praise your acts because you desire your reward," said his
excellency, contemptuously opening his writing-desk, and drawing forth a
well-filled purse. "You there have your pay, good man!"

Cecil indignantly rejected the money. "I am no Judas, who betrays his
master for money," said he. "Please remember, your excellency, for what
I promised to fulfil your excellency's commands, and what reward you
promised me!"

"Ah, I now remember! You required my promise that no harm should befall
the count!"

"Only on that condition did I promise my assistance," said Cecil. "When
your emissary sought me and called me to you, I only followed him, as
you well know, most noble count, because you gave me to understand that
my master's life and safety were concerned. I came to you. Allow me,
your excellency to repeat your own words. You said: 'Cecil, you have
been represented to me as a true friend of your master. Fidelity is so
rare a virtue, that it deserves reward. I will reward you by saving your
life. Quickly leave this traitorous count, and break off all connection
with him, else you are lost. I am secretly sent here in order to capture
the count and his criminal ward, and take them to St. Petersburg. What
there awaits the count may easily be imagined.' Thus speaking, your
excellency then showed me the command for the count's arrest, signed
by the empress. Upon which I asked: 'Is there no means of saving
the count?' 'There is one,' said you. 'Persuade the count to return
immediately to St. Petersburg, leaving his ward behind him here, and
I swear to you, in the name of the empress, that no harm shall come to
him.'"

"Well," impatiently cried the count, "what is the use of repeating all
that, as I know it already?"

"Only because your excellency seems to forget that what I did was not
done for your miserable gold, but for a totally different reward--the
safety of a man whom I love as my own son."

"You have my word--no harm shall come to him."

"I doubt not your excellency's word," firmly and decidedly responded
Cecil, "your word is all-powerful, and when you let your commanding
voice be heard, all Russia trembles and bows before you. But here your
voice resounds only between these walls, and nobody hears it but I
alone. Give me an evidence of your word--a safety-pass, signed by your
own hand, for my master, and then destroy the order for his arrest which
you now hold!"

"Ah, it seems you would prescribe conditions?" said the count, proudly.

"Certainly I will," said Cecil. "I have complied with your conditions,
and now it is your turn, Sir Count, to comply with mine, for you knew
them before!"

A dark glow of anger showed itself in the count's face, and,
passionately starting up, he approached Cecil, raising his arm
threateningly against him.

"Sir Count," said Cecil, stepping back, "you mistake! I am no Russian
serf, I am a free man, and no one has a right so to threaten me!"

The count had already let his arm fall, seeming suddenly to have changed
his mind, and in a more friendly manner he said:

"You are right, Cecil, and what you desire shall be done."

Taking a large sealed paper from a drawer in his writing-desk, he handed
it to Cecil.

"That is the order for the arrest; destroy it yourself!" said he.

Taking the paper, Cecil read it with attention. "It is, as you say, the
order for the arrest. It is destroyed!"

With a satisfied smile, he tore the paper into a thousand pieces, and
placed these in his bosom.

The count had stepped to the table and hastily written a few lines upon
another piece of paper. This he handed to Cecil. "I hope you are now
satisfied," said he.

Cecil took the paper and read it.

"This is a safety-pass in due form," said he--"a valid instruction to
all boundary guards and officials to let us pass without molestation.
Your excellency, we are quits. I complied with your wish, as you now
have with mine, and my dear master is saved!"

"It being understood that you start immediately," said the count.

"The post-horses are already ordered, and we shall set out as soon as I
return home. Farewell, therefore, Sir Count; I thank you for enabling me
to save the man whom I most loved. I thank you!"

Cecil was approaching the door, when he suddenly stopped, and his face
took a sad expression. "I have deceived my dear master, in order to save
him," said he, "and in order to redeem the promise I made to his father
on his death-bed, swearing that I would watch over and protect the son
at the risk of my heart's blood. But if the son knew what I have done,
he would call me a betrayer and curse me, for he holds his ward dearer
than his own life! He leaves the princess in the belief that it
is necessary for her safety, and repairs to Russia, to return with
increased wealth. Sir Count, what is to become of Natalie?"

"That," low and mysteriously replied the count, "that can be decided
only by the will of her who has sent me. Until that decision no hair of
her head can be touched, and the princess will follow me to Russia, only
with her own free will! But you must know that the empress hates no one
more than her own son. How, then, if she should be disposed to pass him
over, and select another as her successor?"

"Oh, would to God that I rightly understand you!" exclaimed Cecil.

"We shall, one day, perfectly understand each other," said the count,
with a significant smile. "Now, hasten to redeem your word, and leave
Rome with your master!"

As soon as Cecil left the room, the count's face assumed a knavishly
malicious expression. With a loud laugh he threw himself upon the silken
divan.

"Thus are all these so-called good men real blockheads, stupid fools,
who believe every word spoken to them with a friendly mien! This honest
man really believes that his highly-prized master is now saved, because
he bears in his bosom the fragments of the order for his arrest. Worthy
dunce; as if there were no duplicate, and as if every promise were
countersigned by the Divinity himself! Go home with your count--my word
shall be fulfilled. No hair of his head shall be touched, but his proud
back shall be curled, and in the mines of Siberia he may learn to bow
before a higher power!"

Thus speaking, the count pulled a bell whose silken cord hung over the
divan, and, as no one instantly appeared, he pulled it again, this time
more violently. But yet some minutes passed, and still the bell was
unanswered. The count gnashed his teeth with rage, and muttered vehement
curses.

At length the door opened, and with an imploring face a servant appeared
upon the threshold.

"Miserable hound, where were you?" cried the count to him.

The servant fell upon his knees and crept like a dog to his master's
feet.

"Excellency, we had, as your grace commanded, so long as the gentleman
was with you, withdrawn from the anteroom and waited in the corridor,
where the bell could not be heard," stammered the servant.

"I will teach you wretches to keep me waiting," exclaimed the count, and
seizing the knout that lay upon the table before him, he laid it with
merciless rage upon the poor servant, until his own arm sank powerless,
and he felt himself exhausted with fatigue.

"Now, go, you hound!" said he, replacing the knout upon the table; and
the flagellated serf, rising respectfully, with his hand wiped away the
blood which ran in streams from his wounds.

"Now go and send my officers to me!" cried the count. The servant
staggered out to obey the command, and soon the persons thus ordered
made their appearance and remained standing in silence at the door.

The count lay stretched out upon the divan, playing with the knout,
whose leathern thongs were still dripping with his servant's blood.

"Let a courier take horse immediately, and give him the order
countersigned by her imperial majesty for the arrest of Count Paulo
Rasczinsky. The courier will follow him with it to the Russian frontier,
and then by virtue of this order arrest him at the next station and send
him to St. Petersburg in chains! This is the command for the courier; he
will answer with his head for its execution!"

One of the officers bowed, and went to dispatch the courier.

"Is our reconnoitrer returned?" asked the count of the two who remained.

"He is."

"What news brings he? Does he know the cause of the murderous attack
at the festival of the French cardinal? Yet why do I ask you? Make
yourselves scarce, and let him come to speak for himself!"

The officers were no sooner gone, than a wild-looking, bearded churl
made his appearance upon the threshold of the door and greeted the count
with a grinning laugh.

"What know you of the murderous attack?" asked the count, in Italian.

"A friend of mine was charged with the affair," said the bravo. "He is
in the pay of the most holy Cardinal Albani. We served long together
under the same chief, and I know him intimately. He carries the most
skilful dagger in all Rome, and it is the greatest wonder that he missed
on this occasion."

"Was it done by order of the cardinal?"

"No! The lord cardinal had lent this bravo to the celebrated
improvisatrice Corilla--the order came from her."

"It is well!" said the count. "Do you know all the _bravi_ in Rome?"

"All, your excellency. They are all my good friends."

"Well, now listen to what I have to say to you. You must hold the life
of the Princess Tartaroff as sacred as your own! Know that she is no
moment unwatched; that wherever she appears she is surrounded by secret
protectors. Whoever touches her is lost--my arm will reach him! Say that
to your friends, and tell them that the Russian count keeps his word.
Four thousand sequins are yours in four weeks, if until then the
princess meets with no accident. Away with you, and forget not my
words!"

"Ah, these words, your excellency, are worth four thousand sequins, and
these one does not so easily forget!" said the bandit, leaving the room.

Again the count rang, and ordered his private secretary, Stephano, to be
called.

"Stephano," said the count to him, "the first step is taken toward the
accomplishment of our object. The work must succeed; I have pledged
my word for it to the empress, and who can say that Alexis Orloff ever
failed to redeem his word? This princess is mine! Count Paulo Rasczinsky
is just now leaving Rome, and she has no one to protect her!"

"But it is not yet to be said that she is already yours!" said Stephano,
shrugging his shoulders. "As you will not employ force, your excellency,
you must have recourse to stratagem. I have hit upon a plan, of which I
think you will approve. They describe this so-called little princess
as exceedingly innocent and confiding. Let us take advantage of her
confiding innocence--that will be best! Now hear my plan."

Stephano inclined himself closer to the ear of the count, and whispered
long and earnestly; it seemed as if he feared that even the walls might
listen to him and betray his plans; he whispered so low that even the
count had some trouble in understanding him.

"You are right," said the count, when Stephano had ended; "your plan
must and will succeed. First of all, we must find some one who will
incline her in our favor, and render her confiding."

"Oh, for that we have our good Russian gold," said Stephano, laughing.

"And besides," continued the count, "our incognito is at an end. All
Rome may now learn that I am here! Ah, Stephano, what a happy time
awaits me! This Natalie is beautiful as an angel!"

"God grant that you may not fall in love with her!" sighed Stephano.
"You are always very generous when you are in love."



ALEXIS ORLOFF

Two things principally occupied the Romans during the next weeks and
months, offering them rich material for conversation. In talking of
these they had forgotten all other events; they spoke no more of the
giant fish which had destroyed the friendship of France and Spain; they
no longer entertained each other with anecdotes in connection with the
festival of Cardinal Bernis, at which the _entree_ of that fish upon his
long silver platter was hailed with shouts and _vivats_--yes, even that
Russian princess, who had momentarily shown herself on the horizon of
society, all these were quickly forgotten, and people now interested
themselves only about the extirpation of the order of the Jesuits, which
Pope Clement had now really effected, and of the arrival of the Russian
ambassador-extraordinary, the famous Alexis Orloff, whose visit to Rome
seemed the more important and significant as they well knew in what near
and confidential relations his brother, Count Gregory Orloff, stood with
the Empress Catharine, and what participation Alexis Orloff had in the
sudden death of the Emperor Peter III.

The order of the Jesuits, then, no longer existed; the pious fathers of
the order of Jesus were stricken out of the book of history; a word of
power had annihilated them! With loud complaints and lamentations they
filled the streets of the holy city, and if the prayer of humility and
resignation resounded from their lips, yet there were very different
prayers in their hearts, prayers of anger and rage, of hatred and
revenge! They were seen wringing their hands and loudly lamenting, as
they hastened to their friends and protectors, and besieged the doors of
the foreign embassies. With them wept the poor and suffering people to
whom the pious fathers had proved themselves benefactors. For, since
they knew that their existence was threatened, they had assiduously
devoted themselves to works of charity and mercy, and to strengthening,
especially in Rome, their reputation for piety, benevolence, and
generosity. Prodigious sums were by them distributed among the poor;
more than five hundred respectable impoverished Romans, who had been
accused of political offences, were secretly supported by them. In this
way the Jesuits, against whom the cry of denunciation had been raised
for years in all Europe, had nevertheless succeeded, at least in the
holy city, in gaining for themselves a very considerable party, and
thus securing protection and support in the time of misfortune and
persecution. But while the people wept with them, and many cardinals and
princes of the Church secretly pitied them, the ambassadors of the great
European powers alone remained insensible to their lamentations. No one
of them opened the doors of their palaces to them, no one afforded
them protection or consolation; and although it was known that cardinal
Bernis, in spite of the horror which had for years been felt of this
order in France, was personally favorable to them, and had long delayed
the consent of the court of France to their abolition, yet even Bernis
now avoided any manifestation of kindness for them, lest his former
friend, the Spanish ambassador, might think he so far humiliated himself
as to favor the Jesuits for the sake of recovering the friendship and
good opinion of the Duke of Grimaldi. But Grimaldi himself now no longer
dared to protect the Jesuits, however friendly he might be to them,
and however much they were favored by Elizabeth Farnese, the Spanish
queen-mother. King Charles, her son, had finally ventured to defy her
authority, and in an autograph letter had commanded the Duke of Grimaldi
to receive no more Jesuits in his palace. And while, as we have said,
the whole diplomacy had declared against the order of the holy fathers
of Jesus, it must have been the more striking that this Russian
Count Orloff had compassion upon them, and lent a willing ear to the
complaints of the unfortunate members of the order.

This Russian count gave the good Romans much material for reflection and
head-shaking; the women were occupied with his herculean beauty, and
the men with his wild, daring, and reckless conduct. They called him a
barbarian, a Russian bear, but could not help being interested in him,
and eagerly repeating the little anecdotes freely circulated respecting
him.

They smilingly told that he had been the first who had had the courage
to defy the powerful republic of Venice, which, for recruiting sailors
for his fleet in their territories for the war against the Turks, wished
to banish him from proud and beautiful Venice. But Alexis Orloff had
laughed at the senate of the republic when they sent him the order to
leave. He had ordered the two hundred soldiers, who formed his retinue,
to arm themselves, and, if necessary, to repel force with force; but to
the senate he had answered that he would leave the city as soon as he
pleased, not before! But, as it seemed that he was not pleased to leave
the city, he remained there, and now the angry and indignant senate
sent him the peremptory command to leave Venice with his soldiers in
twenty-four hours. A deputation of the senate came in solemn procession
to communicate to the Russian count this command of the Council of
Three. Alexis Orloff received them, lying upon his divan, and to their
solemn address he laughingly answered: "I receive commands from no one
but my empress! It remains as before, that I shall go when I please, and
not earlier!"

The senators departed with bitter murmurs and severe threats. Count
Alexis Orloff remained, and the cowardly senate, trembling with fear
of this young Russian empire, had silently pocketed the humiliation of
seeing this over-bearing Russian within their walls for several weeks
longer. This evidence of the haughty insolence of Count Orloff was
related among the Romans with undisguised pleasure, and they thanked
him for having thus humiliated and insulted the proud and imperious
republic. But they suspiciously shook their heads when they learned that
he seemed disposed to display his pride and arrogance in Rome! They
told of a _soiree_ of the Marchesa di Paduli which Alexis Orloff had
attended. As they there begged of him to give some proof of the very
superior strength which had acquired for him the name of "the Russian
Hercules," he had taken one of the hardest apples from a silver plateau
that stood upon the table and playfully crushed it with two fingers of
his left hand. But a fragment of this hard apple had hit the eye of the
Duke of Gloucester, who was standing near, and seriously injured it. The
sympathies of the whole company were excited for the English prince, and
he was immediately surrounded by a pitying and lamenting crowd. Count
Orloff alone had nothing to say to him, and not the slightest excuse to
make. He smilingly rocked himself upon his chair, and hummed a Russian
popular song in praise of his empress.

And was it not also an insult for Alexis Orloff now to show himself a
friend to the Jesuits, whom the decree of God's vicegerent had outlawed
and proscribed? Was it not an insult that he loudly and publicly
promised to these persecuted Jesuits a kind reception and efficient
protection in Russia, and invited them to found new communities and new
cloisters there?

But Alexis Orloff cared little for the dissatisfaction of the Romans,
He said to his confidant Stephano: "There is no greater pleasure than to
set at defiance all the world, and to oppose all these things which the
stupid people would impose upon us as laws. The friend and favorite of
the Empress Catharine has no occasion for complying with such miserable
laws; wherever I set my foot, there the earth belongs to me, and I will
forcibly maintain my pretensions whenever they are disputed! In Russia
I am the serf of the empress, in revenge for which I will, at least
abroad, treat all the world as my serfs. This gives me pleasure, and
wherefore is the world here but to be enjoyed?"

"A little also for labor," said Stephano, with a sly smile.

"For that I have my slaves, for that I have also you!" responded Orloff,
laughing. "There is only one labor for me here in Rome, and that is to
create as much disturbance as possible in the city; to set the people
at odds with the government, so that they may have their hands full, and
find no time for observing our nice game with our little princess, or
to interfere with it. We must have freedom of action, that is the most
important. Hence we must protect these pious Jesuits, and offer support
to the enemies of this too-enterprising pope, by which means we shall
ultimately attain our own ends, and that is enough for us!"

"We have not yet advanced a step with our Princess Natalie," said
Stephano, shrugging his shoulders; "that, it seems, is an impregnable
fortress!"

"It must, however, yield to us," laughingly responded Alexis Orloff,
"and she shall yet acknowledge us as conquerors. We are undermining,
Stephano, and when the building crushes her in its crashing fall, will
she first discover that she has long been in danger. And what said
you--that we have not yet advanced a step? And yet Rasczinsky is gone,
and we have known how to keep Cardinal Bernis, who would have interested
himself for the little one, so very much occupied with the affair of the
Jesuits, that he has yet had no time to think of the princess. Ah, these
Jesuits are very useful people. We strew them like snuff in the faces of
these diplomatists, and, while they are yet rubbing their weak eyes and
crying out with pain, we shall quietly draw our little fish into our
net, and take her home without opposition!"

"And if the fish will not go into the net?"

"It must go in!" impatiently cried Orloff. "Bah! have I at the right
time succeeded in towing our emperor, God bless him! into eternity, and
shall I doubt in the fulness of time of enclosing this beautiful child
in my arms! Look at me, Stephano--what is wanting for it in me? Are not
all these beautiful women of Rome enraptured with the Russian Hercules?
How, then, can it be that a woman of my own country can withstand me?
The preliminaries are the main thing, and if we only had some one to
prepare her for my appearance, all would then go well. And such a one we
will find, thanks to our rubles! But enough of politics for the present,
Stephano. Call my valet. It is time for my toilet, and that is a very
important affair."



CORILLA

Corilla was alone. Uneasy, full of stormy thoughts, she impetuously
walked back and forth, occasionally uttering single passionate
exclamations, then again thoughtfully staring at vacancy before her. She
was a full-blooded, warm Italian woman, that will neither love nor hate
with the whole soul, and nourishes both feelings in her bosom with equal
strength and with equal warmth. But, in her, hatred exhaled as quickly
as love; it was to her only the champagne-foam of life, which she sipped
for the purpose of a slight intoxication--as in her intoxication only
did she feel herself a poetess, and in a condition for improvisation.

"I must at any rate be in love," said she, "else I should lose my poetic
fame. With cool blood and a tranquil mind there is no improvising and
poetizing. With me all must be stirring and flaming, every nerve of my
being must glow and tremble, the blood must flash like fire through my
veins, and the most glowing wishes and ardent longings, be it love or
be it hate, must be stirring within me in order to poetize successfully.
And this cannot be comprehended by delicate and discreet people; this
low Roman populace even venture to call me a coquette, only because I
constantly need a new glow, and because I constantly seek new emotions
and new inspirations for my muse."

Love, then, for the improvisatrice Corilla, was nothing more than a
strong wine with which she refreshed and strengthened her fatigued
poetic powers for renewed exertions; it was in a manner the tow which
she threw upon the expiring fire of her fantasy, to make it flash up in
clear and bright flames.

It was only in this way that she loved Carlo, and wept for him, except
that in this case her love had been of a longer duration, because it
was _he_ who gave up and left _her_! That was what made her hatred so
glowing, that was what made her seek the life of the woman for whom
Carlo had deserted her.

"This is a new situation," said she, "which I am called to live through
and to feel. But a poetess must have experienced all feelings, or
she could not describe them. For my part, I do not believe in the
revelations of genius--I believe only in experiences. One can describe
only what one has felt and experienced. Whoever may attempt to describe
the flavor of an orange, must first have tasted it!"

That this attempt to murder Natalie had failed, was to her a matter of
little moment. She had experienced the emotion of it, and just the
same would it have been a matter of indifference to her had the dagger
pierced Natalie's breast--she was sufficiently a child of the South to
consider a murder as only a venial sin, for which the priest could grant
absolution.

There was only one thing which exclusively occupied Corilla, following
and tormenting her day and night, and that was her poetic fame. She
desired that her name should stand high in the world, glorified by all
Europe, and for this purpose she desired above all things to be crowned
as a poetess in the capitol of the holy city; for this fame she would
willingly have given many years of her life.

That was the aim of all her efforts, and how much would she not have
borne, ventured, and suffered for its attainment! How many intrigues
were planned, how much cunning and dissimulation, flattery, and
hypocrisy, had been employed for that purpose, and all, all as yet in
vain!

Therefore it was that Corilla now wept, and with occasional outbreaks of
passionate exclamations violently paced her room. Her cheeks glowed, her
eyes flashed--she was very beautiful in this state of excitement.
That she must have acknowledged to herself as her glance accidentally
encountered her own face in the glass.

With a smile of satisfaction she remained standing before the mirror,
and almost angrily she said:

"Ah, why am I now alone, why does no one see me in my beautiful glow? My
face might now produce some effect, and gain me friends! Why, then, am I
now alone?"

But it seems that Corilla had only to express a wish in order to see
it suddenly fulfilled; for the door was at that moment opened, and a
servant announced Count Alexis Orloff.

Corilla smiled with delight, and let that smile remain upon her lips,
as she very well knew it was becoming to her, and that she had conquered
many hearts with it; but secretly her heart throbbed with fear, and
timidly she asked herself, "What can that Russian count want of me?"

But with a cheerful face she advanced to receive him; she seemed not to
remark that a dark cloud lay upon his brow, and that his features bore
an almost threatening expression.

"He is a barbarian," thought she, "and barbarians must be treated
differently from other men. I must flatter this lion, in order to fetter
him!"

"It is a serious matter that brings me to you, signora," said Alexis,
gloomily.

"A serious matter?" she cheerfully asked. "Ah, then I pity you, count.
It is difficult to speak with me of serious matters!"

"You rather do them!" said Alexis, carelessly throwing himself upon a
divan. "You would not play with such serious things as, for instance,
a dagger, and therefore you hurl it from you, altogether indifferent
whether you thereby quite accidentally pierce the heart of another."

"I do not understand you, count," said Corilla, without embarrassment,
but at the same time she looked at him with such a charming and enticing
expression, that Alexis involuntarily smiled.

"I will make myself intelligible to you," said he, in a milder tone.
"You must understand, that I know you, Corilla. That assassin who
followed the Princess Tartaroff at the festival of Cardinal Bernis, was
employed by you, Signora Maddalena Morelli Fernandez, called Corilla!"

"And what if it were true, Signor Alexis Orloff, called the handsome
Northern Hercules?" asked she, roguishly imitating his grave
seriousness. "If it were really true, what further?"

Alexis looked in her face with an expression of astonishment. "You are
wonderfully bold!" said he.

"None but slaves are without courage!" responded she. "Freedom is the
mother of boldness!"

"You do not, then, deny the hiring of that bravo?"

"I only deny your right to inquire," said she.

"I have a right to it," he responded with vehemence. "This Princess
Tartaroff is a subject of the Empress of Russia, my mistress, who
watches over and protects all her subjects with maternal tenderness."

"That good, tender empress!" exclaimed Corilla, with an ambiguous
smile. "But in order properly to watch and preserve all her children and
subjects, she should keep them in her own country. Take this Princess
Tartaroff with you to Russia, and then she will be safe from our Italian
daggers. Take her with you; that will be the best way!"

"You, then, very heartily hate this poor little princess?" asked Alexis,
laughing.

"Yes," said she, after a short reflection, "I hate her. And would you
know why, signor? Not for her beauty, not for her youth, but for her
talents! And she has great talents! Ah, there was a time when I hated
her, although I knew her not. But now, now it is different. I now not
only hate, but fear her! For she can rival me, not only in love, but in
fame! Ah, you should have seen her on that evening! She was like a swan
to look at, and her song was like the dying strains of the swan. And
all shouted applause, and all the women wept; indeed, I myself wept,
not from emotion, but with rage, with bitterness, for they had
forgotten me--forgotten, for this new poetess; they overwhelmed her with
flatteries, leaving me alone and unnoticed! And yet you ask me if I hate
her!"

Quite involuntarily had she suffered herself to be carried away by
her own vehemence, her inward glowing rage. With secret pleasure Count
Orloff read in her features that this was no comedy which she thus
improvised, but was truth and reality.

"If you so think and feel," said he, "then we may soon understand
each other, signora. A real hatred is of as much value as a real love;
indeed, often of much greater. One can more safely confide in hatred,
as it is more enduring. I will therefore confide in you, signora, if you
will swear to me to betray no word of what I shall tell you."

"I swear it!" was Corilla's response.

"Listen, then! This Princess Tartaroff is an imposter; no princely blood
flows in her veins, and if she gives herself out to be a princess, it
is because she therewith connects plans of high-treason. More I need not
say to you, except that my illustrious empress has charged me to bring
this fraudulent princess to her at St. Petersburg, that she may there
receive her punishment! This I have sworn to do, and must redeem my
promise to transport her from here, without exciting attention, and
without subjecting her to any personal injury. Do you now comprehend why
I come?"

"I comprehend," said Corilla. "An empress would avenge herself, and
therefore a poor poetess must forego her own little private revenge!
But how, if I should not believe a word of this long story; if I
should consider it a fable invented by you to assure the safety of your
princess?"

"That you may be compelled to believe it, listen further to me."

And Alexis Orloff spoke long and zealously to her, affording her a
glance into his most secret intrigues, into his finely-matured plans,
while Corilla followed him with intense expectation and warmly-glowing
cheeks.

"I comprehend it all, all!" said she, when Alexis had finally ended;
"it is a deep and at the same time an infernal plan--a plan which must
excite the envy and respect of Satan himself!"

"And yourself?" laughingly asked Alexis.

"Oh, I," said she--"I belong, perhaps, to the family of devils, and
therefore take pleasure in aiding you! You need a negotiator who has a
wide conscience and an eloquent tongue! I can furnish you with such
a one. Ah, that will make a droll story. Said you not that the singer
Carlo watched this golden treasure like a dragon? Well, it shall be his
brother who shall contend with this dragon. His own brother--will not
that be pleasant, count?"

"And are you sure of him?" asked Count Orloff. "How if his brother
should win him from us?"

"Have no anxiety; this Carlo Ribas is so virtuous that he hates no one
so much as his brother Joseph, merely because he passed some years in
the galleys for forgery. He is now free, and has secretly come here.
As he was aware that I knew his brother, he came to beg me for my
countenance and support. I will send him to you."

"And you will also not forget my request, that you will in all societies
speak of the great love which the Empress Catharine cherishes for her
near relation, the Princess Tartaroff?"

"I will not forget it. In your hands, count, I lay my revenge--you will
free me from this rival?"

"That will I," said he, with an inhuman laugh. "And when the work is
completed, and you have faithfully stood by me, then, signora, you
may be sure of the gratitude of the empress. Catharine is the exalted
protectress of the muses, and in the fulness of her grace she will not
forget the poetess Corilla. You may expect an imperial reward."

"And I shall gratefully receive it," said Corilla, with a smile. "A
poetess is always poor and in want of assistance. The muses lavish upon
their votaries all joys but those of wealth."

"Ah!" exclaimed Corilla, when the count had left her, "I shall in the
end obtain all I desire. I shall not only be crowned with fame, but
blessed with wealth, which is a blessing almost equal to that of fame!
Money has already founded many a reputation, but not always has fame
attracted money to itself! I shall be rich as well as famous!"

"That you already are!" exclaimed the Cardinal Francesco Albani, who
unremarked had just entered the room.

"I am not," said she, with vehemence, "for they refuse me the prize of
fame! Have you been with the pope, your eminence, and what did he say?"

"I come directly from him."

"Well, and what says he?"

"What he always says to me--no!"

Corilla stamped her feet violently, and her eyes flashed lightnings.

"How beautiful you are now!" tenderly remarked the cardinal, throwing an
arm around her.

She rudely thrust him back. "Touch me not," said she, "you do not
deserve my love. You are a weakling, as all men are. You can only coo
like a pigeon, but when it comes to action, then sinks your arm, and
you are powerless. Ah, the woman whom you profess to love begs of you a
trifling service, the performance of which is of the highest importance
to her, the greatest favor, and you will not fulfil her request while
yet swearing you love her! Go! you are a cold-hearted man, and wholly
undeserving of Corilla's love!"

"But," despairingly exclaimed the cardinal, "you require of me a service
that it is not in my power to perform. Ask something else, Corilla--ask
a human life, and you shall have it! But I cannot give what is not mine.
You demand a laurel-crown, which only the pope has the power to bestow,
and he has sworn that you shall not have it so long as he lives!"

"Will he, then, live eternally?" cried Corilla, beside herself with
rage.

The cardinal gave her an astonished and interrogating glance. But his
features suddenly assumed a wild and malicious expression, and violently
grasping Corilla's hand, he murmured:

"You are right! 'Will he, then, live forever?' Bah! even popes are
mortal men. And if we should choose for his successor a man better
disposed toward you then--Corilla," said the cardinal, interrupting
himself, and in spite of her resistance pressing her to his
bosom--"Corilla, swear once more to me that you will be mine, and only
mine, as soon as I procure your coronation in the capitol! Swear it once
more!"

She gave him such a sweet, enticing, and voluptuous smile that the
cardinal trembled with desire and joy.

"When you in the capitol adorn Corilla with the laurel-crown, then
will she willingly lay her myrtle crown at your feet," said she, with a
charming expression of maiden modesty.

The cardinal again pressed her passionately to his bosom.

"You shall have the laurel-crown, and your myrtle crown is mine!"
he excitedly exclaimed. "You will soon see whether Francesco is a
cold-hearted man! Farewell, Corilla!"

And with a hasty salute he left the room. The astonished Corilla
dismissed him with a smile.

"If it is to succeed at all, it can be only through him," said she.
"Poor Francesco, he will bring me a full laurel-crown! And what can I
give him in return? An exfoliated myrtle crown, that is all! No heart
with it!"



THE HOLY CHAFFERERS

Cardinal Francesco Albani, meantime, hastened through the streets
with the sprightliness of youth. He noticed neither the respectful
salutations and knee-bendings of those he passed, nor their visible
shuddering and alarm when under the cardinal's hat they recognized the
fierce and inhuman Francesco Albani.

He stopped before the palace of Cardinal Juan Angelo Braschi. The
equipage of the new cardinal was drawn up before his door.

"Ah," gleefully remarked Albani, "he is therefore yet at home, and I
shall meet with him!"

Hastily entering the palace, and pushing past the servant who would have
preceded him, he entered the cardinal's cabinet unannounced.

"Be not troubled, your eminence," said Albani, with a smile, "I will
not detain you long. I know your habits, and know that Signora Malveda
usually expects you at this hour, because Cardinal Rezzonico is not then
with her! But I have something important to say to you. You know I am a
man who, without forms and circumlocutions, always comes directly to the
point. I do so now. You desire to be the successor of Ganganelli?"

Braschi turned pale, and timidly cast down his eyes.

"Why are you shocked?" cried Albani. "Every cardinal hopes and wishes to
become the father of Christendom--that is natural; I should also wish it
for myself, but I know that that cannot be. I have permitted these lord
cardinals who, in the conclave, invoke the Holy Spirit, to look too much
into my cards. I was not so prudent as you, Braschi, and therefore you
are much the more likely to become God's vicegerent! Would you not like
to be pope, if Ganganelli should happen to die? And how high would you
hold my voice--how much would it be worth to you?"

"More than all I possess, infinitely more!" said the shrewd Braschi.
"Were I sure of your voice, I might then have a definite hope of
becoming pope; for your voice carries many others with it. How, then,
can you expect me to estimate what is inestimable?"

"Would you give me twenty thousand?" asked Albani.

"Threefold that sum if I possessed it, but I have nothing! I am a very
poor cardinal, as you well know. My whole property consists of six
thousand scudi, and that trifling sum I dare not offer you."

"Borrow, then, of Signora Malveda!" said Albani. "Cardinal Rezzonico is
rich and liberal. Let us speak directly to the point. You would be pope,
and I am willing to forward your views. How much will you pay?"

"If Signora Malveda will lend me four thousand scudi, I should then have
ten thousand to offer you!"

"Well, so be it. Ten thousand scudi will do, if you will add to it a
trifling favor."

"Name it," said Braschi.

"You know that Ganganelli opposes the crowning of our famous
improvisatrice, Corilla, in the capitol. This is an injustice which
Ganganelli's successor will have to repair. Will you do it?"

Braschi gave the cardinal a sly glance. "Ah," said he, "Signora Corilla
seems to be less liberal than Signora Malveda? She will allow you no
discount of her future laurel-crown, is it not so? I know nothing
worse than an ambitious woman. Listen, Albani; it seems that we must be
mutually useful to each other; I need your voice to become pope, and you
need mine to become a favored lover. Very well, give me your voice, and
in return, I promise you a laurel-crown for Signora Corilla, and eight
thousand scudi for yourself!"

"Ah, you would haggle!" contemptuously exclaimed Albani. "You would be
a very niggardly vicegerent of God! But as Corilla is well worth two
thousand scudi, I am content. Give me eight thousand scudi and the
promise to crown Corilla!"

"As soon as I am pope, I will do both. My sacred word for it! Shall I
strengthen my promise by swearing upon the Bible?"

Cardinal Albani gave the questioner a glance of astonishment, and then
broke out with a loud and scornful laugh.

"You forget that you are speaking to one of your kind! Of what use would
such a holy farce be to us who have no faith in its binding power? No,
no, we priests know each other. Such buffoonery amounts to nothing. One
written word is worth a thousand sworn oaths! Let us have a contract
prepared--that is better. We will both sign it!"

"Just as you please!" said Braschi, with a smile, stepping to his
writing desk and rapidly throwing some lines upon paper, which he signed
after it had been carefully read by Albani.

"At length the business is finished," said Albani. "Now, Cardinal
Braschi, go to your signora, and surprise her with the news that
she holds in her arms a pope _in spe_. Pope Clement will soon need a
successor; he must be very ill, the poor pope!"

So speaking, he took leave of the future pope with a friendly nod, and
departed with as much haste as he had come.

"And now to these pious Jesuit fathers!" said he, stepping out upon the
grass. "It was very prudent in me that I went on foot to Corilla
to-day. Our cursed equipages betray every thing; they are the greatest
chatterboxes! How astonished these good Romans would be to see a
cardinal's carriage before these houses of the condemned! No, no,
strengthen yourselves for another effort, my reverend legs! Only yet
this walk, and then you will have rest."

And the cardinal trudged stoutly on until he reached the Jesuit college.
There he stopped and looked cautiously around him.

"This unfortunate saintly dress is also a hindrance," murmured he.
"Like the sign over the shop-door it proclaims to all the world: 'I am a
cardinal. Here indulgences, dispensations, and God's blessings are to be
sold! Who will buy, who will buy?' I dare not now enter this scouted and
repudiated sacred house. I might be remarked, suspected, and betrayed.
Corilla, dear, beautiful woman, it costs me much pains and many efforts
to conquer you; will your possession repay me?"

The cardinal patiently waited in the shadow of a taxus-bush until the
street become for a moment empty and solitary. Then he hastened to a
side-door of the building, and, sure of being unobserved, entered.

A deep and quiet silence pervaded these long and deserted
cloister-passages. It seemed as if a death-veil lay upon the whole
building--as if it were depopulated, desolated. Nowhere the least trace
of that busy, stirring life, usually prevailing in these corridors--no
longer those bands of scholars that formerly peopled these passages--the
doors of the great school-room open, the benches unoccupied, the
lecturer's chair, from which the pious fathers formerly with such subtle
wisdom explained and defended their dangerous doctrines, these also are
desolate. The reign of the Jesuits was over; Ganganelli had thrust
them from the throne, and they cursed him as their murderer! He had
suppressed their sacred order, he had commanded them to lay aside their
peculiar costume and adopt that of other monkish orders, or the usual
dress of abbes. But from their property he had not been able to expel
them in this college _Il Jesu_--within their cloisters his power had
not been able to penetrate. There they remained, what they had been,
the holy fathers of Jesus, the pious defenders of craft and Christian
deception, the cunning advocates of regicide, the proud servants of the
only salvation-dispensing Church!--there, with rage in their hearts,
they meditated plans of vengeance against this criminal pope who had
condemned them to a living death; who, like a wicked magician, had
changed their sacred college into an open grave! He had killed them, and
he, should he nevertheless live?

With these fatal questions did the holy fathers occupy themselves,
reflecting upon them in their gloomy leisure, and in low whisperings
consulting with their prior. And in such secret consultation did
Cardinal Francesco Albani find the prior with his confidant in the
refectorium.

"Do not let me disturb you," he said laughing; "I see by your faces you
are engaged in conversation upon the subject in which I yesterday took a
part. That is very well--we can resume it where we yesterday broke off,
and again knot the threads which I yesterday so violently rent. With
which knot shall we begin?"

The eyes of the pious Jesuit father flashed with joy. Francesco Albani
was inclined to favor their plans and wishes; they saw that in his
cunning smile, in his return to them.

"We were speaking of the sacred and important duty you will have to
perform to-morrow, your eminence," said the prior, with a winning smile.

"Ah, yes, I remember," said the cardinal, with apparent indifference.
"We spoke of the to-morrow's communion of his holiness the pope."

"And of the fact that you, your eminence, would to-morrow have to
discharge the important duty of pouring the sacred wine into the golden
chalice of the vicegerent of God," said the prior.

"Yes, yes, I now remember it all," said Albani, with a smile. "You spoke
to me of a wonderful flask of wine, which, by means of the golden tube,
you would gladly help to the honor of being drunk by his holiness from
the communion chalice."

"It is so precious a wine that only the vicegerent of God is worthy of
wetting his lips with it. It must touch the lips of no other mortal!"

"I know such a wine," said Albani; "it thrives best in the region
of Naples,(*) and whoever drinks of it becomes a partaker of eternal
blessedness."

     (*) The celebrated poison, _Acqua Tofana_, is prepared only
     in Naples.

"Yes, you are right, it is a wonderfully strengthening wine!" said the
prior, folding his hands and directing his eyes toward the heavens. "We
thank God that He has left us in possession of so precious an essence!
The pope, they say, is suffering and needs strengthening. See how
closely we follow the teaching of Him whose name we bear, and who has
commanded, 'Love your enemies, bless those who curse you!' Instead of
avenging ourselves, we would be his benefactors, and refresh him with
the most precious of what we possess!"

"And you would be so unselfish as to keep from him all knowledge of your
benevolence, you would bless him quite secretly! But how if I should
betray you, and communicate your precious secret to his holiness the
pope? Yes, yes, I shall open my mouth and speak, unless I am prevented
by a golden lock put upon my lips."

"We shall willingly apply such a lock!" said the pleased prior.

"But, that it may entirely close my mouth, the lock will need to be very
heavy!" responded Albani, with a laugh.

"It is so--it weighs six thousand scudi!" said the prior.

"That is much too light!" exclaimed Albani, laughing; "it will hardly
cover my mouth. It still remains that I am to undertake a very hazardous
affair. Reflect, if any one should discover my possession of this
strange wine; if Ganganelli should perceive that it is not wine from his
own cellar that I have poured into the cup for him! It is dangerous work
that you would assign to me, a work for which I might lose my head, and
you venture to offer me a poor six thousand scudi for it! Adieu, then,
pious fathers, keep you your golden lock, and I my unclosed lips. I
shall know when and where to speak!"

And the cardinal moved toward the door. Hastening after him, the prior
handed him a small flask, the contents of which were clear and pure as
crystal water, timidly and anxiously whispering, "Ten drops of this in
Ganganelli's communion wine, and ten thousand scudi are yours!"

"Give the ten thousand scudi at once!" said Albani, with decision.

"And the drops?"

"The pope's wine is too strong: I will reduce it a little with this pure
water."(*)

     (*) The poison, _Acqua Tofana_, is pure and clear as water,
     without taste or smell. It is prepared from opium and
     Spanish flies, combined with some other ingredients, which,
     however, are only known to the makers of it. That the _Acqua
     Tofana_ is made from the foam sometimes found upon the lips
     of the dying, is an idle tale. Allessandro Borgia was the
     first to bring it into use.



SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI

On the following day there was a solemn high office in St. Peter's. All
Rome flocked there, to see this great and touching spectacle. A dense
crowd thronged the streets, and all shouted and cried when the pope,
surrounded by his Swiss guard, appeared in their midst in his gilded
armchair, and received the greetings of the people with a bland smile.

Toward St. Peter's waved the human throng, and to St. Peter's the pope
was borne. The features of Ganganelli had an expression of sadness, and
as he now glanced down upon the thousands of his subjects who,
shouting, followed him, he asked in his heart, "Who among you will be
my murderers? And how long will you yet allow me to live? Ah, were I
yet the poor Franciscan monk I was, then no one would take the pains to
assassinate me. Why, then, does the world, precisely now, seem so fair
to me, now, when I know that I must leave it so soon?" And the pope
shed a secret tear while, surrounded by royal splendor, he imparted his
blessing to the thousands who reverently knelt at his feet.

The bells rang, the organ resounded, the wide halls of St. Peter's were
penetrated by the marvellous singing of the Sistine chapel. Thousands
and thousands of wax tapers lighted the noble space of the church,
thousands and thousands of people pressed into the sacred halls. Under
his canopy, opposite the high altar, sat the vicegerent of God upon
his golden throne, surrounded by the consecrated cardinals and bishops,
protected by the Swiss guard! Who could have ventured to attack the holy
father--who would have been so foolhardy as to attempt to penetrate that
thick wall of Swiss guards and princes of the Church--who could have
been successful in such an attempt? No human being! But where the people
could not penetrate, where there was no room for the swinging of a
dagger, there the malignant poison lurked unseen!

Ganganelli sat upon his golden throne, intoxicated by the clang of
the organ and charmed by the singing of the high choir, and the pope,
looking down upon the human crowd, again asked himself: "Who among you
are my murderers?"

The singing ceased, the organ was silent, and only the solemn tones of
all the bells of St. Peter's resounded through the church. A death-like
stillness else; the people lay upon their knees and crossed themselves;
before the altar kneeling priests murmured prayers.

It was a solemn, a sublime moment, for the pope must now receive the
communion--the vicegerent of God must drink the blood of the Lamb. But
still the pope remains sacred; he cannot, like other mortals, make use
of his earthly feet; he must not, like them, approach the altar. Sitting
upon his throne, he has partaken of the holy wafer, and, as it was
unbecoming his dignity to descend to the altar in order to come to
Christ, the latter must decide to come to him!

The golden chalice at the high altar contains the blood of the Lamb; the
Cardinal Francesco Albani performs the holy office. He has the blessed
host, and under his consecrated hand will now be effected the miracle of
turning the wine into the blood of Christ!

And Cardinal Albani lays the golden tube in the cup, and another
cardinal passes the other end of the tube to the pope.

Through this sacred tube will he sip the consecrated wine, the blood of
the Redeemer!

Rushing and thundering recommences the high office, the trumpets renew
their blasts, the drums roll, the bells ring, the organ rattles its
song of jubilee, the trombones crash in unison. It is the greatest, most
sublime moment of the whole ceremony. The pope, having put the golden
tube to his lips, sips the wine changed into blood.

While the pope drinks the two cardinals who to-day are on service
approach the sacred throne. They hold a torch in the right hand and a
small bundle of tow in the left, and according to the custom, set the
tow on fire.

It flashes up in a bright flame, is soon extinguished, and a small,
almost imperceptible quantity of ashes floats from it to the feet of the
pope.

"_Sic transit gloria mundi!_" (So passes the glory of the world!)
exclaimed Francesco Albani, with proud presumptuousness and with
maliciously scornful glances, while with an expression of savage triumph
he stares in the paling face of the pope. "_Sic transit gloria mundi!_"
repeated Albani, in a yet louder and more thundering voice.

The bells ring, the hymn resounds, the trombone and organ clang; the
audience are on their knees in prayer. A bustle arises, a suppressed
murmur--the holy father of Christendom has fainted upon his throne like
any common mortal man.



THE VAPO

Since Paulo had left her, and she found herself alone, Natalie felt sad,
solitary, in the paradise that surrounded her. No longer did she sing in
emulation of the birds, no longer did she hop with youthful delight and
the impetuosity of a young roe through the charming alleys. Sadly,
and with downcast eyes, sat she under the myrtle bush by the murmuring
fountains, and frequent heavy sighs heaved her laboring breast.

"All is changed, all!" she often thoughtfully said to herself. "A great
and terrible secret has been unveiled within me--the secret of my utter
abandonment! I have no one on earth to whom I belong! Once I never
thought of that. Paulo was all to me, my friend, my father, my brother;
but Paulo has abandoned me, I belong not to him, and hence I could not
go with him. And who is left to me? Carlo!" she answered herself in a
low tone, and with a melancholy smile. "But Carlo has not filled the
void that Paulo's absence has left in my heart. At first I thought he
could, but that was only a short deception. Carlo is good and kind,
always devoted, always ready to serve me. He always conforms himself
to my will, is all subjection, all obedience. But that is terrible,
unbearable!" exclaimed the almost weeping young maiden. "Who, then,
shall I obey, before whom shall I tremble, when all obey me and tremble
before me? And yet Carlo is a man. No," said she, quite low; "were he so
I should then obey him, and not he me; then would he give me commands,
and not I him! No, Carlo is no man--Paulo was so! Where art thou, my
friend, my father?"

And the young maiden yearningly spread her arms in the air, calling
upon her distant friend with tender, low-whispered words and heartfelt
longings.

But the days slowly passed, and still no news came from him. Natalie
dreamily and sadly sank deeper into herself; her cheeks paled, her step
became less light and elastic. In vain did her true friends, Marianne
and Carlo, exhaust themselves in projects and propositions for her
distraction and amusement.

"You should go into the world and amuse yourself in society, princess,"
said Carlo.

"I hate the world and society," said Natalie. "People are all bad, and I
abominate them. What had I done to these people, how had I offended them
even in thought, and yet they would have murdered me the very first time
I appeared among them? No, no, leave me here in my solitude, where I at
least have not to tremble for my life, where I have Carlo to guard and
protect me."

The singer pressed the proffered hand to his lips.

"Then let us at least make some excursions in the environs of Rome,"
said he.

"No," said she, "I should everywhere long to be back in my garden.
Nowhere is it so beautiful as here. Leave me my paradise--why would you
drive me from it?"

"Alas!" despairingly exclaimed Carlo, "you call yourself happy and
satisfied; why, then, are you so sad?"

"Am I sad?" she asked, with surprise. "No, Carlo, I am not sad! I
sometimes dream, nothing more! Let me yet dream!"

"You will die," thought Carlo, and with an effort he forced back the cry
of despair that pressed to his lips; but his cheeks paled, and his whole
form trembled.

Seeing it, Natalie shook off her apathy, and with a lively sympathy and
tender friendship she inquired the cause of his disquiet. She was so
near him that her breath fanned his cheek, and her locks touched his
brow.

"Ah, you would kill me, you would craze me!" murmured he, sorrowfully,
sinking down, powerless, at her feet.

She looked wonderingly at him. "Why are you angry with me?" she
innocently said, "and what have I done, that you so wrongfully accuse
me?"

"What have you done?" cried he, beside himself,--the moment had overcome
him, this moment had burst the bands with which he had bound his heart,
and in unfettered freedom, in glowing passion, his long-concealed secret
forced its way to his lips. He must at length for once speak of his
sorrows, even if death should follow; he must give expression to his
torment and his love, even should Natalie banish him forever from her
presence!

"What have you done?" repeated he. "Ah, she does not even know that she
is slowly murdering me, she does not even know that I love her!"

"Am I not to know?" she reproachfully asked. "Would you, indeed, have
saved my life had you not loved me? Carlo I am indebted to you for my
life, and you say I murder you!"

"Yes," he frowardly exclaimed, "you murder me! Slowly, day by day,
hour by hour, am I consumed by this frightful internal fire that is
destroying me. Ah, you know not that you are killing me. And have you
not destroyed my youthful strength, and from a man converted me into an
old, trembling, and complaining woman? Is it not for your sake that I
have fled the world, leaving behind me all it offered of fame and wealth
and honor? Is it not your fault that I have ceased to be a free man, to
have a will of my own, and have become a slave crawling at your feet?
Ah, woe is me, that I ever came to know you! You are an enchantress,
you have made me your hound, and, whining, I lie in the dust before you,
satisfied when you touch me with your foot."

At first, Natalie had listened to him with terror and astonishment; then
an expression of noble pride was to be read upon her features, a glowing
flush flitted over her delicate cheeks, and with flashing eyes and a
heaving bosom she sprang up from her seat. Proud as a queen she rose
erect, the blood of her ancestors awoke in her; she at this moment felt
herself free as an empress, as proud, as secure--and, stretching her
arm toward the outlet of the garden, she said in a determined tone:
"Go, Signor Carlo! Leave me, I tell you! We have no longer any thing in
common with each other!"

Carlo seemed as if awakened from a delirium. Breathless, with
widely-opened eyes, trembling and anxious, he stared at the angry
maiden. He knew nothing of what he had said; he comprehended not
her anger, only his infinite suffering; he was conscious only of his
long-suppressed, long-concealed secret love. And, grasping Natalie's
hands with an imploring expression, he constrained the young maiden,
almost against her will, to remain and reseat herself upon the grassy
bank before which he knelt.

As he looked up to her with those glowing, passionate glances, a maiden
fear and trembling for the first time came over her, an anxiety and
timidity inexplicable to herself! Her delicate, transparent cheeks
paled, tears filled her eyes, and, folding her hands with a childishly
supplicating expression, she said in a low, tremulous tone: "My God,
my God! Have mercy upon me! I am a wholly abandoned, solitary orphan!
Rescue me yet from this trouble and distress, from this terrible
loneliness!"

"Fear nothing, my charming angel," whispered Carlo, "I will be gentle as
a lamb, and patient, very patient in my sorrow; I have sworn it and will
keep my oath! But you must hear me! You must, only this one time, allow
me to express in words my love and my sorrow, my misery and my ecstasy.
Will you allow me this, my lily, my beautiful swan?"

He would have again grasped her hand, but she withdrew it with a proud,
angry glance.

"Speak on," said she, wearily leaning her hand against the myrtle-bush.
"Speak on, I will listen to you!"

And he spoke to her of his love; he informed her of his former life, his
poverty, his want, his connection with Corilla, whom he had quitted in
order to devote himself wholly to her, to obey, serve, and worship
her all his life, and, if necessary, to die for her! "But you," he
despairingly said, "you know not love! Your heart is cold for earthly
love; like the angels in heaven, you love only the good and the sublime,
you love mankind collectively, but not the individual. Ah, Natalie, you
have the heart of an angel, but not the heart of a woman!"

The young maiden had half dreamingly listened to him, her hand leaned
back and her glance directed toward the heavens. She now smiled, and,
with an inimitable grace, laying her hand upon her bosom, said in a very
low tone: "And yet I feel that a woman's heart is beating there. But it
sleeps! Who will one day come to awaken it?"

Carlo did not understand these low whispered words; he understood only
his own passion, his own consuming glow. And anew he commenced his
love-plainings, described to her the torments and fierce joys of
an unreturned love, which is yet too strong and overpowering to be
suppressed. And Natalie listened to him with a dreamy thoughtfulness.
His words sounded in her ears like a wonderful song from a strange,
distant world which she knew not, but the description of which filled
her heart with a sweet longing, and she could have wept, without knowing
whether it was for sorrow or joy.

"Thus, Natalie," at length said Carlo, entirely exhausted and pale with
emotion--"thus I love you. You must sometime have learned it, and
have known that even angels cannot mingle with mortals unloved and
unpunished. I should finally have been compelled to tell you that you
might torture no longer, in cruel ignorance; that you, learning to
understand your own heart, might tell me whether I have to hope, or only
to fear!"

"Poor Carlo!" murmured Natalie. "You love me, but I do not love you!
This has even now become clear to me; and while you have so glowingly
described the passion, I have for the first time comprehended that I yet
know nothing of that love, and that I can never learn it of you! This is
a misfortune, Carlo, but as we cannot change, we must submit to it."

Carlo drooped his head and sighed. He had no answer to make, and only
murmuringly repeated her words: "Yes, we must submit to it!"

"And why can we not?" she almost cheerfully asked, with that childlike
innocence which never once comprehended the sorrow she was preparing
for Carlo--"why can we not joyfully submit? We both love, only in a
different manner. Let each preserve and persevere in his own manner, and
then all may yet be well!"

"And it shall be well!" exclaimed Carlo, with animation. "You cannot
love me as I love you, but I can devote my whole life to you, and
that will I do! At home, in my charming Naples, a beautiful custom is
prevalent. When one loves, he is adopted as a _vapo_, a protector, who
follows the steps of the one he loves, who watches before her door when
she sleeps, who secretly lurks at a distance behind her when she leaves
her house, who observes every passer-by in order to preserve her from
every murderous or other inimical attack, or in case of need to hasten
to her assistance. Such a _vapo_ protects her against the jealousy of
her husband or the vengeance of a dismissed lover. Natalie, as I cannot
be your lover, I will be your _vapo_. Will you accept my services?"

Giving him her hand, she smilingly said, "I will."

Carlo pressed that hand to his lips, and bedewed it with a warm tear.

"Well, then, I swear myself your _vapo_," said he, with deep emotion.
"Wherever you may be, I shall be near you, I shall always follow to warn
and to protect you; should you be in danger, call me and you will find
me at your side, whether by night or by day; I shall always watch over
you and sleep at the threshold of your door, and should a dream alarm
you, I shall be there to tranquillize you. So long as I live, Natalie,
so long as your _vapo_ has a dagger and a sure hand, so long shall
misfortune fail to penetrate into your dwelling. You cannot be mine, or
return my love, but I can care for you and watch over you. In accepting
me for your _vapo_, you have given me the right to die for you if
necessary, and that of itself is a happiness!"

Thus speaking Carlo rose, and, no longer able to conceal his deep
emotion and suppress his tears, he left Natalie, and hastened into the
obscurest alleys of the garden.

The young maiden watched his retreat with a sad smile.

"Poor Carlo!" murmured she, "and ah! yet much poorer Natalie! He loves
at least. But I, am I not much more to be pitied? I have no one whom I
love. I am entirely isolated, and of what use is a solitary paradise?"



THE INVASION

Corilla had kept her word. She had sent to Alexis Orloff, Carlo's
brother, Joseph Ribas, the galley-slave, and with a malicious smile
she had said to the latter, "You will avenge me on your treacherous
brother?"

Count Orloff warmly welcomed Corilla's _protege_.

"If you give me satisfaction," said he, "you may expect a royal
recompense, and the favor of the exalted Empress of Russia. First of
all, tell me what you can do?"

"Not much," said Joseph Ribas, laughing, "and the little I can will yet
be condemned as too much. I can very dexterously wield the dagger, and
reach the heart through the back! Because I did that to a successful
rival at Palermo, I was compelled by the police to flee to Naples. There
a good friend taught me how to make counterfeit money, an art which I
brought to some perfection, and which I successfully practised for some
years. But the police, thinking my skill too great, finally relieved me
from my employment, and gave me free board and lodging for ten years in
the galley. Ah, that was a happy time, your excellency. I learned much
in the galleys, and something which I can now turn to account in your
service. I learned to speak the Russian language like a native of
Moscow. Such a one was for seven years my inseparable friend and
chain-companion, and as he was too stupid or too lazy to learn my
language, I was forced to learn his, that I might be able to converse
with him a little. That, your excellency, is about all I know; to wield
the dagger, make counterfeit money, speak the Russian language, and
some other trifling tricks, which, however, may be of service to your
excellency."

"Who knows?" said Orloff, laughing. "Do you understand, for example, how
to break into a house and steal gold and diamonds, without being caught
in the act?"

"That," said Joseph, thoughtfully, "I should hope to be able to
accomplish. I have, indeed, as yet, had no experience in that line, but
in the galleys I have listened to the soundest instructions, and heard
the experiences of the greatest master of that art, with the curiosity
of an emulous student!"

Orloff laughed. "You are a sly fellow," said he, "and please me much.
If you act as well as you talk, we shall soon be good friends! Well,
to-morrow night you make your first essay. The business is an invasion."

"And that shall be my masterpiece!" responded Joseph Ribas.

"If you succeed, I will, in the name of my illustrious empress,
immediately take you into her service, and you become an officer of the
Russian marine."

Joseph Ribas stared at him with astonishment. "That is certainly an
immense honor and a great good fortune," said he, "only I should like
to know if the Russian marine engages in sea-fights, and if the officers
are obliged to stand under fire?"

"Yes, indeed," cried Orloff, laughing, "but in such cases you can
conceal yourself behind the cannon until the fight is over!"

"I shall remember your wise suggestion in time of need!" seriously
responded Joseph Ribas, bowing to the count.(*) "And where, your
excellency, is to be the scene of my present activity? Where am I to
gain my epaulets?"

     (*) And, in fact, Ribas did remember it! At a later period,
     having become a Russian admiral, he was intrusted with the
     command of the flotilla which was to descend the Danube to
     aid in the capture of Kilia and Ismail. But during the
     investment of Ismail (December 21, 1790), Ribas concealed
     himself among the reeds on the bank of the Danube, and did
     not reappear until the danger was over and he could in
     safety share in the booty taken by his sailors. But this
     cowardice and avarice of their admiral very nearly caused a
     mutiny among the sailors. It was not suppressed without the
     greatest efforts.

"I will myself conduct you to the spot and show you the house where a
rich set of diamonds and some thousands of scudi are lying in company
with your epaulets!"

"And as I have rather long fingers, I shall be able to grasp both the
epaulets and the treasure," laughingly responded Ribas.

It was in the evening after this conversation of Orloff with Joseph
Ribas, a wonderfully brilliant evening, such as is known only under
Italian skies.

Natalie inhaled the soft air with delight, and drank in the intoxicating
odor of the flowers which poured out their sweetest fragrance in the
cool of the evening. She was on this evening unusually cheerful; with
the smiling brow and childish gayety, as in happier days, she skipped
down the alleys, or, with her guitar upon her arm, reposed upon her
favorite seat under the myrtle-bush near the murmuring fountains.

"I am to-day so happy, ah, so happy," said she, "in consequence of
having dreamed of Paulo--in my dream he was near me, spoke to me, and
that is a sure sign of his speedy return! Oh, certainly, certainly!
In my dream he announced it to me, and I distinctly heard him say: 'We
shall meet again, Natalie. I shall soon be with you!'"

"Ah, may this dream but prove true!" sighed Marianne, Natalie's faithful
companion. She was standing, not far from her mistress, with Carlo, and
both were tenderly observing the young maiden, who now smilingly grasped
her guitar and commenced a song of joy for Paulo's expected return!

"I have no faith in our count's return!" whispered Marianne while
Natalie was singing. "It is a bad sign that no news, not a line, nor
even the shortest message, had yet come from him. Something unusual,
some great and uncontrollable misfortune, must have prevented his
writing!"

"You do not think they have imprisoned him?" asked Carlo.

"I fear it," sighed Marianne. "And if so, what fate then awaits our
poor princess? Helpless, alone, without means! For if the count is
imprisoned, he will no longer be in a condition to send money as he
promised. And we now possess only a thousand scudi, with double that
amount in diamonds!"

"Then we are still rich enough to keep off deprivations for a time!"
said Carlo.

"But when at length these last resources are exhausted?" asked
Marianne--"when we no longer have either money or diamonds--how then?"

"Oh, then," exclaimed Carlo, with a beaming face, "then will we labor
for her! That, also, will be a pleasure, Marianne!"

While the two were thus conversing, Natalie, with a happy smile and
cheerful face, was still singing her hymn of joy for Paulo's approaching
return to the accompaniment of the rustling trees, the murmuring
fountains, and the chirping birds in the myrtle-bush. It was a beautiful
night, and as the bright full moon now advanced between the pines,
illuminating Natalie's face and form, the partially intoxicated and
perfectly happy Carlo whispered: "Only look, Marianne! does she not
resemble a blessed angel ready to spread her wings, and with the
moonlight to mount up to the stars? Only look, seems it not as if the
moonbeams tenderly embraced her for the purpose of leading an angel back
to its home?"

"May she, at least, one day, with such a happy smile, take her departure
for the skies!" sighed Marianne, piously folding her hands.

At this moment a shrill, cutting wail interrupted Natalie's song. A
string of her guitar had suddenly snapped asunder; frightened, almost
angry, Natalie let the instrument fall to the earth, and again the
strings resounded like lamentations and sighs.

"That is a bad omen," sighed Natalie. "How, if that should be true, and
not my dream?"

And trembling with anxiety, the young maiden stretched forth her hands
toward her friends.

"Carlo--Marianne," she anxiously said, "come here to me, protect me with
your love from this mortal fear and anguish which has suddenly come over
me. See, the moon is hiding behind the clouds. Ah, the whole world grows
dark and casts a mourning veil over its bright face!"

And the timid child, clinging to Marianne's arm, concealed her face in
the bosom of her motherly friend.

"And you call that an omen!" said Carlo, with forced cheerfulness. "This
time, princess, I am the _fatum_ which has alarmed you! It is my own
fault that this string broke. It was already injured and half broken
this evening when I tuned the guitar, but I hoped it would suffice for
the low, sad melodies you now always play. Yes, could I have known that
you would have so exulted and shouted, I should have replaced it with
another string, and this great misfortune would not have occurred."

While speaking, he had again attached the string and drawn it tight.

"The defective string is quickly repaired, and you can recommence your
hymn of joy," he said, handing back the guitar to Natalie.

She sadly shook her head. "It is passed," said she, "I can exult and
sing no more to-day, and have an aversion to this garden. See how black
and threatening these pines rise up, and do not these myrtle-bushes
resemble large dark graves? No, no; it frightens me here--I can no
longer remain among these graves and these watchers of the dead! Come,
let us go to our rooms! It is night--we will sleep and dream! Come, let
us immediately go into the house."

And like a frightened roe she fled toward the house, the others
following her.

In an hour all was silent in the villa. The lights were successively
extinguished in Natalie's and Marianne's chambers; only in Carlo's
little chamber yet burned a dull, solitary lamp, and occasionally the
shadow of the uneasy singer passed the window as he restlessly walked
his room. At length, however, this lamp also was distinguished, and all
was dark and still.

About this time a dark shadow was seen creeping slowly and cautiously
through the garden. Soon it stood still, and then one might have
supposed it to be a deception, and that only the wind shaking the pines
had caused that moving shadow. But suddenly it again appeared in a
moonlighted place, where no bush or tree threw its shade, and, as if
alarmed by the brightness, it then again moved aside into the bushes.

This shadow came constantly nearer and nearer to the house, and as the
walks were here broader and lighter, one might distinctly discern
that it was a human being, the form of a tall, stately man, that so
cautiously and stealthily approached the house. And what is that,
sparkling and flashing in his girdle--is it not a dagger, together with
a pistol and a long knife? Ah, a threatening, armed man is approaching
this silent, solitary house, and no one sees, no one hears him! Even the
two large hounds which with remarkable watchfulness patrol the garden
during the night, even they are silent! Ah, where, then, are they? Carlo
had himself unchained them that they might wander freely--where, then,
can they be?

They lie in the bushes far from the house, cold, stiff, and lifeless.
Before them lies a piece of seductively smelling meat. That was what had
enticed them to forget their duty, and, instead of growling and barking,
they had with snuffling noses been licking this tempting flesh. Their
instinct had not told them it was poisoned, and therefore they now lay
stiff and cold near the food that had destroyed them.

No, from those hounds he had nothing more to fear, this bold, audacious
man; the hounds will no more betray him, nor warningly announce that
Joseph Ribas, the venturesome thief and galley-slave, is lurking about
the house to steal or murder, as the case may be.

He has now reached the house. He listens for a moment, and as
all remains still, no suspicious noise making itself heard, with
pitch-covered paper, brought with him for the purpose, he presses in one
of the window panes. Then, passing his hand through the vacancy caused
by the absent pane of glass, he opens one wing of the French window,
and, by a bold leap springing upon the parapet, he lets himself glide
slowly down into the room.

Again all is still, and silent lies the solitary, peaceful villa.
Suddenly appears a small but bright light behind one of these dark
windows.

That is the thief's lantern, which Joseph Ribas has lighted to
illuminate his dark, criminal way.

He cautiously ascends the stairs leading to the second story, and not a
step jars under his feet, not one, nor does the slightest noise betray
him.

He is now above, in the long corridor. Approaching the first door, he
listens long. He hears a loud breathing--some one sleeps within. With
one sole quick movement he turns the key remaining in the lock. The door
is now locked, and the sleeper within remains undisturbed. Joseph creeps
along to the next door, and again he listens to ascertain if there be
anything stirring within. But no, he hears nothing! All is still behind
the door.

He draws a pistol from his girdle, cocks it, and, thus prepared to
resist every attack, he suddenly opens the door. No one is in the room,
no one but Joseph Ribas the thief, who, with flashing eyes, suspiciously
and carefully examines every hole and corner.

But no, no one is there. Calm and sure, Joseph Ribas, steps into the
room, drawing and bolting the door behind him. No one can now surprise
him, no one can fall upon him from behind. But yes, there is also a
door on each side, right and left. He listens at the first, he thinks he
hears a light breathing; here also he quickly shoves a bolt and passes
over to the other door, which stands ajar. Cautiously he pushes it open
and looks in. A small, dull lamp is burning there, lighting the lovely
face of the sleeping Princess Natalie.

"That is she!" low murmured Ribas, as with eager glances he observes
the young and charming maiden. He is drawn forward as if with invisible
bands--he penetrates into this sacred asylum of the slumbering maiden.
But he forcibly checks his advance. "I have sworn not to touch her,
and I will keep my word, that I may secure my epaulets!" he muttered to
himself, and, retreating into the first chamber, he bolts the door, to
make all sure, that leads into Natalie's chamber.

"Now to the work!" said he, with decision. "Here stands the bureau, the
treasure must be here."

And, placing his dark lantern upon a table, he draws forth his picklock
and chisels, and commences breaking open the bureau. Right--this
thievish instinct has not deceived him, he has found all, all. Here is
the little box of sparkling diamonds, and here the full purses of money.

With a knavish smile, Joseph Ribas conceals the brilliants in his bosom,
and deposits the money in his capacious pockets.

"It is a pity that this is not mine," he muttered with a grin, "but
toward this count I must act as an honorable thief, and I have promised
to bring it all truly to him."

The work is completed, the malicious criminal act is performed. He can
now go, can again creep away from the house his feet have soiled.

Why does he not? Why does he linger in these rooms? Why directs he such
wild and eager glances to the door behind which Natalie sleeps?

He cannot withstand the temptation, and even at the risk of awaking
Natalie, he must see her once more! And, moreover, what had he to fear
from an isolated young girl? He will only have one more look at her.
Nothing more!

He noiselessly pushes back the bolt; noiselessly, upon tiptoe, with
closed lantern, he creeps into the room and to Natalie's bedside.

She is wonderfully beautiful, and she smiles in her slumber. How
charming is that placid face, that half-uncovered shoulder, that arm
thrown up over her head, where it is half concealed under her luxuriant
locks! Wonderfully beautiful is she. Dares he to touch that arm and
breathe a kiss, a very light kiss, upon those fragrant lips? Why not? No
one sees him, nor will Count Alexis Orloff ever know that his commands
have been disobeyed.

But as he bent down, as his breath comes only in light contact with her
cheek, she stirs! Maiden modesty never slumbers; it watches over the
sleeping girl, it protects her. It is her good genius who never deserts
her.

Drawing herself up, Natalie opens her eyes and starts up from her couch.
Then she sees a large, threatening masculine form close before her,
close before her that wildly-laughing face.

A shriek of terror and anguish bursts from her lips, and in a tone of
alarm she calls: "Carlo, Carlo! Help! help! Carlo! Save--"

More she did not say. With a wild rage, angry, and ashamed of his own
folly, Joseph Ribas rushes upon her.

"One more cry!" he threateningly said--"one more call for help, and I
will murder you!"

But at this moment a small curtained door which Ribas had not remarked
and hence not fastened, was suddenly opened, and Carlo rushed in.

"I am here, Natalie!--I am here!"

Rushing upon the stranger, and grasping him with gigantic strength, he
thrust him down from the bed.

Joseph Ribas turned toward his new and unexpected enemy. The lamp
lighted his face, and falling back Carlo shrieked, "My brother!"

Joseph Ribas broke out into a loud, savage laugh. "At length we meet,
my brother," said he. "But this time you shall not hinder me in my work.
This time I am the conqueror!"

"No, no, that you are not!" cried Carlo, beside himself with pain and
rage. "Confess what you want in this house--confess, or you are a dead
man!"

And with a drawn dagger he rushed upon his opponent!

A frightful struggle ensued. Natalie, in her night-dress, pale as a
lily, knelt upon her bed and prayed. She had folded her hands over her
breast, directly over the place where the papers confided to her by
Paulo, in a little silken bag, always hung suspended by a golden chain.

"Grant, O my God," prayed she--"grant that I may keep my promise to
Paulo, and that I may defend these papers with my life!"

And the two brothers were still struggling and contending; like two
serpents they had coiled around each other, and held each other in their
toils.

"Flee, flee, Natalie!" groaned Carlo, with a weakened voice--"flee away
from here! I yet hold him, you are yet safe! Flee!"

But in this moment the maiden thought not of her own danger. She thought
only of Carlo. Springing from her bed, with flashing eyes she boldly
threw herself between the contending men.

"No, no," said she, courageously, "I will not flee--I shall at least
know how to die!"

A shriek resounded from Carlo's lips, his arms relaxed and fell from his
enemy, leaving his brother free.

"Ah, finally, finally!" gasped the panting Joseph. "That was an
amusing carnival farce, my virtuous brother! Farewell! I am this time
triumphant!"

With a wild leap he sprang to the door; brandishing his bloody dagger
in his right hand, he ran through the corridor, down the stairs, and out
into the garden.

"Saved!" said he, breathing more freely. "I think this Russian will be
satisfied with me! I bring the money and the diamonds, and at the same
time have effectually opened a vein for this troublesome protector! Ah,
it seems to me I have very successfully put in practice my studies in
the high-school of the galleys!"

And, humming a jovial song, Joseph Ribas swung himself into a tree close
to the wall, and let himself down on the other side.

Above, in Natalie's chamber, Carlo long lay stretched on the floor,
pale, with the death-rattle in his throat. In a bright stream flowed the
blood from the wound made by his brother's dagger. Natalie knelt by
him. No tear was in her eye, no lamentation escaped her lips. She seemed
perfectly calm and collected in her excess of sorrow; she only sought
with her robe and her hair to cover Carlo's wound and stop the flow of
blood.

A happy smile played upon Carlo's blue lips.

"I die," he murmured, "but I die for thee! Thy _vapo_ has kept his word,
he has defended thee until his last breath! How good is God! He lets me
die in thy service!"

"No, no, you must not die!" cried Natalie, her calmness giving way to
the wildest sorrow. "No, Carlo, you must live! Oh, say not that you die!
Ah, you love me, and yet you would leave me alone! Only live, and I also
will love you, Carlo, as warmly and as glowingly as you love me! Do but
remain with me, and my heart, my life shall be yours!"

"Too late! too late!" murmured Carlo, with dying lips. "Remember me,
Natalie--I have dearly loved you. I die happy, for I die in your arms!"

"No, no, you shall live in my arms!" sobbed she. "I will be yours--your
bride!"

"Kiss me, my bride," he falteringly stammered.

She bent over him, and with hers she touched his lips, already
stiffening in death. She laid her warm, glowing cheek to his cold and
marble-pale face; that full, fresh life pressed that which was cold and
expiring to her bosom in an ardent struggle with death! In vain!

Death is inexorable. What he has once touched with his hand, that is
past recovery, it is his.

The blood no longer flowed from Carlo's wound, the breath no longer
rattled in his throat--it was silent; but a blessed smile still lay upon
his lips. With this smile had he died, happy, blessed in the embrace of
her he had so truly loved.

When Marianne, after long and vain efforts to open the door, had finally
managed, by tying her bed-clothes together, to let herself down into the
garden, and had thence hastened into the house, and up into Natalie's
chamber, she found there all silent and still. Nothing stirred. Natalie
lay in a deathlike swoon.

He, Carlo, already stiffened in death, and she, the senseless Natalie,
with her head reclining against the marble face of her friend!

Poor Natalie! Why must Marianne succeed in awakening thee from thy
swoon? Why did you not let her continue in her insensibility, Marianne?
In sleep, she at least would not have realized that she was now left
entirely alone, entirely abandoned, with no one to defend her against
her cruel and artful enemies, of whose existence she never once dreamed!



INTRIGUES

Count Orloff lay in a comfortable, careless position upon his divan,
leisurely smoking his long Turkish pipe. Before him stood Joseph Ribas,
laughingly relating in his own comic manner the occurrences of the
preceding night.

"You are a wonderful man," said Orloff, when Joseph had finished. "You
have honestly earned your epaulets, and to-day you will for the first
time appear at my dinner-table as a Russian officer. Ah, I prophesy a
great future for you. You have the requisite skill and address to make
your fortune. You are shrewd, daring, and you recoil from no means,
finding them all good and useful when they forward your aims. With such
principles one may go far in this world, and Russia in fact offers you
the best opportunity for bringing all these fine talents into use."

"And, moreover, I commenced my Russian career with a good omen," said
Joseph. "I have placed a murder at the head of my Russian deeds! That
is a promising commencement, is it not, Sir Count? You must know that
better than any one."

"Indeed yes, I must best know that," said the count, laughing, and
continually stroking his long black beard. "By a fair and well-timed
murder one can always make his fortune in Russia. A well-timed and
well-executed murder is with us often rewarded with a barony and
the title of count. Indeed, sometimes with the highest and tenderest
imperial favor and grace. Ah, a murder at the right moment is an
excellent thing, only one must be quite sure of himself, and not fail
of hitting the right man. An unsuccessful murder is a very bad, and,
indeed, a very dangerous thing. I would have nothing to do with one, and
never have had any thing to do with one. Whatever I have undertaken I
have always boldly and successfully accomplished. The good Emperor
Peter III. knew that, and consequently trembled when I, with Passeb and
Bariatinsky, entered his chamber. The good emperor! He did not tremble
long, it was soon finished. Yes, yes, that was a deed done at the right
time, and therefore has the great Catharine been so grateful to us, and
honoured us above all the illustrious grandees of her empire."(*)

     (*) Of the tragic and horrible events connected with
     Catharine's accession to the throne, and of the
     strangulation of Peter, in which he took so active a part,
     Orloff spoke in Rome with the greatest freedom and evident
     pleasure.

"My little opening murder has, indeed, less significance," sighed Joseph
Ribas. "What was it but to help a humble musician to the blessedness and
harmony of the spheres!"

"But that musician was your brother!"

Ribas shrugged his shoulders. "That is, he was so considered; but in
reality I believe he was only a half-brother. My mother, of blessed
memory, had many little adventures, and I think Carlo's birth was
somewhat connected with them. Nor am I sure that it was not a necessary
work to kill him, as it was surely my duty to avenge my father's injured
honor, which is all I have done! Upon these grounds has a good, honest
priest this day given me absolution, and I now stand before you pure and
sinless as a maiden! We can therefore begin anew, your excellency. Have
you still any commands for me?"

"You now have a very noble and sublime part to play," said Orloff,
laughing. "You must now appear as the benefactor of our Russian
princess, and as the mediating forerunner of my own person!"

"That will be indeed a charming role," said Ribas, rubbing his hands
with delight. "I shall admirably acquit myself as benefactor and
mediator. But give me some details, Sir Count!"

"You shall have them," said Orloff, "from the mouth of
Stephano.--Stephano!"

The person called immediately appeared at the door of a side-room.

"Stephano," said Orloff, "now to work, friend. The courier who arrived
to-day has brought us good news and full powers. Count Paul Rasczinsky
is sent to Siberia for high-treason--his property is confiscated and
falls to the state. I have an unlimited power, signed by the empress
herself, to seize and sell his possessions here in the name of the
empress. Take with you some attorney and officers and go to his villa.
But, first of all, help our little Joseph Ribas to his uniform and
epaulets, that he may be properly costumed for a rescuer and benefactor.
And now, away with you! Instruct him well, Stephano. Ah, I should like
to be present at this delightful comedy!"

And Count Orloff broke out into a hearty laugh.

"This whole affair is very entertaining and romantic," he said to
himself, as soon as he was alone. "I am truly very thankful to Catharine
for intrusting it to me. I love the adventurous and romantic. Indeed,
whom else could she have chosen for this business? I should like to know
who would dare to enter the lists with me, the Russian Hercules, and who
would be so bold as to contend with me for this prize?"

Thus speaking, he rose from the divan and stepped to the great Venetian
mirror, before which he long remained attentively viewing himself.

"Ahem! this tender Empress Catharine knows how to judge of manly
beauty," murmured he, with a self-satisfied smile, "and I cannot blame
her for so often giving me the preference over my brother Gregory.
Besides, I shall first appear before this little Princess Natalie in
my antique dress. Catharine has often told me I was enchanting in my
antique costume. Well, we will also let this enchantment work a little
here. But first we must think of what is nearest to us. This Corilla
has rendered us a service, and we must be grateful. They say she loves
diamonds. I shall therefore send her these diamonds which her _eleve_
Joseph Ribas last night made the property of the Russian crown. And with
them I will send a little billet, written with my own hand. Who
knows but that this will give her more pleasure than the sparkling
brilliants!"

In that, however, the handsome Count Orloff was mistaken. The poetess
Corilla therein resembled to a hair the prima-donnas and heroines of the
stage of the present day. She attached a great value to diamonds, and
knowing that Russia was very rich in gold and diamonds, she always had
an especially bewitching smile for Russian grandees. Had Count Orloff
come in person to bring the diamonds, she would undoubtedly have more
admired him, apparently been more pleased with his presence than with
his costly gift; but, as he was not there, there was no necessity for
dissimulation.

She read Count Orloff's billet with a satisfied smile; but soon laid it
aside for the delight of examining the jewels.

"How that shines, and how that sparkles," said the exhilarated poetess;
"not even a lover's eyes flash so brightly, nor is his smile so proud,
so full of rich certainty, as the sparkling of these gems! They are
enchanters, and a word from me can change these _solitaires_ and
rosettes into a beautiful villa, or into a fragrant park with silent
arbors, intoxicating odors, and sweetly-singing birds. All that is
promised me by these stones--a lover's promises do not express half so
much. And only to think that it is Carlo, my former lover, to whom I
am indebted for these diamonds! From love to him I wished to destroy
Natalie, and that wish procured me the favor of the Russian count, and
consequently these brilliants. Poor Carlo! these diamonds outlast you.
How bright and beautiful were your glances that are now extinguished by
death--but this cruel, inexorable death has no power over diamonds!
It cannot strangle these as thou wert strangled, poor Carlo! I shall
remember thee this evening, Carlo, and hope the thought of thee may
inspire me for a right beautiful improvisation on death! I shall take
pains to bring to mind thy beautiful form overflowed with blood. Yes,
it will inspire in me a very effective improvisation, and I will at the
same time make a selection from my dear poets of some striking rhymes
upon death and the grave. And when I have the rhymes, the thoughts and
words will come of themselves. Rhymes, rhymes, these are the main things
with poets!"

And while the improvisatrice was thus speaking to herself, she had
mechanically adorned her person with the brilliants, attaching the
beautiful collar to her neck, the long pendants to her ears, and placing
the splendid diadem upon her brow.

She looked exceedingly beautiful in these ornaments, and consequently
rejoiced that her friend Cardinal Francesco Albani came at this precise
moment.

"He will be ravished?" said she, with a smile, advancing to meet him
with the proud and imposing dignity of a queen.

"You are beautiful as a goddess!" exclaimed the cardinal, "and whoever
sees you thus has seen the protecting divinity of ancient Rome, the
sublime Juno, queen of heaven!"

"Were I Juno, would you consent to be my Vulcan?" roguishly asked
Corilla.

"No," said Albani, laughing; "the noble Juno was not exactly true to her
Vulcan, and I require a faithful love! Would you be that, Corilla?"

"We shall see," said she, changing the arrangement of the diadem
before the glass--"we shall see, my worthy friend. But forget not the
conditions--first the laurel-crown!"

"You shall have it!" triumphantly responded the cardinal.

"Are you certain of that?" asked Corilla, with flashing eyes and glowing
cheeks.

Cardinal Francesco Albani smiled mysteriously.

"Pope Ganganelli is ill," said he, "and it is thought he will die!"



THE DOOMING LETTER

Groaning, supported by his faithful Lorenzo's arm, Pope Ganganelli
slowly moved through the walks of his garden. Some months had passed
since the suppression of the order of the Jesuits--how had these few
months changed poor Clement! Where was the peace and cheerfulness of
his face, where was the sublime expression of his features, the firm and
noble carriage of his body--where was it all?

Trembling, shattered, with distorted features, and with dull,
half-closed eyes, crawled he about with groans, his brow wrinkled, his
lips compressed by pain and inward sorrow.

No one dared to remain with him; he spoke to no one. But Lorenzo was yet
sometimes able to drive away the clouds from his brow, and to recall a
faint smile to his thin pale lips.

He had also to-day succeeded in this, and for the first time in several
weeks had Ganganelli, yielding to his prayers, consented to a walk in
the garden of the Quirinal.

"This air refreshes me," said the pope, breathing more freely; "it seems
as if it communicated to my lungs a renewed vital power and caused the
blood to flow more rapidly in my veins. Lorenzo, this is a singularly
fortunate day for me, and I will make the most of it. Come, we will
repair to our Franciscan Place!"

"That is an admirable idea," said Lorenzo, delighted. "If your holiness
can reach it, you will recover your health, and all will again be well."

Ganganelli sighed, and glanced toward heaven with a sad smile.

"Health!" said he. "Ah, Lorenzo, that word reminds me of a lost
paradise. The avenging angel has driven me from it, and I shall never
see it again."

"Say not so!" begged Lorenzo, secretly wiping a tear from his cheek.
"No, say not so, you will certainly recover!"

"Yes, recover!" replied the pope. "For death is a recovery, and in the
end perhaps the most real."

They silently walked on, and making a path through the bushes, they at
length arrived at the place, with the construction of which Lorenzo had
some months before surprised the pope, and which Ganganelli had since
named the "Franciscan Place."

"So," joyfully exclaimed Lorenzo, while the exhausted pope glided down
upon the grass-bank--"so, brother Clement, now let us be cheerful!
You know that here we have nothing more to do with the pope. You have
yourself declared that here you would be brother Clement, and nothing
more; now brother Clement was always a healthy man, full of juvenile
spirits and strength."

"Ah, my friend," responded Ganganelli, "I fear the pope has secretly
followed brother Clement even to this place, and even here no longer
leaves him free! No, no, it is no longer brother Clement who sits
groaning here, it is the vicegerent of God, the father of Christendom,
the holy and blessed pope! And if you knew, Lorenzo, what this
vicegerent of God has to suffer and bear, how his blood like streams of
fire runs through his veins, carbonizing his entrails and parching the
roof of his mouth, so that the tongue fast cleaves to it, and he has
no longer the power to complain of his misery! And such a crushed
earth-worm this miserable, infatuated people call the vicegerent of
God, before whom they bow in the dust! Ah, foolish children, are you not
yourselves disgusted with your masquerade, and do you not blush for this
jest?"

"See you not," said Lorenzo, with forced cheerfulness, "that since you
are here you have, against your will, again become brother Clement, and
inveigh against God's vicegerent who holds his splendid court in the
Vatican and Quirinal! Yes, yes that was what brother Clement used to do
in the Franciscan convent; he was always scolding about the pope."

"And yet he let men befool him and make a pope of him," said Ganganelli.
"Ah, Lorenzo, they were indeed good purposes that decided me, and good
and holy resolutions were in me when I bore this crown of St. Peter for
the first time. Ah, I was then so young, not in years, but in hopes and
illusions. I was so enthusiastic for the good and noble, and I wished to
serve it, to honor and glorify it in the name of God!"

"And in the end you have done so!" solemnly responded Lorenzo.

"I have wished to do so!" sighed Ganganelli, "but there it has ended.
I have been hemmed in everywhere; wherever I wished to press through,
I have always found a wall before me--a wall of prejudices, of ancient
customs, once received as indifferent, and at this wall my cardinals and
officials held watch, taking care that my will should be broken against
it, and not be able to speak through, in order to let in a little
freedom, a little fresh air, into our walled realm! They have curbed and
weakened my will, until nothing more of it subsists, and of my holiest
resolutions they have made a scarecrow before which foreign kings and
princes cry murder, and prophesy the downfall of their kingdoms if I
adhere to my innovations. Ah, the princes, the princes! I tell you,
Lorenzo, it is the princes who have undermined the happiness of the
world with their ideas of absolute power; they are the robbers of all
mankind; for freedom, which is the common property of all men, that
have they, like regular lawless highwaymen, appropriated for themselves
alone. They plundered the luck-pennies of all mankind, and coined them
into money adorned with their likenesses, and now all mankind run after
this money, thinking: 'If I gain that, then shall I have recovered my
part of human happiness which once belonged to all in common!' It has
come to this, Lorenzo, through the rapacity of princes, and yet they
still tremble upon their thrones, and fear that the people may one day
awake from their stupid slumber, all rising as one man, and cry in
the paling faces of their robbers: 'Give back what you have taken from
us--we will have what is ours; we require freedom and human right; we
will no longer remain slaves to tremble before a bugbear; we will be
free children of God, and have no one to fear but the God above us and
the consciences within our own breasts!' Come down, therefore, from your
usurped thrones, become once more human--labor, enjoy, complain, and
rejoice, as other men do; live not upon the sweat of your subjects, but
nourish yourselves by your own efforts, that justice may prevail in the
world, and humanity regain its rights!"

And Ganganelli's eyes flashed, his sunken cheeks were feverishly
flushed, while he was thus speaking. Lorenzo observed it with anxious
eyes; and when the pope made a momentary pause, he said: "You are again
altogether the good and brave brother Clement, but even he should think
about sparing himself!"

"And to what end should he spare himself?" excitedly exclaimed
Ganganelli; "Death sits within me and laughs to scorn all my efforts,
burying himself deeper and deeper in my inward life. You must know,
Lorenzo, that my cause of sorrow is precisely this, that I now live in
vain, and that I cannot finish what I began! I wished to make my people
happy and free; that was what alarmed all these princes, that was an
unheard-of innovation, and they have all put their heads together and
whispered to each other, 'He will betray to mankind that they have
rights of which we have robbed them. He wishes to give back to mankind
his inherited portion of the booty! But what will then become of us?
Will not our slaves rise up against us, demanding their human rights? We
cannot suffer such innovations, for they involve our destruction!' Thus
have they cried, and in their anxiety they have decided upon my death!
Then they threw me in a crumb exactly suited to my dreams of improving
the happiness of the people; they all consented that I should relieve
mankind from that dangerous tapeworm, Jesuitism, and with secret
laughter thought, 'It will be the death of him!' And they were right,
these sly princes, it will be the death of me! I have abolished the
order of Jesuits--in consequence of which I shall die--but the Jesuits
will live, and live forever!"

The echo of approaching footsteps was now heard, and, sinking with
fatigue, he directed Lorenzo to go and meet the intruder, and by no
means to let any one penetrate to him.

Returning alone, Lorenzo handed the pope a letter.

"The courier whom you sent out some days since has returned," said he.
"This is his dispatch."

Taking the letter, with a sad smile, the pope weighed it in his hand.
"How light is this little sheet," said he, "and yet how heavy are its
contents! Do you know what this letter contains, Lorenzo?"

"How can I? A poor cloister brother is not all-knowing!"

"This letter," said the pope, with solemnity, "Brings me life or death.
It is the answer of the learned physician, Professor Brunelli, of
Bologna!"

"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
Tofana_!"

"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 place.

"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 smile.

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
scrofula!

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 Tofana_."(*)

     (*) 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 at
Rome.

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 lamentation.

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
Natalie.

"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 ours!"

"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 calmness.

"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 garden.

"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 out!"

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 compassion.

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 forth.

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 all
right!"

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 street.

"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 from him!"

"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 ambassador."

Stephano, having attentively read it, almost indignantly said:

"It is all right. But the count is crazy, to give away so fine a
property!"

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
off.

"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 princess."

"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 distress!"

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!"



ANTICIPATION

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 invisible deity!

"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
greatness!"

"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
furnished?"

"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 this."

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
him--nothing further.

"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
his reception?"

"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.



HE!

"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 love!"

"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,
evenings?"

"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?"

"He!"

"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!"

"And why?"

"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
sadness.

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 be
welcome?"

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 her
hand.

"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
sword?

"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 answers!

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 empress!"

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
mother!"

"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
hers!"

"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 beautiful head!"



THE WARNING

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 still
further.

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-dreams.

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
door.

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 proving tiresome."

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,
cardinal!"

"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, his
liberty."

"And they have robbed him of that precious liberty," sighed Natalie.
"For his fidelity to me they have condemned him to a shameful
imprisonment!"

"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 receive here?"

"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
embarrassment.

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 necessary particulars."

"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 of Ivan!"

"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
cheeks glowed.

"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 hero!'"

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 false
prophet!"

"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,
smilingly said:

"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 passionately
asked.

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,
interrogating glances.

"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
smile.

"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, Natalie?"

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 imperial
splendor.

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 and
bracelets.

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
you!"

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
her glance.

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 appearance.

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
you!"

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 one
name--"Alexis!"

Trembling and quivering, Alexis Orloff orders his boat to return to the
shore!

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!"



CONCLUSION

She was satisfied, the great, the sublime empress--satisfied with the
work Alexis Orloff had accomplished, and with the manner in which it was
done.

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
smile.

"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
cheerfulness.

"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
executioners.

"Leave her those papers!" commanded Joseph Ribas who was present by
order of the empress. "She may keep them now--they will directly be
ours!"

"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
executioners.

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
an empress!_"





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