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Title: Memories of the Russian Court
Author: Viroubova, Anna
Language: Spanish
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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.

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                              MEMORIES OF
                           THE RUSSIAN COURT

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                   NEW YORK BOSTON  CHICAGO  DALLAS
                        ATLANTA  SAN FRANCISCO

                       MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                       LONDON  BOMBAY  CALCUTTA
                               MELBOURNE

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
                                TORONTO

       [Illustration: THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA IN HER HAPPY YEARS.]



                              MEMORIES OF
                           THE RUSSIAN COURT

                                  BY
                            ANNA VIROUBOVA

                      MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                      ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON
                                 1923


                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                            TO MY EMPRESS,
                    WITH LOVE AND FIDELITY ETERNAL


“When you are reproached--bless; when persecuted--be patient; when
calumniated--comfort yourself; when slandered--rejoice; this is your
road and mine.” Words of St. Seraphine.

ALEXANDRA FEODOROVNA, from _Tobolsk_,

        March 20, 1918

_Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall
not fear. Thy rod and Thy staff shall comfort me._



ILLUSTRATIONS


THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA IN HER HAPPY DAYS                    _Frontispiece_

                                                             Facing Page

THE EMPRESS DRIVING HER PONY CHAISE                                    8

THE EMPRESS WITH GRAND DUCHESS TATIANA IN HER
BEDROOM, TSARSKOE SELO                                                 8

ALEXANDER SERGIEVITCH TANIEFF                                          9

THE WINTER PALACE, PETROGRAD                                          20

MILITARY REVIEW, TSARSKOE SELO                                        21

THE EMPEROR AND EMPRESS IN A QUIET HOUR ON BOARD
THE IMPERIAL YACHT                                                    32

THE EMPRESS DISTRIBUTING PRESENTS TO SAILORS AT THE
END OF A CRUISE                                                       33

LIVADIA, THE NEW PALACE OF THE TSARS IN THE CRIMEA                    38

A CORNER OF THE COURT OF THE PALACE OF LIVADIA                        39

THE IMPERIAL CHILDREN BATHING IN THE BLACK SEA AT
LIVADIA                                                               39

THE IMPERIAL YACHT ARRIVES AT LIVADIA, THE CRIMEA                     50

THE TSAR, GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA AND TATIANA AND
MME. VIROUBOVA AT HOMBURG                                             51

THE EMPRESS GIVING ALEXEI A LESSON ON THE TERRACE                     74

ALEXEI PLAYING IN THE SNOW AT TSARSKOE SELO                           74

THE EMPRESS IN BED WITH CONVALESCENT TSAREVITCH                       75

GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA AND TATIANA ON BOARD THE
“STANDERT”                                                            78

THE TSAREVITCH WITH HIS COUSINS, CHILDREN OF GRAND
DUKE ERNEST OF HESSE                                                  79

NICHOLAS II AND THE TSAREVITCH ON BOARD THE IMPERIAL
YACHT “STANDERT”                                                      80

THE TSAREVITCH WITH HIS SAILOR, DEREVANKO                             81

THE TSAR, TSARINA, AND ALEXEI IN THE GARDENS AT
TSARSKOE SELO                                                         81

THE EMPEROR AND EMPRESS IN OLD SLAVONIC DRESS,
JUBILEE OF 1913                                                       98

THE INVALID EMPRESS ON THE BALCONY AT PETERHOF                        99

THE GUEST ROOM IN RASPUTINE’S HOUSE IN SIBERIA                       169

THE THREE CHILDREN OF RASPUTINE BEFORE THEIR HOUSE
IN SIBERIA                                                           169

THE EMPRESS AND YOUNG GRAND DUKE DMITRI, AFTERWARDS
ONE OF RASPUTINE’S ASSASSINS                                         184

MINISTER OF COURT COUNT FREDERICKS, THE EMPRESS AND
TATIANA TAKING TEA IN FINNISH WOODS                                  185

GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA, TATIANA, ANASTASIE, AND MARIE,
PRISONERS AT TSARSKOE SELO, 1917                                     266

ANNA VIROUBOVA SHORTLY AFTER HER RELEASE FROM THE
FORTRESS OF PETER AND PAUL                                           267

LETTERS FROM NICHOLAS II TO ANNA VIROUBOVA, FROM
TOBOLSK, 1917                                                        306

LETTERS FROM ALEXEI, TATIANA, AND MARIE, SMUGGLED
FROM SIBERIA IN 1917                                                 307

ONE OF THE EMPRESS’S LAST LETTERS TO MME. VIROUBOVA,
WRITTEN IN OLD SLAVONIC, 1918                                        320

SMUGGLED LETTER FROM THE EMPRESS ON BIRCHBARK AFTER
PAPER GAVE OUT                                                       321

THE EX-EMPEROR AND ALEXEI FEEDING TURKEYS IN THE
BARNYARD, TOBOLSK, 1918                                              342

THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE EMPRESS AND HER
DAUGHTERS, OLGA AND TATIANA, SHORTLY BEFORE THE
MURDER OF THE IMPERIAL FAMILY IN SIBERIA                             343

     Note: With very few exceptions all these photographs were taken by
     members of the Imperial Family and by Mme. Viroubova, all of whom
     were experts with the camera.



MEMORIES OF
THE RUSSIAN COURT



MEMORIES OF THE RUSSIAN COURT



CHAPTER I


It is with a prayerful heart and memories deep and reverent that I begin
to write the story of my long and intimate friendship with Alexandra
Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas II, Empress of Russia, and of the tragedy
of the Revolution, which brought on her and hers such undeserved misery,
and on our unhappy country such a black night of oblivion.

But first I feel that I should explain briefly who I am, for though my
name has appeared rather prominently in most of the published accounts
of the Revolution, few of the writers have taken the trouble to sift
facts from fiction even in the comparatively unimportant matter of my
genealogy. I have seen it stated that I was born in Germany, and that my
marriage to a Russian officer was arranged to conceal my nationality. I
have also read that I was a peasant woman brought from my native Siberia
to further the ambitions of Rasputine. The truth is that I am unable to
produce an ancestor who was not born Russian. My father, Alexander
Sergievitch Tanieff, during most of his life, was a functionary of the
Russian Court, Secretary of State, and Director of the Private
_Chancellerie_ of the Emperor, an office held before him by his father
and his grandfather. My mother was a daughter of General Tolstoy,
aide-de-camp of Alexander II. One of my immediate ancestors was Field
Marshal Koutousoff, famous in the Napoleonic Wars. Another, on my
mother’s side, was Count Kontaisoff, an intimate friend of the eccentric
Tsar Paul, son of the great Catherine.

Notwithstanding my family’s hereditary connection with the Court our own
family life was simple and quiet. My father, aside from his official
duties, had no interests apart from his home and his music, for he was a
composer and a pianist of more than national fame. My earliest memories
are of home evenings, my brother Serge and my sister Alya (Alexandra)
studying their lessons under the shaded lamp, my dear mother sitting
near with her needlework, and my father at the piano working out one of
his compositions, striking the keys softly and noting down his
harmonies. I thank God for that happy childhood which gave me strength
of soul to bear the sorrows and sufferings of after years.

Six months in every year we spent in the country near Moscow on an
estate which had been in the family for nearly two hundred years. For
neighbors we had the Princes Galatzine and the Grand Duke and Grand
Duchess Serge, the last named being the older sister of the Empress. I
hardly remember when I did not know and love the Grand Duchess
Elizabeth, as she was familiarly called. As small children she petted
and spoiled us all, often inviting us to tea, the feast ending in a
grand frolic in which we were allowed to search the rooms for toys which
she had ingeniously hidden. It was at one of these children’s teas that
I first saw the Empress Alexandra. Quite unexpectedly the Tsarina was
announced and the beautiful Grand Duchess Elizabeth, leaving her small
guests, ran eagerly to greet her. The time was near the beginning of the
reign of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, and the Tsarina was at
the very height of her youthful beauty. My childish impression of her
was of a tall, slender, graceful woman, lovely beyond description, with
a wealth of golden hair and eyes like stars, the very picture of what an
Empress should be.

For my father the young Empress soon conceived a warm liking and
confidence and she named him as vice president of the committee of
_Assistance par le Travail_. During this time we lived in winter in the
Michailovsky Palace in Petrograd, and in summer in a small villa in
Peterhof on the Baltic Sea. From conversations between my mother and
father I learned a great deal of the life of the Imperial Family. The
Empress impressed my father both by her excessive shyness and by her
unusual intelligence. She was above all a motherly woman and often
combined baby-tending with serious business affairs. With the little
Grand Duchess Olga in her arms she discussed all kinds of business with
my father, and while with one hand rocking the cradle where lay the baby
Tatiana she signed letters and papers of consequence. Sometimes while
thus engaged there would come a clear, musical whistle, like a bird
call. It was the Emperor’s special summons to his wife, and at the first
sound her cheek would turn to rose, and, regardless of everything, she
would fly to answer it. That birdlike whistle of the Emperor I became
very familiar with in later years, calling the children, signaling to
me. It had a curious, appealing, resistless quality, peculiar to
himself.

Perhaps it was a common love of music which first drew the Empress and
our family into a bond of friendship. All of us children received a
thorough musical education. From childhood we were taken regularly to
concerts and the opera, and our home, especially on Wednesday evenings,
was a rendezvous for all the musicians and composers of the capital. The
great Tschaikovsky was a friend of my father, and I remember many others
of note who were frequent guests at tea or dinner.

Apart from music we received an education rather more practical than was
the average at that time. In the Russia of my childhood a girl of good
family was supposed to acquire a few pretty accomplishments and nothing
much besides. Accomplishments I and my sister were given, but besides
music and painting, for which my sister had considerable talent, we were
well grounded in academic studies, and we finished by taking
examinations leading to teachers’ diplomas. I may say also that even in
our drawing-room accomplishments we were obliged to be thorough, and
when my father ventured to show some of our work to the Empress she
expressed warm approval. “Most Russian girls,” she said, “seem to have
nothing in their heads but officers.”

The Empress, coming from a small German Court where everyone at least
tried to occupy themselves usefully, found the idle and listless
atmosphere of Russia little to her taste. In her first enthusiasm of
power she thought to change things a little for the better. One of her
early projects was a society of handwork composed of ladies of the Court
and society circles, each one of whom should make with her own hands
three garments a year to be given to the poor. The society, I am sorry
to say, did not long flourish. The idea was too foreign to the soil.
Nevertheless the Empress persisted in creating throughout Russia
industrial centers, _maisons de travail_, where the unemployed, both men
and women, and especially unfortunate women who, through errors of
conduct, lost their positions, could find work.

Life at Court was by no means serious. In fact it was at that time very
gay. At seventeen I was presented, first to the Empress Dowager who
lived in a palace in Peterhof known as the Cottage. Extremely shy at
first, I soon accustomed myself to the many brilliant Court functions to
which my mother chaperoned my sister and myself. We danced that first
winter, I remember, at no less than twenty-two balls besides attending
many receptions, teas, and dinners. Perhaps it was partly the fatigue of
all this social dissipation which made so serious the illness with which
in the ensuing summer I was stricken. Typhus, that scourge of Russia,
struck down at the same time my brother Serge and myself. My brother’s
illness ran a normal course and he made a rapid recovery, but for three
months I lay at death’s door. After the fever succeeded many
complications, inflammation of the lungs and kidneys, and an affection
of the brain whereby I lost both speech and hearing. In the midst of my
suffering I had a vivid dream in which the saintly Father John of
Kronstadt appeared to me and told me to have courage and that all would
finally be well.

This Father John of Kronstadt, whom all true Russians reverence as a
saint, I remembered as having thrice been at our house in my early
childhood. The gentle majesty of his presence, the beauty of his benign
countenance had so deeply impressed me that now, in my desperate
illness, it seemed to me that he, more than the skilled physicians and
the devoted sisters who attended me, had power of help and healing. In
some way I managed to convey to my parents that I wanted Father John,
and they immediately telegraphed begging him to come. It was some days
before the message reached him, as he was away from home on a mission,
but as soon as he received word of our need he hastened to Peterhof. As
in a vision I sensed his coming long before he reached the house, and
when he came I greeted him without astonishment with a feeble movement
of my hand. Father John knelt down beside my bed, praying quietly, a
corner of his long stole laid over my burning head. At length he rose,
took a glass of holy water, and to the consternation of the nurses
sprinkled it freely over me and bade me sleep. Almost instantly I fell
into a deep sleep, and when I awoke next day I was so much better that
all could see that I was on the road to recovery.

In September of that year I went with my mother first to Baden and
afterwards to Naples. We lived in the same hotel with the Grand Duke and
Grand Duchess Serge who were very much amused to see me in a wig, my
long illness having rendered me temporarily almost bald. After a quiet
but happy season in southern Italy I returned to Russia quite restored
to health. The winter of 1903 I remember as a round of gaieties and
dissipations. In January of that year I received from the Empress the
diamond-studded _chiffre_ of maid of honor, which meant that, following
my marriage, I would have permanent entry to all Court functions. Not
immediately but very soon afterwards I was called to duty to the person
of the Empress, and there began then that close and intimate friendship
which I know lasted with her always and which will remain with me as
long as God permits me to live.

I would that I could paint a picture of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
as I knew her before the first shadow of doom and disaster fell upon
unhappy Russia. No photograph ever did her justice because it could
reproduce neither her lovely color nor her graceful movements. Tall she
was, and delicately, beautifully shaped, with exquisitely white neck and
shoulders. Her abundant hair, red gold, was so long that she could
easily sit upon it when it was unbound. Her complexion was clear and as
rosy as a little child’s. The Empress had large eyes, deep gray and very
lustrous. It was only in later life that sorrow and anxiety gave her
eyes the melancholy with which they are usually associated. In youth
they wore an expression of constant merriment which explained her family
nickname of “Sunny,” a name by the way nearly always used by the
Emperor. I began almost from the first day of our association to love
and admire her, as I have loved her ever since and always shall.

The winter of 1903 was very brilliant, the season culminating in a
famous ball in costumes of Tsar Alexis Michailovitch, who reigned in the
seventeenth century. The ball was given first in the Hermitage, the
great art gallery adjoining the Winter Palace, but so immense was its
success that it had to be twice repeated, once in the _Salle de Concert_
of the palace and again in the large ballroom of the Schermetieff
Palace. My sister and I were two of twenty young girls selected to dance
with twenty youthful cavaliers in an ancient Russian dance which
required almost as much rehearsal as a ballet. The rehearsals were quite
important society events, all the mothers attending, and the Empress
often looking on as interested as any of us.

That summer I again fell ill in our villa in Peterhof, and I remember
particularly that this was the first time the Empress ever visited our
house. She drove in a low pony chaise, coming up to my sickroom all in
white with a big white hat and in the best of spirits. Needless to say,
her unexpected visit did me a world of good, as did her second visit at
our home in the country when she left me a gift of holy water from
Saroff, a place greatly venerated by Russians. That winter with its
artless pleasures, and the pleasant summer which followed, marked the
end of an era in Russia. Immediately afterwards came the catastrophe of
the Japanese War, so needlessly entered into. This war was the beginning
of a long line of disasters which ended in the supreme disaster of 1917.
I must confess that at the time the Japanese War made no

[Illustration: THE EMPRESS DRIVING IN HER PONY CHAISE. PETERHOF, 1909.]

[Illustration:

     THE EMPRESS WITH GRAND DUCHESS TATIANA IN HER BEDROOM, TSARSKOE
     SELO. FAVORITE IKONS IN BACKGROUND.
]

[Illustration: ALEXANDER SERGIEVITCH TANIEFF, Director of the Tsar’s
Private Chancellerie, Father of Anna Viroubova.]

very deep impression on young girls who, like myself, faced life lightly
like happy children. We resigned ourselves to an almost complete
cessation of balls and parties, and we put aside our pretty gowns for
the sober dress of working sisters. The great salons of the Winter
Palace were turned into workrooms and there every day society flocked to
sew and knit for our soldiers and sailors fighting such incredible
distances away, as well as for the wounded in hospitals at home and
abroad. My mother, who was one of the heads of committees giving out
work to be done at home, was constantly busy, and we obediently followed
her example.

Every day the Empress came to inspect the work, often sitting down at a
table and sewing diligently with the others. This was shortly before the
birth of the Tsarevitch and I have a clear picture in my mind of the
Empress looking more than ever fine and delicate, her tall figure clad
in a loose robe of dark velvet trimmed in fur. Behind her chair,
bringing into splendid relief her bright gold hair, stood a huge negro
servant, gorgeous in scarlet trousers, gold-embroidered jacket, and
white turban. This negro, Jim, was one of four Abyssinians who stood
guard before the doors of the private apartments. They were not soldiers
and they had no functions except to open and close the doors, and to
signify by a sudden, noiseless entrance into a state apartment that one
of their Majesties was about to appear. The Abyssinians were in fact
simply one of the left-overs from the days of Catherine the Great, in
whose times dwarfs and negroes and other exotics figured as a part of
Court ceremonials. They remained not because Nicholas II or the Empress
wanted them, but because, as I shall later explain, it was practically
impossible to change any detail of Russian Court life.

The following summer the heir was born amid the wildest rejoicings all
over the Empire. I remember the Empress telling me with what
extraordinary ease the child was brought into the world. Scarcely half
an hour after the Empress had left her boudoir for her bedroom the baby
was born and it was known that, after many prayers, there was an heir to
the throne of the Romanoffs. The Emperor, in spite of the desperate
sorrow brought upon him by a disastrous war, was quite mad with joy. His
happiness and the mother’s, however, was of short duration, for almost
at once they learned that the poor child was afflicted with a dread
disease, rather rare except in royal families where it is only too
common. The victims of this malady are known in medicine as
haemophiliacs, or bleeders. Frequently they die soon after birth, and
those who survive are subject to frightful suffering, if not to sudden
death, from slight injuries to blood vessels, internal as well as
external. The whole short life of the Tsarevitch, the loveliest and most
amiable child imaginable, was a succession of agonizing illnesses due to
this congenital affliction. The sufferings of the child were more than
equaled by those of his parents, especially of his mother, who hardly
knew a day of real happiness after she realized her boy’s fate. Her
health and spirits began to decline, and she developed a chronic heart
trouble. Although the boy’s affliction was in no conceivable way her
fault, she dwelt morbidly on the fact that the disease is transmitted
through the mother and that it was common in her family. One of her
younger brothers suffered from it, also her uncle Leopold, Queen
Victoria’s youngest son, while all three sons of her sister, Princess
Henry of Prussia, were similarly afflicted. One of these boys died young
and the other two were lifelong invalids.

Everything possible, everything known to medical science, was done for
the child Alexei. The Empress nursed him herself, as indeed, with the
assistance of professional women, she had nursed all her children. Three
trained Russian nurses were in attendance, with the Empress always
superintending. She bathed the babe herself, and was with him so much
that the Court, ever censorious of her, complained that she was more of
a nurse than an Empress. The Court, of course, did not immediately
understand the serious condition of the infant heir. No parents, be
their estate high or low, are ready all at once to reveal a misfortune
such as that one. It is always human to hope that things are not as
desperate as they seem, and that in time some remedy for the illness
will be found. The Emperor and Empress guarded their secret from all
except relatives and most intimate friends, closing their eyes and their
ears to the growing unpopularity of the Empress. She was ill and she was
suffering, but to the Court she appeared merely cold, haughty, and
indifferent. From this false impression she never fully recovered even
after the explanation of her suddenly acquired silence and melancholy
became generally known.



CHAPTER II


In one of the earliest days of 1905 my mother received a telegram from
Princess Galatzine, first lady in waiting, saying that my immediate
presence at Court was required. The Princess Orbeliani, also a lady in
waiting, was seriously ill, and some one was needed to replace her in
attendance on Her Majesty. I left at once for Tsarskoe Selo, then, as
always, the favorite home of the Imperial Family, and on my arrival was
conducted to the apartments in the palace known as the Lyceum. The rooms
were small and dark with windows looking out on a little church. It was
the first time I had ever been away from home, and in any surroundings I
should have been homesick and forlorn, but in these unfriendly
surroundings my spirits were with some excuse depressed.

The time of my coming to Court was unpropitious, the Imperial Family and
all connections being in deep mourning for the Grand Duke Serge who, on
the morning of February 4, had been barbarously assassinated. The Grand
Duke Serge, uncle of Nicholas II, had been Governor of Moscow. He was
undoubtedly a reactionary, and his rule was said to have been harsh.
Certain it is that his administrative methods earned him the intense
enmity of the Social Revolutionaries and he had long lived in danger of
assassination. His wife, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, was devoted to
him in spite of his somewhat difficult temperament, and she never
willingly allowed him to leave the palace of the Kremlin unaccompanied.
Usually she went with him herself, but on this fatal February morning
he, being in a dark mood, left the palace without her knowledge.
Suddenly a great explosion shook all the windows, and the poor Grand
Duchess, springing from her chair, cried out in an agonized voice: “It
is Serge!”

Rushing out into the court she saw a horrible sight, the body of her
husband scattered in a hundred bleeding fragments over the snow. The
bomb had literally torn the unfortunate man to pieces, so that in the
dismembered mass of flesh and blood there was nothing recognizable of
what had been, only a few minutes before, a strong and dominating man.

The terrorist who threw the bomb was promptly arrested, tried, and
sentenced to death. It was entirely characteristic of the Grand Duchess
Elizabeth that in the midst of her grief and horror she still found room
in her heart to pity the misguided wretch sitting in his cell waiting
his miserable end. The Grand Duchess insisted on visiting the man in
prison, assuring him of her forgiveness, and praying for him on the
stone floor of his cell. Whether or not he joined in her prayers I do
not know. The Social Revolutionaries prided themselves on being
irreligious and very many of them were Jews.

The Court weighed down by this terrible tragedy was a sad enough place
for a homesick girl like myself. Like all the other ladies in waiting I
wore a black dress with a long veil, and when at length I was received
by the Empress I found her, too, dressed in deep mourning. After this
first formal reception I saw very little of the Empress, all her time
being devoted to her sister, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, and to
Princess Henry of Prussia, who was visiting her. The Empress Dowager
also came, so that the suite was thrown together in what for me was not
altogether a pleasant association. My special duty, as I discovered, was
attendance on the old Princess Orbeliani, whose illness, I am bound to
admit, did not sweeten her disposition. But as she was dying of that
terribly trying malady, creeping paralysis, I am ashamed, even now, to
criticize her. For the other _dames d’honneur_, however, I have no
hesitation to say that they were not on their best behavior. Being
entirely a stranger at Court and unacquainted with insincerities which
afterwards I came to know only too well, I suffered keenly from the
cutting remarks of my colleagues. My French, which I own I spoke rather
badly, came in for a great deal of ridicule. On the whole it was rather
an unhappy period in my young life.

The one bright spot that I remember was a drive with the Empress to
which I was summoned by telephone. It was a warm day in early spring and
the snow around the tree roots along the road was thawing in the pale
sunlight. We drove in an open carriage, a big Cossack, picturesquely
uniformed, riding behind. It was my first public appearance with Royalty
and I was a little confused as to how to behave in the presence of the
low-bowing crowds that lined the way. The Empress, however, soon put me
at my ease, chatting of simple things, talking of her children,
especially of the infant heir, at that time about eight months old. Our
drive was not very long because the Empress had to hurry back to
superintend a dancing lesson of the young Grand Duchesses. I remember
when I returned to the apartment of the invalid Princess Orbeliani, she
commented rather maliciously on the fact that I was not invited to
attend the dancing lesson. But by that time, alas! I knew that had I
been invited her comment might have been more malicious still. Still I
must not speak badly of the poor Princess, for in spite of her illness
and approaching death she was very brave and kinder than most people in
her circumstances would have been.

Lent came on and in the palace church there were held every Wednesday
and Friday special services for the Imperial Family. I asked and was
given permission to assist in these services and I found great solace in
them. At that time also I became warmly attached to a maid of honor of
the Grand Duchess Serge, Princess Scnkovsky, a woman of rare character.
She had recently lost her mother and was in a sad mood. Almost everyone,
in fact, was sad at this time. The Grand Duchess Serge, although she
bore her tragedy with dignity and courage, went about with a white face
and eyes in which horror still lingered. On religious holidays she laid
aside her black robes and appeared all in white like a madonna.

The Princess Irene of Prussia (Princess Henry) was still in mourning for
her little son who had died of the same incurable disease which
afflicted the Tsarevitch. She spoke to me with emotion of the child, to
whom she had been deeply attached.

My duty came to an end in Holy Week, and I went to the private
apartments to make my farewell of the Empress. She received me in the
nursery, the baby Tsarevitch in her arms, and I cannot forget how
beautiful the child appeared or how healthy and normal. He had a wealth
of golden hair, large blue eyes, and an expression of intelligence rare
in so young a child. The Empress was kindness itself. At parting she
kissed me, and gave me as a souvenir of my first service a locket set in
diamonds. Yet for all her gracious kindness how gladly I left that night
for my beloved home.

The following summer, which as usual we spent at Peterhof, I saw much
more of the Empress than in my month of attendance on her. With my
mother and sister I again worked daily in the workrooms established for
the wounded in the Japanese War, and there almost daily the Empress came
to sew with the other women. Once every week she visited the hospitals
at Tsarskoe Selo, and twice that summer, at her request, I accompanied
her to her foundation hospital for training nurses. The Empress in the
military hospitals was at her very best. Passing from bedside to
bedside, speaking as tenderly as a mother to the sick and suffering men,
sitting down to a game of checkers with convalescent officers, it was
difficult to imagine how anyone could ever call her cold or shy. She was
altogether charming and as she passed all eyes followed her with love
and gratitude. To me she was everything that was good and kind, and into
my heart there was born a great emotion of love and loyalty that made me
determine that I would devote my whole life to the service of my
Sovereigns. Soon after I was to know that they, too, desired that I
should be intimately associated with their household. The first
intimation came in the form of an invitation to spend two weeks on the
Royal yacht which was about to leave for a cruise in Finnish waters. We
left on the small yacht _Alexandria_, and at Kronstadt transferred to
the larger yacht _Polar Star_. We were a fairly large company on board,
among others Prince Obolensky, Naval Minister, Admiral Birileff, Count
Tolstoy, Admiral Chagin of the Emperor’s staff, and Mademoiselle
Schneider and myself in attendance on Her Majesty. A little to my
embarrassment I was placed at table next the Emperor with whom I was not
at all acquainted. It is true that I had often seen him at Tsarskoe and
at Peterhof riding, or walking with his kennel of English collies,
eleven magnificent animals in which he took great pride. But this time,
on the _Polar Star_, was the first time I had been brought into personal
contact with him. With the Empress I felt more at home, and this he
knew, for he began almost at once to speak to me of her and of her great
help to him in the pain and anxiety of the Japanese War. “Without her,”
he said with feeling, “I could never have endured the strain.”

The war was again recalled by a visit on board the yacht from Count
Witte, fresh from the Portsmouth Conference. As a reward for his work
done there he received for the first time his title by which the world
now knows him. During dinner he related with great gusto all his
experiences in the United States, his triumph over the Japanese
delegates, his popularity with the Americans, appearing very happy and
satisfied with himself. The Emperor complimented him warmly, but Count
Witte for all his talents was never a favorite with the Sovereigns.

Life on board the _Polar Star_ was very informal, very lazy and
agreeable. We sailed through the quiet waters of the Baltic, every day
going ashore for walks, the Emperor and his staff sometimes shooting a
little, but more often spending the time climbing rocks, hunting
mushrooms and berries in the woods and meadows, and playing with the
children to whom this country holiday was heavenly pleasure. Living long
hours in the open air and indulging in so much vigorous exercise made me
desperately sleepy so that I found myself drowsy at dinner and almost
dead for sleep by the time the eleven o’clock tea hour came round.
Everyone found my drowsiness a source of never-ending amusement, and
once, after I had actually fallen asleep at tea and had nearly pitched
out of my chair, the Emperor presented me with a silver matchbox with
which he said I might prop my eyes open until bedtime.

There was, of course, a piano in the salon of the yacht, and the Empress
and I found a new bond in our common love of music. We spent hours
playing four-hand pieces, all our dearly loved classics, Bach,
Beethoven, Tschaikovsky, and others. In our quiet hours with our music,
and especially before going to bed, the Empress and I had many intimate
conversations. As if to relieve a heart too much constrained to silence
and solitude the Empress confided in me freely the difficulties of her
life. From the first day of her coming to the Russian Court she felt
herself disliked, and this was all the more a grief and mortification to
her because her marriage with the Emperor was a true love match, and she
ardently desired that their union should increase in the Russian people
the loyalty and devotion they undoubtedly felt in those days for the
House of Romanoff.

All the stories of the reluctance of Alexandra Feodorovna to marry
Nicholas II are absurdly untrue. As a small child she had been taken to
Petrograd to the marriage of her older sister Elizabeth and the Grand
Duke Serge. With the Grand Duchess Xenia, sister of Nicholas, she formed
a warm friendship, and with the young heir himself she was on the best
of terms. One day he presented her with a pretty little brooch which
from very shyness she accepted but afterwards repenting, she returned,
squeezing the gift into his hand in the course of a children’s party.
The young Tsarevitch, much offended, or rather much hurt, passed the
brooch on to his sister Xenia who, not knowing its history, cheerfully
accepted it.

The attraction so early established increased with years and ripened
into romantic love, yet Alexandra Feodorovna hesitated to accept
Nicholas as her betrothed because of the change of religion which was
necessary. Her home life at this time was not particularly happy. Her
mother, Princess Alice of England, had died in her childhood, and now
her father, the reigning Grand Duke of Hesse, died suddenly of a stroke
of paralysis. Her brother Ernest, who inherited the title and who was of
course her guardian, had made an unhappy marriage with Princess
Victoria of Coburg, and the home life of the family was not
particularly pleasant. Later this marriage was dissolved, and in 1908
Grand Duke Ernest was happily united to Princess Eleanor of Sohmslich.
It was at his first marriage that Alexandra Feodorovna again met the
Tsarevitch, and from this time on he became a suitor. After their formal
betrothal the young pair spent some happy weeks with Queen Victoria in
England, where the match met with the approval of all the English
relatives.

[Illustration: THE WINTER PALACE, PETROGRAD]

Emperor Alexander III was at this time lying mortally ill in the Summer
Palace Livadia, in the Crimea, and when his condition became hopeless
Alexandra Feodorovna, as the future Tsarina, was summoned to join the
Imperial Family at his bedside. The dying Tsar rose from his sickbed
and, dressed in full uniform, gave her the greeting due her dignity as a
royal bride. From the rest of the family, unfortunately, she had a less
cordial reception. The Empress and her ladies in waiting, Princess
Oblensky and Countess Voronzoff, were distant and formal, and the rest
of the Court, as might be expected, followed their example. The whole
atmosphere of the palace seemed to the young girl unwholesome and
unsympathetic. Upstairs lay the dying Emperor, while below the suite
lunched and dined and followed ordinary pursuits very much as though
nothing untoward was happening. To Alexandra Feodorovna, accustomed to
the intimacy of a small and much less formal Court, this behavior seemed
unfeeling and unkind.

[Illustration: MILITARY REVIEW NEAR THE PALACE AT TSASKOE SELO]

The end came suddenly one day when the Emperor, at the moment almost
free from pain or weakness, was sitting in his armchair. The Empress
Marie, quite overcome, fainted in the arms of Alexandra, who in that
hour of extreme sorrow, prayed sincerely that she and her future
mother-in-law might be drawn together in bonds of affection. But this,
alas! was never to be.

The days that followed were gray and desolate for the young bride. The
funeral procession of Alexander III wound slowly and solemnly from the
Crimea to Petrograd, a journey of many days. The young Emperor, absorbed
in his new duties, had little time to devote to the lonely, homesick
girl, and indeed they hardly met before the morning of their marriage, a
few days after the state funeral of the dead Emperor. The marriage took
place in the church of the Winter Palace, and those who witnessed it
have said that the bride, in her rich satin robes, looked very pale and
unhappy. As she herself told me, the wedding seemed only a continuation
of the long funeral ceremonies she had so lately attended.

Thus came Alexandra Feodorovna to Russia, nor did the weeks that
followed her arrival bring her any happiness. To her friend Countess
Rantsau, lady in waiting to Princess Henry of Prussia, she wrote:

     I feel myself completely alone, and I am in despair that those who
     surround my husband are apparently false and insincere. Here nobody
     seems to do his duty for duty’s sake, or for Russia, but only for
     his own selfish interests and for his own advancement. I weep and I
     worry all day long because I feel that my husband is so young and
     so inexperienced. He does not at all realize how they are all
     profiting at the expense of the State. What will come of it in the
     end? I am alone most of the time. My husband is all day occupied
     and he spends his evenings with his mother.

This was true, as Nicholas was very inexperienced and his mother’s
influence and, it must be said, her knowledge of affairs were very
potent. All during the first year the Emperor and the two Empresses
lived together in the Annitchkoff Palace on the Nevski Prospekt.
Alexandra Feodorovna comforted herself with the thought that summer
would bring her a real honeymoon in the Crimea. Meanwhile she and her
young husband went for an occasional sledge ride together, about the
only time granted them for confidences. Fortunately the first baby came
soon and the second was soon expected. That autumn in the Crimea the
Emperor was stricken with typhus and his wife insisted upon nursing him
herself, hardly permitting his personal servant to assist her. Christmas
was celebrated in his sickroom, his recovery having set in some weeks
before. During these days of convalescence they went on solitary walks
together, and the Emperor began to read with his wife, to confide in her
with affection. When they went back to Petrograd it was with every cloud
dispelled, and the Empress a radiantly happy wife. However, the somewhat
cold and distant manner acquired in the first unhappy months of her stay
in Russia remained with her. Russia seemed to her an unfriendly land,
and she was never able to present to it her really sunny and amiable
disposition.

Not all of these confidences did the Empress impart to me on that first
cruise I was privileged to share with her on the _Polar Star_. Little
by little, then and later, I learned the story of her unhappy youth. But
what she told me that summer seemed to relieve her mind, and she was
more cheerful at the ending of the cruise than at the beginning. The
commander of the yacht was good enough to tell me that I had broken down
the wall of ice that seemed to surround Her Majesty, and that now she
could be more easily approached. At the close of the voyage the Emperor
said: “You are to go with us every year after this.”

But dearest of all in my memory were the words of the Empress at
parting: “Dear Annia, God has sent me a friend in you.” And so I
remained ever afterwards, not a courtier, not long a lady in waiting, or
even a maid of honor, or in any capacity an official member of the
Court, but merely a devoted and an intimate friend of Alexandra
Feodorovna, Empress of Russia.



CHAPTER III


Shortly after our return to Peterhof I went abroad with my family,
stopping first at Karlsruhe, Baden, to visit my grandmother, and
afterwards going on to Paris. The Empress had given me letters to her
brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse, and to her eldest sister, Princess
Victoria of Battenberg, both of whom I saw before leaving Germany. The
seat of the Grand Duke of Hesse was Wolfsgarten near Darmstadt, a
beautiful place surrounded by extensive gardens laid out according to
the Grand Duke’s own plans. After my first luncheon at the palace,
during which the Grand Duke asked me many questions about the Empress
and her life at the Court of Russia, I walked in the gardens with Mme.
Grancy, hofmistress of the Court of Hesse, a gracious and charming
woman. She showed me the toys and other pathetic relics of the little
Princess Elizabeth, only child of the Grand Duke’s first marriage, who
had died in Russia after an acute illness of a few hours. I also saw the
white marble monument which the people of Hesse had raised to the memory
of the child.

To the second luncheon I attended at the old Schloss came the Princess
Victoria of Battenberg with her lovely daughter Louise. Etiquette at
Hesse was of the severest order and I observed with some astonishment
that the Princess Victoria curtsied deeply to her sister-in-law,
Princess Eleanor, who though much younger than herself, was the wife of
the reigning Grand Duke. The old Princess was a very clever woman and a
brilliant conversationalist, although, to tell the truth, as she spoke
very rapidly I lost a great deal of what she said. I remember her
questioning me rather closely about the political situation in Russia,
and although I was not very enlightening on the subject she was good
enough to invite me and my sister to lunch with her at Jugenheim in the
neighborhood of Darmstadt. Both the brother and the sister of the
Empress entrusted me with letters to her, and I took them with me to
Paris, not knowing that it would be a long time before I should be able
to deliver them.

For in the midst of these pleasant days, all unknown to me, the tide of
trouble and unrest was rising high in Russia. Beginning with a railroad
strike in Finland, a succession of labor troubles and revolutionary
demonstrations extending over a large territory brought about a serious
crisis which for a time tied up most of the railroads and prevented our
return to Russia. Of the cause of the trouble, and above all, of its
ultimate consequences, I must say that I remained in complete ignorance.
That the situation was grave of course I realized, and my heart went out
to the Emperor on whom the responsibility of restoring order largely
rested. But that this railroad strike, for that is all it seemed to
amount to, was the beginning of a revolution never crossed my mind. I
longed to get back to the Empress who I knew would be sharing the
anxiety of the Emperor, but as a matter of fact I did not get back until
after the manifesto of October, 1905, had been signed and delivered to
a startled world.

This October manifesto, relinquishing the principle of autocracy,
creating for the first time a Duma of the Empire, was the result of many
councils, some of them dramatic, not to say violent. Count Witte and
Grand Duke Nicholas were determined that the Emperor should sign the
manifesto, a thing which he was reluctant to do, not because he clung to
his privileges as autocrat of all the Russias, though I know that this
is the motive still attributed to him by almost all the world. The Tsar
hesitated to create a house of popular representation because he knew
how ill prepared the Russian people were for self-government. He knew
the dense ignorance of the masses, the fanatical and ill-grounded
socialism of the intelligentsia, the doctrinaire theories of the
Constitutional Democrats. I can say with positive knowledge that
Nicholas II fervently desired the progress of his country towards a high
civilization, but in 1905 he felt very serious doubts of the wisdom of
radical changes in the Russian system of government. At last, however,
overborne by his ministers, he signed the manifesto. It is said that the
Grand Duke Nicholas, in one of the last councils, lost all control of
himself and drawing a revolver threatened to shoot himself on the spot
unless the manifesto was signed. Whether this actually occurred or not I
do not know, but from what was told me later by the Empress the scenes
with the Grand Dukes and the ministers were painful in the extreme. When
in one of the final councils the actual form of the national assembly
was decided upon the Emperor, with a hand trembling with emotion,
signed his name to the fateful document, all in the room rose and bowed
to him in token of their continued fidelity.

The Empress told me that while these trying scenes were in progress she
sat in her boudoir alone save for her near relative the Grand Duchess
Anastasie, both of whom felt that in the stormy council chamber a child
was being dangerously brought into the world. Yet all the prayers of the
Empress, as well as those of the Emperor, were that the new policy of
popular representation would bring peace to troubled Russia.

The Duma was elected, the Socialists alone of political parties
repudiating it as too “bourgeois.” I was present with all the Empress’s
household, in the Throne Room of the Winter Palace on the opening day of
the Duma when the Tsar welcomed the deputies, and I remember with what a
strong, steady voice, and with what clear enunciation, the opening
speech was read. Of the proceedings of the first Duma I have no very
definite recollections, because they were marked with endless and very
wordy discussions rather than with any attempt at constructive action.
Everyone knows that the Duma was dissolved by Imperial order after a
short life of two months.

Of these momentous political events which rocked Russia and were
featured prominently in every newspaper in the world only faint echoes
reached the inner circle of the Russian Court. This may sound incredible
to readers in republican countries where the press is entirely
uncensored and where public opinion is educated in politics. In the
Russia of 1906 the reading public was a comparatively small one and the
press was poorly representative of the really intelligent people of the
Empire. Few men and fewer women of my class attached any particular
interest to the Duma, the best we hoped for it being that in time it
would become an efficient working agency, like the parliaments of
western European countries, adapted, of course, to Russian needs. The
first Duma we thought of only as a rather foolish debating society.

The Empress and I were engaged, at that time, with singing lessons, our
teacher being Mme. Tretskaia of the Conservatoire. The Empress was
gifted with a lovely contralto voice, which, had she been born in other
circumstances, might easily have given her a professional standing. My
voice being a high soprano we sang many duets. Sometimes my sister
joined us and as she also sang well we formed a trio singing many of the
lovely arrangements for three voices by Schumann and others.
Occasionally came also an English friend of the Empress, a talented
violinist, and among us we arranged concerts which gave us the greatest
pleasure, although we always had to hold them in another building of the
palace called the Farm in order not to disturb the Emperor, who, for
some strange reason, did not like to hear his wife sing.

When summer came and while the Duma was talking out its brief existence
we again took up our sea life, this time on board the large royal yacht
the _Standert_. We cruised for two months, the Emperor frequently going
ashore for tennis and other amusements, but occupied two days of each
week with papers and state documents brought to him by messenger from
Petrograd. The Empress and I were almost constantly together walking on
shore, or sitting on deck reading, or watching the joyful play of the
children, each of whom had a sailor attendant to keep them from falling
overboard or otherwise suffering mishap. The special attendant of the
little Alexei was a big, good-natured sailor named Derevanko, a man
seemingly devoted to the child. It was in fact Derevanko who taught
Alexei to walk, and who during periods of great weakness following
severe attacks of his malady carried the boy most tenderly in his arms.
All of these sailors at the end of a cruise received watches and other
valuable presents from the Emperor, yet most of them, even Derevanko,
when the revolution came, turned on their Sovereigns with meanest
treachery.

On my days of regular service, Wednesdays and Fridays, for I was then a
regularly appointed lady in waiting, I dined with the Imperial Family,
and at that time I formed a close friendship with General Alexander
Orloff, an old companion in the Royal Hussars with the Emperor. After
dinner the Emperor and General Orloff usually played billiards, while
the Empress and I read or sewed under the warm lamplight. Those were
happy evenings, full of bright talk and laughter, and I came to regard
General Orloff as one of my best friends. Already the hateful hand of
jealousy and gossip had been directed against me by people who could not
understand, or who, from motives of palace politics, deliberately
misunderstood the Empress’s preference for my society. Practically
every monarch has some close personal friend, absolutely disassociated
with politics and social intrigue, but I have noticed that these
friendships are always misunderstood and frequently bitterly resented. I
used to take my small troubles to General Orloff, at least they seem
small now after years of real trouble and affliction. But even after
these bitter years of sorrow and affliction the kindly counsels of the
good old general often come back to me, as they did then, like a
friendly hand laid on my hot and resentful heart.

I was then, in 1906, a fully grown and mature young woman and, as I
could not help knowing, I was the subject of many conversations in the
family circle because of my indifference to marriage. I had, I suppose,
the normal amount of attention from men, and the usual number of
suitors, but none of the young officers and courtiers with whom I danced
and chatted made any special appeal to my imagination. There was one
young naval officer, Alexander Virouboff, who after December, 1906, came
to our house almost every day, paying me the most marked attentions. One
day at luncheon he spoke with pride of the very good service to which he
had just been appointed, and very soon afterwards I found myself greeted
on all sides as his affianced. In February there was a ball in which I
was formally presented as a bride, and in the after whirl of dinners,
presents, new gowns and jewels, I began to share the excitement, if not
the happiness, of those around me. The Empress approved the match, my
parents approved, and no one except my old friend General Orloff
expressed even a faint doubt of the wisdom of the marriage. But on the
day when he spoke to me frankly, advising me to think seriously before
taking such a serious step, the Empress entered the room and said in a
decided voice that I had given my word and that therefore I should not
be given any discouragement.

I was married on the 30th of April, 1907, in the palace church at
Tsarskoe Selo. The night before I slept ill and in the early morning I
awoke in a mood of sadness and depression. The events of the day passed
more like a dream than a reality. As in a dream I allowed myself to be
dressed in my white satin wedding gown and floating veil, and still in a
dream I knelt before their Majesties who blessed me, holding over my
head a small ikon. Then began the marriage procession through the long
corridors to the church. First walked Count Fredericks, master of
ceremonies of the Court. Then came their Majesties, arm in arm, with my
little boy cousin, Count Karloff, carrying a holy image. Then I, walking
with my father. I must have shown by my excessive pallor the anxiety I
felt, for on the stairs the Empress looked at me with concern and having
caught my eye smiled brightly and glanced upward reassuringly at the
bright sky.

During the ceremony I stood quite still like a manikin, gazing at my
bridegroom as at some stranger. I had one moment of faint amusement when
the officiating priest, who was very near-sighted, mistook the best man
for the bridegroom addressing us affectionately as “my dear children.”
The Empress, as my matron of honor, stood at my left hand with the four
young Grand Duchesses, and two others, the children of Grand Duke Paul.
One of these was the Grand Duke Dmitri, who was destined to grow up to
take part in the assassination of Rasputine. On the day of my marriage
he was just a dear little boy, wide-eyed with the excitement of being
one of a wedding party. After the ceremony there was tea with the
Emperor and the Empress, and as usual when she and I parted there was an
affectionate little note pressed into my hand. How like an angel she
looked to me that day, and how hard it was for me to turn away from her
and to go away with my husband. There was a family dinner that night in
our home in Petrograd, and afterwards we went away for a month into the
country.

It is a hard thing for a woman to tell of a marriage which from the
first proved to be a complete mistake, and I shall say only of my
husband that he was the victim of family abnormalities which in more
than one instance manifested themselves in madness. My husband’s nervous
system had suffered severely in the rigors of the Japanese War, and
there were many occasions when he was not at all responsible for what he
did. Often for days together he kept his bed refusing to speak to
anyone. One night things became so threatening that I could not forbear
telephoning my fears to the Empress, and she, to my joy, responded by
driving instantly to the house in her evening gown and jewels. For an
hour she stayed with me comforting me with promises that the situation
should, in one way or another, be relieved.

In August the Emperor and Empress invited us both to go for a cruise on
the _Standert_, and sailing

[Illustration: THE EMPEROR AND EMPRESS IN A QUIET HOUR ON BOARD THE
_STANDERT_. Photograph by Mme. Viroubova.]

[Illustration: THE EMPRESS DISTRIBUTING PRESENTS AT THE END OF A CRUISE
ON THE IMPERIAL YACHT _STANDERT_.]

through the blue Finnish fjords it did seem for a time that I should
find peace. But one day a terrible thing happened, possibly an accident,
but if so a very strange one, as we had on board an uncommonly able
Finnish pilot. We were seated on deck at tea, the band playing, a
perfectly calm sea running, when we felt a terrific shock which shook
the yacht from stem to stern and sent the tea service crashing to the
deck. In great alarm we sprang to our feet only to feel the yacht
listing sharply to larboard. In an instant the decks were alive with
sailors obeying the harsh commands of the captain, and helping the suite
to look to the safety of the women and children. The fleet of torpedo
boats which always surrounded the yacht made speed to the rescue and
within a few minutes the children and their nurses and attendants were
taken off. Not knowing the exact degree of the disaster, the Empress and
I hastened to the cabins where we hurriedly tied up in sheets all the
valuables we could collect. We were the last to leave the poor
_Standert_, which by that time was stationary on the rocks.

We spent the night on a small vessel, the _Asia_, the Empress taking
Alexei with her in one cabin and the Emperor occupying a small cabin on
deck. The little Grand Duchesses were crowded in a cabin by themselves,
their nurses and attendants finding beds where they could. The ship was
far from clean and I remember the Emperor, rather disheveled himself,
bringing basins of water to the Empress and me in which to wash our
faces and hands. We had some kind of a dinner about midnight and none of
us passed an especially restful night. The next day came the yacht
_Alexandria_ on which we spent the next two weeks. A fortnight was
required to get the ill-fated _Standert_ off the rocks on which she had
so mysteriously been driven. From the _Alexandria_ and later to the
_Polar Star_, to which we had been transferred, we watched the unhappy
yacht being carefully removed from her captivity. We had not been very
comfortable on the _Alexandria_ because there was not nearly enough
cabin room for our rather numerous company. The Empress occupied a
cabin, the Tsarevitch and his sailor another one adjoining. The four
little Grand Duchesses did as well as they could in one small cabin,
while the Emperor slept on a couch in the main salon. As for me, I slept
in a bathroom. Most of the suite found quarters on a Finnish ship which
stood by.

After our return to Peterhof my husband became worse rather than better
and his physician advised him to spend some time in a sanatorium for
nervous patients in Switzerland. He left, but on coming back to Russia
was noticeably in worse condition than before. In the hope that active
service would be of benefit to his shattered nerves and disordered brain
he was ordered to sea, but even this expedient proved of little benefit.
After a year of intense suffering and humiliation my unhappy marriage,
with the full approval of their Majesties and of my parents, was
dissolved.

I kept my little house in Tsarskoe Selo, its modest furnishings
beautified by many gifts from the Empress. Among these gifts were some
charming pictures and six exquisitely embroidered antique chairs. A
silver-laden tea table helped to make the salon cozy, and I have many
happy memories of intimate teas to which the Empress sent fruit and the
Emperor the cherry brandy which he especially affected.

The little house, however, was far from being the luxurious palace in
which I have often been pictured as living. As a matter of fact, it was
frightfully cold in winter because the house had no stone foundation but
rested on the frozen earth. Sometimes when the Emperor and Empress came
to tea we sat with our feet on the sofa to keep warm. Once the Emperor
jokingly told me that after a visit to my house he kept himself from
freezing only by going directly to a hot bath.

The summer of 1908 the Emperor and Empress paid an official visit to
England, but on their return they sent for me and again I spent a happy
holiday on the yacht. Not altogether happy, however, for towards the end
of the cruise my poor friend General Orloff, then near his death from
tuberculosis, came to say good-bye to his Sovereigns. Correct in his
uniform and all his orders the fine old soldier bade us all a brave
farewell before leaving for Egypt, where he well knew that his end
awaited him. Peace to his honored ashes. He lies buried at Tsarskoe
Selo, where the Emperor and Empress often visited his grave. Poor
Orloff, he too suffered from the malicious gossip of the Court where his
honest admiration of the Empress was deliberately misinterpreted and
assoiled. I can bear witness, and I do, that his greatest devotion was
to the Emperor, his old comrade in arms, the friend of his youthful
days.



CHAPTER IV


In the autumn of 1909 I went for the first time to Livadia, the country
estate of the Imperial Family in the Crimea. This part of Russia, dearer
to all of the Tsars than any other, is a small peninsula, almost an
island, surrounded on the west and south by the Black Sea and on the
east by the Sea of Asov. A range of high hills protects it from the cold
winds of the north and gives it a climate so mild and bland as to be
almost sub-tropical. The Imperial estate, which occupies nearly half the
peninsula, has always been left as far as possible in its natural
condition of unbroken forests, wild mountains, and valleys. There was at
the time of which I write but one short railroad in the whole of the
Crimea, a short line running from Sevastopol, the principal port of the
Black Sea, northward to Moscow. All other journeys had to be taken by
carriage, motor cars, or on horseback.

The natural beauties of the Crimea would be difficult to exaggerate. The
mountains, dark with pines, snow-covered during most of the year, make
an imposing background for the profusion of flowering trees, shrubs and
vines, making the valleys and plains one continuous garden. The
vineyards of the Crimea are, or were previous to the Revolution, equal
to any in Italy or southern France. What they became afterwards God
knows. But certainly up to the summer of 1914, when I saw them last,
the vine-clad hills and valleys of the Crimea were an earthly Paradise,
as lovely and as peaceful as the mind can picture. From the grapes of
the Crimea were distilled the best wines in Russia, among others an
excellent champagne and a delicious sweet wine of the muscat variety.

Almost every kind of fruit flourished in the valleys, and in spring the
wealth of blossoms, pink and white, of apples, cherries, peaches,
almonds, made the whole countryside a perfumed garden, while in autumn
the masses of golden fruit were a wonder to behold. Flowers bloomed as
though they were the very soul of the fair earth. Never have I seen such
roses. They spread over every building in great vines as strong as ivy,
and they scattered their rich petals over lawns and pathways in
fragrance at times almost overpowering. There was another flower, the
glycinia, which grew on trailing vines in grapelike clusters, deep mauve
in hue, the favorite color of the Empress. This flower, too, was
intensely fragrant, as were the violets which in spring literally
carpeted the plains. Imagine these valleys and plains, with their
vineyards and orchards, their tall cypress trees and trailing roses,
sloping down to a sea as blue as the sky and as gentle as a summer day,
and you have a picture, imperfectly as I have painted it, of the country
retreat of the Romanoffs. Here of all places in Russia they were loved
and revered. The natives of the peninsula were Tartars, the men very
tall and strong and the women almost invariably handsome. They were
Mohammedans, and it was only within late years that the women had
discarded their veils. Both men and women wore very picturesque dress,
the men wearing round black fur caps and short embroidered coats over
tight white trousers. It was the fashion for the women to dye their hair
a bright red, over which they wore small caps and floating veils and
adorning themselves with a wealth of silver bangles. These Tartars were
an honest folk, absolutely loyal to the Tsar. They were wonderful
horsemen, comparing favorably with the best of the Cossacks, and their
horses, through long breeding and training, were natural pacers. To see
a cavalcade of Tartars sweep by was to imagine a race of Centaurs come
back to earth, so absolutely one was every horse and man.

[Illustration: LIVADIA, THE NEW PALACE OF THE TSARS IN THE CRIME.]

[Illustration: A CORNER OF THE COURT OF THE NEW PALACE. LIVADIA, CRIMEA]

[Illustration: THE IMPERIAL CHILDREN BATHING AT LIVADIA.

Grand Duke Alexei on Mme. Viroubova's kne. In the background a farorite
nurse.]

The palace, as I saw it in 1909, was a large, old wooden structure
surrounded by balconies, the rooms dark, damp, and unattractive. The
only really sunny and cheerful room in the whole house was the dining
room, where twice a day the suite met for luncheon and dinner. The
Emperor usually presided at these meals, but the Empress being in bad
health lunched privately with the Tsarevitch. The Empress had been for
some time a victim of the most alarming heart attacks which she bravely
concealed, not wishing the public to know her condition. Oftentimes when
I remarked the blue whiteness of her hands, her quick, gasping breaths,
she silenced me with a peremptory “Don’t say anything. People need not
know.” However, I was intensely relieved when at last she consented to
have the daily attention of a special physician, this being the devoted
Dr. Botkine, who accompanied the family in their Siberian exile, and
shared their fate, whatever that fate may have been. Dr. Botkine,
although a very able physician, was not a man of great social
prominence, and when, at the Empress’s request, I went to apprise him of
his appointment as special medical adviser to their Majesties, he
received the news with astonishment almost amounting to dismay. He began
his administration by greatly curtailing the activities of the Empress,
keeping her quietly in bed for long periods, and insisting on the use of
a rolling chair in the gardens, and a pony chaise for longer jaunts
abroad.

Life at Livadia in 1909 and in after years was simple and informal. We
walked, rode, bathed in the sea, and generally led a healthful country
life, such as the Tsar, eminently an outdoor man and a lover of nature,
enjoyed to the utmost. We roamed the woods gathering wild berries and
mushrooms which we ate at our al fresco teas, cooking the mushrooms over
little campfires of twigs and dried leaves. The Emperor and his suite
hunted a little, rode much, and played very good tennis. In this latter
sport I was often the Emperor’s partner and a very serious affair I had
to make of each game. No conversation was allowed, and we played with
all the gravity and intensity of professionals.

We had each year many visitors. In 1909 came sometimes to lunch the Emir
of Bokhara, a big, handsome Oriental in a long black coat and a white
turban glittering with diamonds and rubies. He seemed intensely
interested in the comparative simplicity of Russian royal customs, and
when he departed for his own land he distributed presents in true
Arabian Nights’ profusion, costly diamonds and rubies to their
Majesties, and to the suite orders and decorations set with jewels.
Nevertheless the souvenir of the Emir’s visit to Livadia which I most
prized was a photograph of himself for which he obligingly posed in the
gardens. This photograph and hundreds of others which I took during the
twelve years I spent with the Imperial Family I was obliged to leave
behind me when I fled, a hunted refugee, across the Russian frontier. I
have no hope of ever seeing any of them again.[1]

The 20th of October, the anniversary of the death of Alexander III, was
always remembered by a solemn religious service held in the room where
he died, the armchair in which he breathed his last being draped in
heavy black. This death chamber was not in the main palace but in a
smaller house adjoining, one which in 1909 was used as a lodging for the
suite. The last part of our stay in the Crimea that year was not very
gay. The Emperor left us for an official visit to the King of Italy, and
on the day of his departure the Empress, greatly depressed, shut herself
up in her own room refusing to see anyone, even the children. It was
always to her an intolerable burden that she and the Emperor were
obliged by etiquette to part from each other in public and to meet again
after each absence in full view of the suite and often of the staring
multitude.

This autumn was made sad also by one of the all too frequent illnesses
of the unfortunate little Tsarevitch. The sufferings of the child on
these occasions were so acute that everyone in the palace was rendered
perfectly miserable. Nothing much could be done to assuage the poor
boy’s agony, and nothing except the constant love and devotion of the
Empress gave him the slightest relief. We who could do nothing else for
him took refuge in prayer and supplication in the little church near the
palace. Mlle. Tutcheva, maid of honor to the young Grand Duchesses, read
the psalms, while the Empress, the older girls, Olga and Tatiana, two of
the Tsar’s aides, and myself assisted in the singing. In the midst of
our anxiety and distress during this illness of Alexei my father paid us
a brief visit, bringing important reports to the Emperor, and this was
at least a momentary bright hour in the sorrow of my existence. At
Christmas time the Court returned to Tsarskoe Selo, both the Empress and
the Tsarevitch by this time much improved in health.

The next time I went with their Majesties to the Crimea we found the
estate transformed and greatly beautified by the substitution of a
palace of white marble for the ancient and gloomy wooden buildings. The
new palace was the work of the eminent architect, Krasnoff, who had also
designed the palaces of the Grand Dukes Nicholas and George. In the two
years Krasnoff had indeed worked marvels, not only in the palace, which
was a gem of Italian Renaissance architecture, but in many smaller
buildings, the whole constituting a town in itself, harmonious in
material and design.

I shall never forget the day we landed in Yalta, and the glorious drive
through the bright spring sunshine to the palace. Before the carriage
rode an old Tartar of the Crimea, one of the tribe I described earlier
in this chapter. To ride before the Tsar’s carriage was an ancient
prerogative of these honest and loyal people, a prerogative which had to
be resigned when carriages gave way to motor cars. No Tartar horse could
have kept pace with, much less have preceded, a motor car of Nicholas
II, for he always insisted on driving at a terrifying speed. But as late
as 1911 he kept up the old custom of driving from Yalta to Livadia.

We drove, as I say, through the dazzling sunshine and under the fresh
green trees of springtime until the white palace, set in gardens of
blooming flowers and vines, burst on our delighted eyes. Russian fashion
we proceeded first to the church, from whence in procession we followed
the priests to the anointing and blessing of the new dwelling. The first
day I spent with the Empress superintending the hanging of pictures and
ikons, placing familiar and homely objects, photographs and souvenirs,
so necessary to make a dwelling place out of an empty house, even though
it be a royal palace. On the second floor were the private apartments of
the family, including a small salon. The apartments of the Empress were
furnished in light wood and pink chintzes and many vases and jars always
kept full of the pink and mauve flowers she loved. From the windows of
her boudoir one looked out on the wooded hills, and from the bedroom
there was an enchanting view of the sparkling sea. To the right of the
Empress’s boudoir was the Emperor’s study, furnished in green leather
with a large writing table in the center of the room. On this floor also
was the family dining room, the bedrooms of the Tsarevitch and of the
Grand Duchesses and their attendants, a large day room for the use of
the children, and a big white hall or ballroom, seldom used.

Below were the rooms of state, drawing rooms and dining rooms, all in
white, the doors and windows opening on a marble courtyard draped with
roses and vines which almost covered an antique Italian well in the
center of the court. Here the Emperor loved to walk and smoke after
luncheon, chatting with his guests or with members of the household. The
whole palace, including the rooms of state, were lightly, beautifully
furnished in white wood and flowered chintzes, giving the effect of a
hospitable summer home rather than a palace.

That autumn was marked by a season of unusual gaiety in honor of the
coming of age, at sixteen, of the Grand Duchess Olga, who received for
the occasion a beautiful diamond ring and a necklace of diamonds and
pearls. This gift of a necklace to the daughter of a Tsar when she
became of age was traditional, but the expense of it to Alexandra
Feodorovna, the mother of four daughters, was a matter of apprehension.
Powerless to change the custom, even had she wished to do so, she tried
to ease the burden on the treasury by a gradual accumulation of the
jewels. By her request the necklaces, instead of being purchased
outright when the young Grand Duchesses reached the age of sixteen, were
collected stone by stone on their birthdays and name days. Thus at the
coming-out ball of the Grand Duchess Olga she wore a necklace of
thirty-two superb jewels which had been accumulating for her from her
babyhood.

It was a very charming ball that marked the introduction to society of
the oldest daughter of the Tsar. Flushed and fair in her first long
gown, something pink and filmy and of course very smart, Olga was as
excited over her début as any other young girl. Her hair, blonde and
abundant, was worn for the first time coiled up young-lady fashion, and
she bore herself as the central figure of the festivities with a modesty
and a dignity which greatly pleased her parents. We danced in the great
state dining room on the first floor, the glass doors to the courtyard
thrown open, the music of the unseen orchestra floating in from the rose
garden like a breath of its own wondrous fragrance. It was a perfect
night, clear and warm, and the gowns and jewels of the women and the
brilliant uniforms of the men made a striking spectacle under the blaze
of the electric lights. The ball ended in a cotillion and a sumptuous
supper served on small tables in the ballroom.

This was a beginning of a series of festivities which the Grand Duchess
Olga and a little later on her sister Tatiana enjoyed to their utmost,
for they were not in the least like the conventional idea of princesses,
but simple, happy, normal young girls, loving dancing and parties and
all the frivolities which make youth bright and memorable. Besides the
dances given at Livadia that year, large functions attended by
practically everyone in the neighborhood who had Court entrée, there
were a number of very brilliant balls given in honor of Olga and Tatiana
after the family returned to Tsarskoe Selo. Two of these were given by
the Grand Dukes Peter and George and the girls enjoyed them so much
that they begged for another before Christmas. This time it was Grand
Duke Nicholas who provided a most regal entertainment, preceded by a
dinner for the suite, to which I was invited. I went because the Empress
wished it, but I went rather unwillingly knowing that the atmosphere was
not a friendly one. Their Majesties were at that time particularly
friendly with Grand Duke George and his wife who was Princess Marie of
Greece, as formerly they had been with Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholas
and their wives, the Montenegran princesses, Melitza and Stana, of whom
more must be written later on.

In relating the events of the coming of age of Olga and Tatiana I must
not forget to mention affairs of almost equal consequence which occurred
in the Crimea in that season of 1911. The climate of the Crimea was
ideal for tuberculosis patients, and from her earliest married life the
Empress had taken the deepest interest in the many hospitals and
sanatoria which nestled among the hills, some of them almost within the
confines of the Imperial estate. Before the beginning of the reign of
Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna these hospitals existed in numbers
but they were not of the best modern type. Not satisfied with these
institutions the Empress out of her own private fortune built and
equipped new and improved hospitals, and one of the first duties laid on
me when I first visited the Crimea was to spend hours at a time
visiting, inspecting and reporting on the condition of buildings,
nursing and care of patients. I was particularly charged with
discovering patients who were too poor to pay for the best food and
nursing, and one of each summer’s activities when the family visited
the Crimea was a bazaar or other entertainment for the benefit of these
needy ones. Four great bazaars organized and largely managed by the
Empress I particularly remember. The first of these was held in 1911 and
the others in 1912, 1913, and 1914. For all of these bazaars the Empress
and her ladies worked very hard and from the opening day the Empress,
however precarious the condition of her health, always presided at her
own table, disposing of fine needlework, embroidery, and art objects
with energy and enthusiasm. The crowds around her booth were enormous,
the people pressing forward almost frenziedly to touch her hand, her
sleeve, her dress, enchanted to receive their purchases from the hand of
the Empress they adored, for she was adored by the real Russian people,
whatever the intriguing Court and the jealous political rivals of her
husband thought of her. Often the crowd at these bazaars would beg for a
sight of Alexei, and smiling with pleasure the Empress would lift him to
the table where the child would bow shyly but sweetly, stretching out
his hands in friendly greeting to the worshipping crowds. Indeed the
people loved all the Imperial Family then, whatever changes were made in
the minds of the many by the horrible sufferings of the War, by
propaganda, and by the mania of the Revolution. The great mass of the
Russian people loved and were loyal to their Sovereigns. No one who knew
them at all can ever forget that.

Perhaps they were more universally loved in the Crimea than elsewhere
because of the simplicity of their lives and the close touch they were
able to keep with the people of the country. We went to Livadia again
in 1912, in 1913, and last of all in the spring and summer of 1914. We
arrived in 1912 in the last week of Lent, I think the Saturday before
Palm Sunday. Already the fruit trees were in full bloom and the air was
warm with spring. Twice a day we attended service in the church, and on
Thursday of Holy Week, a very solemn day in the orthodox Russian
calendar, their Majesties took communion, previously turning from the
altar to the congregation and bowing on all sides. After this they
approached the holy images and kissed them. The Empress in her white
gown and cap looked beautiful if somewhat thin and frail, and it was
very sweet to see the little Alexei helping his mother from her knees
after each deep reverence. On Easter eve there was a procession with
candles all through the courts of the palace and on Easter Sunday for
two hours the soldiers, according to old custom, gathered to exchange
Easter kisses with the Emperor and to receive each an Easter egg.
Children from the schools came to salute in like manner the Empress. For
their Majesties it was a long and fatiguing ceremony, but they carried
it through with all graciousness, while the Imperial household looked
on.

Such was the intimate, the patriarchal relation between the Tsar and his
people, and such was the real soul of Russia before the Revolution. I
have often read, in books written by Western authors, that the Tsar and
all the Imperial Family lived in hourly terror of assassination, that
they knew themselves hated by their people and were righteously afraid
of them. Nothing could possibly be farther from the truth. Certainly
neither Nicholas II nor Alexandra Feodorovna feared their people. The
constant police supervision under which they lived annoyed them
unspeakably, and never were they happier than when practically
unattended they moved freely among the Russian people they loved. In
connection with the Empress’s care for the tuberculosis patients in the
Crimea there was one day every summer known as White Flower Day, and on
that day every member of society, unless she had a very good excuse,
went out into the towns and sold white flowers for the benefit of the
hospitals. It was a day especially delightful to the Empress and, as
they grew old enough to participate in such duties, to all the young
Grand Duchesses. The Empress and her daughters worked very hard on White
Flower Day, spending practically the whole day driving and walking,
mingling with the crowd and vending their flowers as enthusiastically as
though their fortunes depended on selling them all. Of course they
always did sell them all. The crowds surged around them eager and proud
to buy a flower from their full baskets. But the buyers were no whit
happier than the sellers, that I can say with assurance.

Of course life in the Crimea was not all simplicity and informality.
There were a great many visitors, most of them of rank too exalted to be
treated with informality. I remember in particular visits of Grand Duke
Ernest of Hesse, brother of the Empress, and his wife, Princess Eleanor.
I remember also visits of the widowed Grand Duchess Serge, who had
become a nun and was now abbess of a wonderful convent in Moscow, the
House of Mary and Martha. When she visited Livadia masses were said
daily in the palace church. I ought not, while speaking of visitors, to
omit mention of the old Prince Galitzin, a very odd person, but strongly
attached to the Tsar, to whom he presented a part of his own estate,
some distance to Livadia, and to which we made a special excursion on
the royal yacht. Another memorable excursion was to the estates of
Prince Oldenbourg on the coast of Caucasia. The sea that day was very
rough and by the time we reached our destination the Empress was so
prostrated that she could not go ashore. It was a pity because she
missed what to all the others was a remarkable spectacle, a grand
holiday of the Caucasians who, in their picturesque costumes, crowded
down to the shore to greet their Sovereigns. The whole countryside was
in festival, great bonfires burning in all the hills and on all the
meadows wild music and the most fascinating of native dances.

Such was life in the Crimea in the old, vanished days. Simple, happy,
kind, and loyal, all that was best in Russia.



CHAPTER V


These yearly visits to the Crimea were diversified with holiday voyages
on the _Standert_, and visits to relatives and close friends in various
countries. In 1910 their Majesties visited Riga and other Baltic ports
where they were royally welcomed, afterwards voyaging to Finnish waters
where they received as guests the King and Queen of Sweden. This was an
official visit, hence attended with considerable ceremony, exchange
visits of the Sovereigns from yacht to warship, state dinners and
receptions. At one of these dinners I sat next the admiral of the
Swedish fleet, who was much depressed because during the royal salute to
the Emperor one of his sailors had accidentally been killed.

In the autumn of 1910 the Emperor and Empress went to Nauheim, hoping
that the waters would have a beneficial effect on her failing health.
They left on a cold and rainy day and both were in a melancholy state,
partly because of separation from the beloved home, and partly because
of the quite apparent weakness of the Empress. On her account the
Emperor showed himself deeply disturbed. “I would do anything,” he said
to me, “even to going to prison, if she could only be well again.” This
anxiety was shared by the whole household, even by the servants who
stood in line on the staircase saying their farewells,

[Illustration: COMING IN AT YALTA, THE CRIMEA, 1911. THE EMPEROR, GRAND
DUCHESSES OLGA AND ANASTASIE, MME. VIROUBOVA AND OFFICERS OF THE YACHT
_STANDERT_. Photograph by the Empress.]

[Illustration:

     THE EMPEROR, GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA AND MARIE STROLLING THROUGH
     HOMBURG IN 1910. THE EMPEROR OUT OF UNIFORM WAS ALMOST SAFE FROM
     RECOGNITION.
]

kissing the shoulder of the Emperor and the gloved hand of the Empress.

I heard almost daily from Frieberg, where the family were stopping,
letters from the Emperor, the Empress, and the children, telling me of
their daily life. At length came a letter from the Empress suggesting
that I join my father at Hombourg, not far distant, that we might have
opportunity for occasional meetings. As soon as I arrived I telephoned
the château at Frieberg, and the next day a motor car was sent to fetch
me. I found the Empress improved in health but looking thin and tired
from the rather rigorous cure. The Emperor, in his civilian clothes,
looked unfamiliar and strange, but he wore the conventional citizen’s
garb because he as well as the Empress wished to remain as far as
possible private persons. When the health of the Empress permitted she,
with Olga and Tatiana, enjoyed going unattended to Nauheim, walking
unnoticed through the streets, and gazing admiringly into shop windows
like ordinary tourists. Once the Emperor and the young Grand Duchesses
motored over to Hombourg and for a short hour walked about quite happily
unobserved. Only too soon, however, the Emperor was recognized and our
whole small party was obliged to flee precipitously before the gathering
crowds and the ever enterprising news photographers. On some of our
outings the Emperor was more fortunate. Once when we were wandering
along a country road on the outskirts of Hombourg a wagon passing us
dropped suddenly into the road a heavy box. The carrier, try as he
would, could not succeed in lifting the box back to its place until the
Emperor went forward and, exerting all his strength, helped the man out
of his difficulty. The carrier thanked his Majesty with every expression
of respect and gratitude, recognizing him as a gentleman but never
dreaming, of course, of his exalted station. To my expressions of amused
enjoyment of the situation the Emperor said to me gravely: “I have come
to believe that the higher a man’s station in life the less it becomes
him to assume any airs of superiority. I want my children to be brought
up in this same belief.”

Soon after this I returned to Russia to visit my sister, who had just
borne her first baby, a little girl named for the Grand Duchess Tatiana,
who acted as godmother for the child. My stay was not long, as letters
from the Empress called me to Frankfort in order to be near her. On my
arrival at Frankfort a surprise awaited me in the form of an invitation
from the Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse to stay with his Imperial guests at
his castle. At the castle gates I was welcomed by Mme. Grancy, the
charming hofmistress of the Hessian Court, and by Miss Kerr, a bright
and clever English girl, maid of honor to Princess Victoria. Miss Kerr
took me at once to my apartments, near her own, and I quickly made
myself at home. That night at dinner I sat between the Emperor and our
host, the Grand Duke of Hesse. The company, which was most
distinguished, included Prince Henry of Prussia, who that evening
happened to be in rather a disagreeable mood, Princess Irene, Princess
Victoria of Battenberg, and her beautiful daughter Princess Louise,
Prince George of Greece, and the two semi-invalid sons of Prince and
Princess Henry. The Empress was not present, being excused on account of
her cure. Besides, it was understood that the Empress almost never
appeared at state dinners.

The Grand Duke of Hesse I have always liked extremely both for his
amiable disposition and for his many accomplishments. He was, and is
still, an unusually gifted musician, a painter, and an artist craftsman
seriously interested in the great pottery in Darmstadt, where his own
designs are used. He has always been a man of liberal social ideals and
his popularity among the people of Hesse not even the German Revolution
has been powerful enough to overthrow. His wife, Princess Eleanor, when
I knew her, was dignified and gracious and gifted with a genuine talent
for dress. Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of the Kaiser and
brother-in-law of the Empress, was a tall and handsome man, but inclined
to be--let us say--temperamental. At times he was overbearing and very
satirical, and at others friendly and charming. His wife was a small
woman, simple in manner and of a kindly, unselfish nature. Princess
Alice, daughter of Princess Victoria of Battenberg and wife of Prince
Andrew of Greece, was a beautiful woman but unhappily quite deaf.

The Castle of Frieberg, which stands on a high hill overlooking a low
valley and the little red-roofed town of Nauheim, is an ancient
structure not particularly attractive either inside or out. There was
nothing much for Grand Duke Ernest’s guests to do in the way of
amusement except to walk and drive. Of the Empress I saw rather less
than we had planned, but sometimes late in the evenings the Emperor, the
Empress, and myself met for Russian tea and for familiar talks before
bedtime.

In October or November their Majesties returned to Tsarskoe Selo, the
Empress greatly benefited by her cure. How happy we were to be once more
at home, the Empress in her charming boudoir hung with mauve silk and
fragrant with fresh roses and lilacs, I in my own little house which I
dearly loved even though the floors were so cold. The opal-hued boudoir
of the Empress, where we spent a great deal of our time, was a lovely,
quiet place, so quiet that the footsteps of the children and the sound
of their pianos in the rooms above were often quite audible. The Empress
usually lay on a low couch over which hung her favorite picture, a large
painting of the Holy Virgin asleep and surrounded by angels. Beside her
couch stood a table, books on the lower shelf, and on the upper a
confusion of family photographs, letters, telegrams, and papers. It was
undeniably a weakness of the Empress that she was not in the least
systematic about her correspondence. Intimate letters, it is true, she
answered promptly, but others she often left for weeks untouched. About
once a month Madeleine, the principal maid of the Empress, would invade
the boudoir and implore her mistress to clear up this heap of neglected
correspondence. The Empress usually began by begging to be left alone,
but in the end she always gave in to the importunities of the invaluable
Madeleine. The Empress of course had a private secretary, Count
Rostovseff, but it was one of her peculiarities that she preferred to
handle her letters and telegrams before her secretary, and he seemed to
accustom himself with ease to her dilatory ways.

It would be difficult to imagine two people more widely different on
points of this kind than Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Their
private apartments were very close together, the Emperor’s study,
billiard and sitting room and his dressing room with a fine swimming
bath, almost adjoining the apartments of the Empress. The big
antechamber to the study, well furnished with chairs and tables and many
books and magazines, looked out on a court, and here people who had
business with the Emperor waited until they were summoned to his private
room. The study was a perfect model of orderliness, the big writing
table having every pen and pencil exactly in its place. The large
calendar also with appointments written carefully in the Emperor’s own
hand was always precisely in its proper place. The Emperor often said
that he wanted to be able to go into his study in the dark and put his
hand at once on any object he knew to be there. The Emperor was equally
particular about the appointments of his other rooms. The dressing table
in the white-tiled bathroom, separated from the sitting room by a
corridor and a small staircase, was as much a model of neatness as the
study table, nor could the Emperor have tolerated valets who would not
have kept his rooms in a condition of perpetual good order. Of course
the ample _garderobes_, where the gowns, wraps, hats, and jewels of the
Empress and the innumerable uniforms of the Emperor were kept, were
always in order because they were in the care of experienced servants
and were rarely if ever visited by others than their responsible
guardians.

The Emperor’s combined billiard and sitting room was not very much used
because the Emperor spent most of his leisure hours in his wife’s
boudoir. But it was in the billiard room that the Emperor kept his many
albums of photographs, records of his reign. These albums bound in green
with the Imperial monogram, contained photographs taken over a period of
twenty years. The Empress had her own albums full of equally priceless
records, priceless from the historian’s standpoint at any rate, and each
of the children had their own. There was an expert photographer attached
to the household whose only duty was to develop and print these
photographs, which were, in almost every case, mounted by the royal
photographer’s own hand. This work used to be done, as a rule, on rainy
days, either in the palace or on board the _Standert_. The Emperor, as
usual, was neater about this work of pasting photographic prints than
any other member of the household. He could not endure the sight of the
least drop of glue on a table. As might be expected of so orderly a
person the Emperor was slow about almost everything he did. When the
Empress wrote a letter she did it very quickly, holding her portfolio on
her knees on her _chaise longue_. When the Emperor wrote a letter it was
a matter of hours before it was completed. I remember once at Livadia
the Emperor retiring to his study at two o’clock to write an important
letter to his mother. At five, the Empress afterwards told me, the
letter remained unfinished.

The private life of the Imperial Family in these years before the War
was quiet and uneventful. The Empress never left her room before noon,
it being her custom, since her illness, to read and write propped up on
pillows on her bed. Luncheon was at one o’clock, the Emperor, his
aide-de-camp for the day, the children, and an occasional guest
attending. After luncheon the Emperor went at once to his study to work
or to receive visitors. Before tea time he usually went for a brisk walk
in the open.

At half past two I came to the Empress, and if the weather was fine and
she well enough, we went for a drive or a walk. Otherwise we read or
worked until five, when the family tea was served. Tea was a meal in
which there was never the slightest variation. Always appeared the same
little white-draped table with its silver service, the glasses in their
silver standards, and for the rest simply plates of hot bread and butter
and a few English biscuits. Never anything new, never any surprises in
the way of cakes or sweetmeats. The only difference in the Imperial tea
table came in Lent, when butter and even bread made with butter
disappeared, and a small dish or two of nuts was substituted. The
Empress often used gently to complain, saying that other people had much
more interesting teas, but she who was supposed to have almost unlimited
power, was in reality quite unable to change a single deadly detail of
the routine of the Russian Court, where things had been going on almost
exactly the same for generations. The same arrangement of furniture in
the state rooms, the same braziers of incense carried by footmen in the
long corridors, the same house messengers in archaic costumes of red
and gold with ostrich-feathered caps, and for all I know the same plates
for hot bread and butter on the same tea table, were traditions going
back to Catherine the Great, or Peter, or farther still perhaps.

Every day at the same moment the door opened and the Emperor came in,
sat down at the tea table, buttered a piece of bread, and began to sip
his tea. He drank every day two glasses, never more, never less, and as
he drank he glanced over his telegrams and newspapers. The children were
the only ones who found tea time at all exciting. They were dressed for
it in fresh white frocks and colored sashes, and spent most of the hour
playing on the floor with toys kept especially for them in a corner of
the boudoir. As they grew older needlework and embroidery were
substituted for the toys, the Empress disliking to see her daughters
sitting with idle hands.

From six to eight the Emperor was busy with his ministers, and he
usually came directly from his study to the eight o’clock family dinner.
This was never a ceremonial meal, the guests, if any, being relatives or
intimate friends. At nine the Empress, in the rich dinner gown and
jewels she always wore, even on the most informal evenings, went to the
bedroom of the Tsarevitch to hear him say his prayers and to tuck him
into bed for the night. The Emperor worked until eleven, and until that
hour the Empress, the two older Grand Duchesses, and I read, had a
little music, or otherwise passed the time. Perhaps it is worth
recording that bridge, or in fact any other card games, we never played.
Nobody in the family cared at all for cards, and only a little, once in
a while, for dominoes. At eleven the evening tea was served, and after
that we separated, the Emperor to write his diary for the day, the
Empress and the children to bed and I for home. All his life the Emperor
kept a daily record of events, but like all the private papers of the
Imperial Family, the diaries were seized by the Revolutionary leaders
and probably (although I still hope to the contrary) destroyed. The
diaries of Nicholas II, apart from any possible sentimental
associations, should be possessed of great historical value.

Monotonous though it may have been, the private life of the Emperor and
his family was one of cloudless happiness. Never, in all the twelve
years of my association with them, did I hear an impatient word or
surprise an angry look between the Emperor and the Empress. To him she
was always “Sunny” or “Sweetheart,” and he came into her quiet room,
with its mauve hangings and its fragrant flowers, as into a haven of
rest and peace. Politics and cares of state were left outside. Never
were we allowed to speak of them. The Empress, on her part, kept her own
troubles to herself. Never did she yield to the temptation to confide in
him her perplexities, the foolish and spiteful intrigues of her ladies
in waiting, nor even lesser troubles concerning the education and
upbringing of the children. “He has the whole nation to think about,”
she often said to me. The only care she brought to the Emperor was the
ever precarious health of Alexei, but this the whole family constantly
felt, and it had to be spoken of very often. The Imperial Family was
absolutely united in love and sympathy. I like to remember of the
children, who adored their parents, that they never felt the slightest
resentment of their mother’s attachment for me. Sometimes I think the
little Grand Duchess Marie, who especially worshipped her father, felt a
little jealous when he invited me, as he often did, to accompany him on
walks in the palace gardens. This may be imagination, and at all events
the child’s slight jealousy never interfered with our friendship.

I think the Emperor liked to walk with me because he had need to talk to
someone he trusted of purely personal cares which troubled his mind and
which he could share with few. Some of these cares were of old origin,
but had never been forgotten. I remember once he began to tell me,
almost without any preface, of the dreadful disaster which attended his
coronation, a panic, induced by bad management of the police, in the
course of which scores of people were crushed to death. At the very hour
of this fatal accident the coronation banquet took place, and the
Emperor and Empress, despite their grief and horror, were obliged to
take part in it exactly as though nothing had happened. The Emperor told
me with what difficulty they had concealed their emotions, often having
to hold their serviettes to their faces to hide their streaming tears.

One of the happiest memories of my life at Tsarskoe Selo were the
evenings when the Emperor, all cares past and present forgot, sat with
us in the Empress’s boudoir reading aloud from the work of Tolstoy,
Tourgenieff, or his favorite Gogol. The Emperor read extremely well,
with a pleasant voice and a remarkably clear enunciation. In the years
of the Great War, so full of anguish and apprehension, the Emperor found
relief in reading aloud amusing stories of Averchenko and Teffy, Russian
humorists who perhaps have not yet been translated into foreign tongues.

Before the War the Emperor was pictured far and wide as a cruel tyrant
deliberately opposed to the interests of his people, while the Empress
appeared as a cold, proud woman, a _malade imaginaire_, wholly
indifferent to the public good. Both of these pictures are cruelly
misrepresentative. Nicholas II and his wife were human beings, with
human faults and failings like the rest of us. Both had quick tempers,
not invariably under perfect control. With the Empress temper was a
matter of rapid explosion and equally sudden recovery. She was often for
the moment furiously angry with her maids whom too often she discovered
in insincerities and deceit. The Emperor’s anger was slower to arouse
and much slower to pass. Ordinarily he was the kindest and simplest of
men, not in the least proud or over-conscious of his exalted position.
His self-control was so great that to those who knew him little he often
appeared absent-minded and indifferent. The fact is he was so reserved
that he seemed to fear any kind of self-revealment. His mind was
singularly acute, and he should have used it more accurately to gauge
the characters of persons surrounding him. It was entirely within his
mental powers to sense the atmosphere of gossip and calumny that
surrounded the Court during the last years, and certainly it was within
his power to put a stop to idle and malicious talk. But it was rarely
possible to arouse him to its importance. “What high-minded person would
believe such nonsense?” was his usual comment. Alas! he little realized
how few were the really high-minded people who, in the last years of the
Empire, surrounded his person or that of the Empress.

Sometimes the Emperor found himself obliged to take cognizance of the
malicious gossip which made the Empress desperately unhappy and in the
end poisoned the minds of thousands of really well-meaning and loyal
Russians. Beginning as far back as 1909 the tide of treachery had begun
to rise, and one of the earliest of those responsible for the final
disaster, I regret to say, was a woman of the highest aristocracy, one
long trusted and affectionately regarded by the Imperial Family. Mlle.
Sophie Tutcheff, a protégée of the Grand Duchess Serge, and a lady who
was a general over-governess to the children, was perhaps the first of
all the intriguing courtiers of whom I have positive knowledge. Mlle.
Tutcheff belonged to one of the oldest and most powerful families in
Moscow, and she was strongly under the influence of certain bigoted
priests, especially that of her cousin, Bishop Vladimir Putiata, who for
ten years had lived in Rome as official representative of the Russian
Church. It was he, I firmly believe, who inspired in Mlle. Tutcheff her
antipathy to the Empress and her evil reports concerning the life of the
Imperial Family. Mlle. Tutcheff, either of her own accord or encouraged
by her relative, was continually opposed to what she called the English
upbringing of the Imperial children. She wished to change the whole
system, make it entirely Slav and free from any imported ideas.

Mlle. Tutcheff was, I believe, the first person to create what
afterwards became the international Rasputine scandal. At the time of
her residence in the palace at Tsarskoe Selo Rasputine’s influence had
scarcely been felt at all by the Emperor or Empress, although he was an
intimate friend of other members of the Romanoff family. But Mlle.
Tutcheff spread abroad a series of the most amazing falsehoods in which
Rasputine figured as a constant visitor and virtually the spiritual
guardian of the Imperial Family. I do not wish to repeat these stories,
but merely to give an idea of their preposterous nature I will say that
she represented Rasputine as having the freedom of the nurseries and
even the bedchambers of the young Grand Duchesses. According to tales
purported to have their origin with her, Rasputine was in the habit of
bathing the children and afterward talking with them, sitting on their
beds.

I do not think the Emperor believed all these rumors, but he did believe
that Mlle. Tutcheff was guilty of malicious gossip of his family, and he
therefore summoned her to his study and rebuked her severely, asking her
how she dared to spread idle and untrue stories about his children. Of
course she denied having done anything of the sort, but she admitted
that she had spoken ill of Rasputine. “But you do not know the man,”
protested the Emperor, “and in any case, if you had criticisms to make
of anyone known to this household you should have made them to us and
not to the public.” Mlle. Tutcheff admitted that she did not know
Rasputine, and when the Emperor suggested that before she spoke evil of
him it might be well for her to meet him she haughtily replied: “Never
will I meet him.”

For a short time after this Mlle. Tutcheff remained at Court, but being
a rather stupid and very obstinate woman, she continued her campaign of
intrigue. She managed to influence Princess Oblensky, long a favorite
lady in waiting, until she entirely estranged her from the Empress. She
even began to speak to the children against their own mother, until the
Empress, who felt herself powerless against the woman, actually refused
to visit the nurseries, and when she wanted her children near her sent
for them to come to her private apartments. Too well she knew the
Emperor’s extreme reluctance to dismiss any person connected with the
Court, and she waited in silent pain until the scandal grew to such
proportions that the Emperor could no longer ignore it. Then Mlle.
Tutcheff was summarily dismissed and sent back to her home in Moscow.

So powerful was the influence of the Tutcheff family that this incident
was magnified beyond all proper proportions, and the former
over-governess of the Imperial children was represented as a poor victim
of Rasputine, a man whom she had never seen and who probably never knew
of her existence. The last I ever heard of Mlle. Tutcheff, who, by the
way, was a niece of the esteemed poet Tutcheff, she was living in
Moscow, under the special protection of the Bolshevik Government. Her
cousin, the former Bishop Vladimir Putiata, I understand has for several
years been a great favorite of those Communists who have prosecuted
such brave and fearless opponents of church despoilment as the unhappy
Patriarch Tikhon and others.

Of the Emperor I think it ought to be said that his education, under his
governor, General Bogdanovitch, was calculated to weaken the will of any
boy and to encourage in Nicholas II his natural reserve and what might
be called indolence of mind. But this I know of him that after his
marriage he became much more resolute of temper and much more gentle of
manner than other members of his family. It is certain that he loved
Russia and the Russian people with his whole soul, and yet, under the
political system for centuries in force, he had often to leave to people
whom he knew only superficially many important details of government.
Unquestionably it was a fault of the Emperor that he was over-confident,
and only too ready to believe what was told him by people whom he
personally liked. He was impulsive in most of his acts and sometimes
made important nominations on the impression of a moment. It goes
without saying that many of his officials took advantage of this
overconfidence and sometimes acted in his name without his knowledge or
authority.

Only too well for her own happiness and peace of mind did the Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna understand her husband. She knew his kind heart,
his love for his country and his people, but she knew also how easily
influenced he could be by men in whom he reposed confidence. She knew
that too often his acts were governed by the last person he happened to
consult. But for all this I wish to say that the Emperor never appeared
to his friends as a weak man. He had qualities of leadership with very
limited opportunities to exercise those qualities. In his own domain he
was “every inch an Emperor.” The whole Court, from the Grand Dukes down
to the last petty official and intriguing maid of honor, recognized this
and stood in real awe of their Sovereign. I have a keen recollection of
an episode at dinner in which a certain young Grand Duke ventured to
utter an ill-founded grievance against a distinguished general who had
dared to rebuke his Highness in public. The Emperor instantly recognized
this as a mere display of temper and egoism, and his contempt and
indignation knew no bounds. He literally turned white with anger, and
the unfortunate young Grand Duke trembled before him like an offending
servant. Afterwards the still indignant Emperor said to me: “He may
thank God that the Empress and you were present. Otherwise I could not
have held myself in hand.” Towards the end of the Russian tragedy in
1917 the Emperor had learned to hold himself almost too well in hand, to
subdue and to conceal the commanding personality of which he was
naturally possessed. It would have been far better if he had used his
personality and his great charm of manner to offset the tide of intrigue
and revolution which in the midst of a world war overcame the Empire.

As long as I knew him, whether in the privacy of the palace at Tsarskoe
Selo, in the informal life of the Crimea, on the Imperial yacht, in
public or in private, I was always conscious of the strong personality
of the Emperor. Everybody felt it. I can instance one occasion at a
great reception of the Tauride Zemstvo when two men present were
deliberately resolved to behave in a disrespectful manner to the
Emperor. But the moment he entered the room these men found themselves
completely overpowered. Their manner changed and they showed in every
subsequent word and action their shame and regret. At one time a group
of Social Revolutionaries were able to put on a cruiser which the
Emperor was to visit a sailor charged with his Sovereign’s
assassination. But when the opportunity came the man literally could not
do the deed. For his “weakness” this poor wretch was afterwards murdered
by members of his party.

The character of the Empress was quite different from that of her
husband. She was less lovable to the many, and yet of a stronger fiber.
Where he was impulsive she was usually cautious and thoughtful. Where he
was over-optimistic she was inclined to be a bit suspicious, especially
of the weak and self-indulgent aristocracy. It was generally believed
that the Empress was difficult to approach, but this was never true of
sincere and disinterested souls. Suffering always made a strong appeal
to the Empress, and whenever she knew of anyone sad or in trouble her
heart was instantly touched. Few people, even in Russia, ever knew how
much the Empress did for the poor, the sick, and the helpless. She was a
born nurse, and from her earliest accession took an interest in
hospitals and in nursing quite foreign to native Russian ideas. She not
only visited the sick herself, in hospitals, in homes, but she
enormously increased the efficiency of the hospital system in Russia.
Out of her own private funds the Empress founded and supported two
excellent schools for training nurses, especially in the care of
children. These schools were founded on the best English models, and
were under the general supervision of the famous Dr. Rauchfuss and of
head nurse Miss Puchkine, a near relative of the great poet Puchkine. I
could enlarge at length on the many constructive philanthropies of the
Empress, paid for by herself, hospitals, homes, and orphanages, planned
in almost every detail by herself, and constantly visited and inspected.
After the Japanese War she built a _Hôtel des Invalides_, in which
hundreds of disabled men were taught trades. She also built a number of
cottages with gardens for wounded soldiers and their families, most of
these war philanthropies being under the supervision of a trusted
friend, Colonel the Count Shoulenbourg of the Empress’s favorite
Lancers.

The Empress possessed a heart and a mind utterly incapable of dishonesty
or deceit, consequently she could never tolerate either in other people.
This naturally got her heartily disliked by people of society to whom
deceit was a matter of long practice. Another quality condemned in the
Empress because entirely misunderstood, was her care as to expenses.
Brought up in the comparative poverty of a small German Court, the
Empress never lost the habit of a cautious use of money. Quite as in
private families, where economy is an absolute necessity, the clothing
of the young Grand Duchesses when outgrown by the elders were handed
down to the younger girls. In the matter of selecting gifts for guests,
for relatives, or at holidays for the suite, the Emperor simply
selected from the rich assortment sent to the palace objects which best
pleased him. The Empress, on the other hand, always examined the price
cards and considered before choosing whether the jewel or the fur or the
bijou, whatever it was, was worth what was asked for it. The difference
between the Emperor and the Empress in regard to money was a difference
in experience. The Emperor, all his life, had had everything he wanted
without ever paying a single ruble for anything. He never had any money,
never needed any money. I can recall but one solitary instance in which
the Tsar of all the Russias ever even felt the need of touching a kopeck
of his illimitable riches. It was in 1911 when their Majesties began to
attend services at the Feodorovsky Cathedral at Tsarskoe Selo. In this
church it was the custom to pass through the congregations alms basins
into which everyone, of course, dropped a contribution, large or small.
The Emperor alone was entirely penniless, and embarrassed by his unique
situation he made a representation to the proper authorities, after
which at exact monthly intervals he was furnished with four gold pieces
for the alms basin of the Feodorovsky Cathedral. If he happened to
attend an extra service he had to borrow his contribution from the
Empress.

But if the Emperor carried no money in his pockets it was well enough
known that he commanded vast sums, and it was characteristic of the
sycophants who surrounded him that he was constantly importuned for
“loans,” for money to help out gambling or otherwise impecunious
officers who, aware of the Emperor’s great love for the army, played on
it to their advantage. One day when the Emperor was taking his usual
brisk walk through the grounds before tea a young officer who had
managed to conceal himself in the shrubbery sprang out, threw himself on
his knees, and threatened to kill himself on the spot unless the Emperor
granted him a sum of money to clear the desperate wretch of some
reckless deed. The Emperor was frightfully enraged--but he sent the man
the money demanded.

The Empress had always handled money and knew quite well how to spend it
wisely. From the depths of her honest soul she despised the use of money
to buy loyalty and devotion. For a long time after my first formal
service as maid of honor, with the usual salary, I received from her
Majesty literally nothing at all. From my parents I had the income from
my dowry, four hundred rubles a month, a sum entirely inadequate to pay
the running expenses of my small establishment with its three absolutely
indispensable servants, and at the same time to dress myself properly as
a member of the Court circle. The Empress’s brother, Grand Duke Ernest
of Hesse, was one of the first of her intimates to point out to her the
difficulties of my position, and to suggest to her that I be given a
position at Court. The suggestion was not welcomed by Alexandra
Feodorovna. “Is it not possible for the Empress of Russia to have one
friend?” she cried bitterly, and she reminded her brother that her
relation and mine were not without precedent in Russia. The Empress
Dowager had a friend, Princess Oblensky; also the Empress Marie
Alexandrovna, wife of Alexander III, had in Mme. Malzoff an intimate
associate, and neither of these women had had any Court functions. Why
should she not cherish a friendship free from all material
considerations? However, after her brother and also Count Fredericks,
Minister of the Court, had pointed out to her that it was scarcely
proper that the Empress’s best friend and confidante should wear
made-over gowns and go home from the palace on foot at midnight because
she had no money for cabs, the Empress began to relent a little. At
first her change of attitude took the form of useful gifts bestowed at
Christmas and Easter, dress patterns, furs, gloves, and the like.
Finally one day she asked me to discuss with her the whole subject of my
expenses. Making me sit down with pencil and paper, she commanded me to
set forth a complete budget of my monthly expenditures, exactly what I
paid for food, service, light, fire, and clothing. The domestic budget,
apart from my small income, came to two hundred and seventy rubles a
month, and at the orders of the Empress I was thereafter furnished
monthly with the exact sum of two hundred and seventy rubles. It never
occurred to her to name the amount in round numbers of three hundred
rubles. Nor did it occur to me except as a matter of faint amusement. Of
course I was often embarrassed for money even after I became possessed
of this regular income, and even later when it was augmented by two
thousand rubles a year for rent, and it often wrung my heart to have to
say no to appeals for money. I knew that I appeared selfish and
hard-hearted. The truth was that I was simply impecunious.



CHAPTER VI


The year 1912, although destined to end in the almost fatal illness of
the Tsarevitch, began happily for the Imperial Family. Peaceful and busy
were the winter and spring, the Emperor engaged as usual with the
affairs of the Empire, the Empress, as far as her health permitted,
superintending the education of her children, and all of them busy with
their books and their various tutors. Of the education and upbringing of
the children of Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna it
should be said that while nothing was omitted to make them most loyal
Russians, the educational methods employed were cosmopolitan. They had
French, Swiss, and English tutors, but all their studies were under the
superintendence of a Russian, the highly cultured M. Petroff, while for
certain branches such as physics and natural science they were privately
instructed in the gymnasium of Tsarskoe Selo. The first teacher of the
Imperial children, she from whom they received their elementary
education, was Miss Schneider, familiarly called “Trina,” a native of
one of the Baltic states of the Empire. Miss Schneider first came into
service, years before the marriage of the Emperor and Empress, as
instructor in the Russian language to Elizabeth, Grand Duchess Serge.
Afterwards she taught Russian to the young Empress, and was retained at
Court as reader to her Majesty. “Trina” was rather a difficult person
in some ways, taking every advantage of her privileged position, but she
was undeniably valuable and was heart and soul in her devotion to the
family. She accompanied them to Siberia and there disappeared with them.

Perhaps the most valued of the instructors was M. Pierre Gilliard, whose
book “Thirteen Years at the Russian Court” has been published in several
languages and has been very well received. M. Gilliard, a Swiss
gentlemen of many accomplishments, came first to Tsarskoe Selo as
teacher of French to the young Grand Duchesses. Afterwards he became
tutor to the Tsarevitch. M. Gilliard lived in the palace, and enjoyed to
the fullest extent the confidence and affection of their Majesties. Mr.
Gibbs, the English tutor, was also a great favorite. Both of these men
followed the family into exile and remained faithful and devoted friends
until forcibly expelled by the Bolsheviki.

In his book M. Gilliard has recorded that he was never able to teach the
Grand Duchesses to speak a fluent French. This is true because the
languages used in the family were English and Russian, and the children
never became interested in any other languages. “Trina” was supposed to
teach them German but she had less success with that language than M.
Gilliard with French. The Emperor and Empress spoke English almost
exclusively, and so did the Empress’s brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse
and his family. Among themselves the children usually spoke Russian. The
Tsarevitch alone, thanks to his constant association with M. Gilliard,
mastered the French language.

Every detail of the education of her children was supervised by the
Empress, who often sat with them for hours together in the schoolroom.
She herself taught them sewing and needlework, her best pupil being
Tatiana, who had an extraordinary talent for all kinds of handwork. She
not only made beautiful blouses and other garments, embroideries and
crochets, but she was able on occasions to arrange her mother’s long
hair, and to dress her as well as a professional maid. Not that the
Empress required as much dressing as the ordinary woman of rank and
wealth. She had that kind of Victorian modesty that forbade any
intrusion on the privacy of her dressing room. All that her maids were
allowed to do was to dress her hair, fasten her boots, and put on her
gown and jewels. The Empress had great taste in dress and always chose
her jewels to finish rather than to ornament her costumes. “Only rubies
to-day,” she would command, or “pearls and sapphires with this gown.”

[Illustration: THE EMPRESS GIVING A LESSON TO ALEXEI ON THE TERRACE AT
LIVADIA.]

[Illustration: ALEXEI PLAYING IN THE SNOW AT TSARSKOE SELO.]

[Illustration: THE EMPRESS IN ALEXEI'S BED DURING CONVALESCENCE FROM A
SERIOUS ILLNESS.

The Empress and the children have been represented as surrounded by
German servants, but this accusation is absolutely false. The chief
woman of the household was Mme. Geringer, a Russian lady who came daily
to the palace, ordered gowns, did all necessary shopping, paid bills,
and attended to any business required by the Empress. The chief maid of
the Empress was Madeleine Zanotti, of English and Italian parentage,
whose home before she came to Tsarskoe Selo was in England. Madeleine
was a woman of middle age, very clever, and as usual with one in her
position, inclined to be tyrannical. Madeleine had charge of all the
gowns and jewels of the Empress, and as I think I have related, she was
often critical of her mistress’s indolent habits in regard to
correspondence, etc. A second maid was Tutelberg, “Toodles,” a rather
slow and quiet girl from the Baltic. She and Madeleine were mortal
enemies, but they agreed on one thing at least, and that was that they
would not wear caps and aprons. The Empress good-naturedly acquiesced
and permitted simple black gowns and ribbon bows in the hair for her
chief maids. There were three under maids, all Russians, and all
perfectly devoted to the Imperial Family. These girls, who wore the
regulation caps and white aprons, cared for the rooms of the Empress and
the children. All the maids, when the Revolution came, remained faithful
to the family, and one of them, as I shall tell later, performed the
dangerous service of smuggling letters in and out of Siberia. One girl,
Anna Demidoff, shared the fate of the family in 1918.

The Emperor had three valets, one of whom, Shalferoff, who had served
Alexander III, turned spy during the Revolution. Another, old Raziesh,
also a former servant of Alexander III, died in the service of Nicholas
II, and was replaced by Chemoduroff, a fine and very loyal man. The
third valet’s name was Katoff. All three, as their names testify, were
Russians, as were also the three men in the service of the Empress, Leo
and Kondratief, both of whom died during the early days of the
Revolution, and Volkoff, who followed the Royal exiles as far into
Siberia as he was permitted by the Provisional Government.

The children’s nurses were Russians, the head nurse being Marie
Vechniakoff. Others I remember well were Alexandra, nicknamed “Shoura,”
a great favorite with the girls, Anna and Lisa, kind, faithful girls who
spoke no word of any language except Russian. There were, of course,
hundreds of house servants, and to my knowledge most, if not all of
them, were Russians. The chef was a Frenchman, Cubat, a very great man
in his profession. Sometimes, when an especially splendid dish had been
prepared, Cubat was wont to introduce it, as it were, by standing
magnificently in the doorway, clad in immaculate white linen, until the
dish was served. Cubat became very wealthy in the Tsar’s service, and
now lives happily and luxuriously in his native France. He was, I
believe, truly loyal to the Imperial Family, which is more than can be
said for most of the servants. Their children were educated at the
expense of the Emperor, and the majority, instead of choosing useful
trades, elected to go to the universities, where they nearly all became
Revolutionists. In my father’s opinion this was due to the fact that the
Russian universities and higher schools offered little if any technical
training. Recognizing this, the Empress created in Petrograd a technical
school for boys and girls of the whole Empire. In this school the
students were trained to become teachers in many useful handicrafts, and
in addition to this normal academy the Empress established in many
governments schools where boys and girls were perfected in the beautiful
peasant arts of embroidery, dyeing, carving, and painting. I give these
details because I think it only just to offset with facts the lying
slanders of sensational writers who could not possibly have known
anything of the intimate life of the Imperial Family of Russia but who
have substituted propaganda for truth.

None of these sensational writers knew or tried to know how simple, not
to say rigorous, was the régime followed by the Imperial children. All
of them, even the delicate little Tsarevitch, slept in large, well-aired
nurseries, on hard camp beds without pillows and with the least possible
allowance of bedclothing. They had cold baths every morning and warm
ones only at night. As a consequence of this simple life their manners
were unassuming and natural without a single trace of _hauteur_.
Although in 1912 the four girls were rapidly approaching womanhood--Olga
was in her eighteenth year and Tatiana was nearly sixteen--their parents
continued to regard them as children. The two older girls were spoken of
as “the big ones,” and were given many grown-up privileges, as for
example, concerts and the theater to which the Emperor himself escorted
them. The two younger Grand Duchesses and the Tsarevitch, “the little
ones,” were still in the nursery.

In the darkness of the mystery which surrounds the fate of these
innocent children it is with poignant emotion that I recall them as they
appeared, so full of life and joy, in those distant, yet incredibly
near, days before the World War and the downfall of Imperial Russia. Of
the four girls, Olga and Marie were essentially Russian, altogether
Romanoff in their inheritance. Olga was perhaps the cleverest of them
all, her mind being so quick to grasp ideas, so absorbent of knowledge
that she learned almost without application or close study. Her chief
characteristics, I should say, were a strong will and a singularly
straightforward habit of thought and action. Admirable qualities in a
woman, these same characteristics are often trying in childhood, and
Olga as a little girl sometimes showed herself wilful and even
disobedient. She had a hot temper which, however, she early learned to
keep under control, and had she been allowed to live her natural life
she would, I believe, have become a woman of influence and distinction.
Extremely pretty, with brilliant blue eyes and a lovely complexion, Olga
resembled her father in the fineness of her features, especially in her
delicate, slightly tipped nose.

[Illustration: GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA AND TATIANA ON BOARD THE STANDERT.]

[Illustration: THE TSAREVITCH IN 1910.

Taken with His Cousins, Children of the Empress's brother, Grand Duke
Ernest of Hess.]

Marie and Anastasie were also blonde types and very attractive girls.
Marie had splendid eyes and rose-red cheeks. She was inclined to be
stout and she had rather thick lips which detracted a little from her
beauty. Marie had a naturally sweet disposition and a very good mind.
All three of these girls were more or less of the tomboy type. They had
something of the innate brusqueness of their Romanoff ancestors, which
displayed itself in a tendency to mischief. Anastasie, a sharp and
clever child, was a very monkey for jokes, some of them at times almost
too practical for the enjoyment of others. I remember once when the
family was in their Polish estate in winter the children were amusing
themselves at snowballing. The imp which sometimes seemed to possess
Anastasie led her to throw a stone rolled in a snowball straight

[Illustration: THE EMPEROR AND TSAREVITCH WALKING ON BOARD THE
_STANDERT_. Photograph by the Empress.]

[Illustration: THE TSAREVITCH IN COSSACK UNIFORM WITH HIS SAILOR,
DEREVANKO.]

[Illustration: THE TSAR, TSARINA, AND ALEXEI IN THE GARDENS OF TSARSKOE
SELO, 1911.]

at her dearly loved sister Tatiana. The missile struck the poor girl
fairly in the face with such force that she fell senseless to the
ground. The grief and horror of Anastasie lasted for many days and
permanently cured her of her worst propensities to practical jokes.

Tatiana was almost a perfect reincarnation of her mother. Taller and
slenderer than her sisters, she had the soft, refined features and the
gentle, reserved manners of her English ancestry. Kindly and sympathetic
of disposition, she displayed towards her younger sisters and her
brother such a protecting spirit that they, in fun, nicknamed her “the
governess.” Of all the Grand Duchesses Tatiana was with the people the
most popular, and I suspect in their hearts she was the most dearly
loved of her parents. Certainly she was a different type from the others
even in appearance, her hair being a rich brown and her eyes so darkly
gray that in the evening they seemed quite black. Of all the girls
Tatiana was most social in her tastes. She liked society and she longed
pathetically for friends. But friends for these high born but
unfortunate girls were very difficult to find. The Empress dreaded for
her daughters the companionship of oversophisticated young women of the
aristocracy, whose minds, even in the schoolroom, were fed with the
foolish and often vicious gossip of a decadent society. The Empress even
discouraged association with cousins and near relatives, many of whom
were unwholesomely precocious in their outlook on life.

I would not give the impression that these young daughters of the
Emperor and Empress were forced to lead dull and uneventful lives. They
were allowed to have their little preferences for this or that handsome
young officer with whom they danced, played tennis, walked, or rode.
These innocent young romances were in fact a source of amusement to
their Majesties, who enjoyed teasing the girls about any dashing officer
who seemed to attract them. The Grand Duchess Olga, sister of the
Emperor, sympathized with her nieces’ love of pleasure and often
arranged tea parties and tennis matches for them, the guests, of course,
being of their own choice. We had some quite jolly tea parties in my
little house also. In the matter of dress, so important to young and
pretty girls, the Grand Duchesses were allowed to indulge their own
tastes. Mme. Brisac, an accomplished French dressmaker, made gowns for
the Imperial Family, and through her the latest Paris models reached the
palace. The girls, however, inclined towards simple English fashions,
especially for outdoor wear. In summer they dressed almost entirely in
white. Jewels they were too young to wear except on very great
occasions. Each girl received on her twelfth birthday a slender gold
bracelet which was afterwards always worn, day and night, “for good
luck.” I have described in a previous chapter the Russian custom of
presenting each Grand Duchess, on her coming of age, with a pearl and
diamond necklace, but this was worn only at state functions or very
formal balls.

Alexei, the only son of the Emperor and Empress, a more tragic child
than the last Dauphin of France, indeed one of the most tragic figures
in history, was, apart from his terrible affliction, the loveliest and
most attractive of the whole family. Because of his delicate health
Alexei began life as a rather spoiled child. His chief nurse, Marie
Vechniakoff, a somewhat over-emotional woman, made the mistake of
indulging the child in every whim. It is easy to understand why she did
so, because nothing more heart-rending could be imagined than the little
boy’s moans and cries during his frequent illnesses. If he bumped his
head or struck a hand or foot against a chair or table the usual result
was a hideous blue swelling indicating a subcutaneous hemorrhage
frightfully painful and often enduring for days or even weeks.

At five Alexei was placed in charge of the sailor Derevanko, who for a
long term of years remained his constant body servant and companion.
Derevanko, while devoted to the boy, did not spoil him as his women
nurses had done, and the man was so patient and resourceful that he
often did wonders in alleviating the child’s pain. I can still in memory
hear the plaintive, suffering voice of Alexei begging the big sailor to
“lift my arm,” “put my leg up,” “warm my hands,” and I can see the
patient, calm-eyed man working for hours on end to give the maximum of
comfort to the little pain-racked limbs.

As Alexei grew older his parents carefully explained to him the nature
of his illness and impressed on him the necessity of avoiding falls and
blows. But Alexei was a child of active mind, loving sports and outdoor
play, and it was almost impossible for him to avoid the very things that
brought him suffering. “Can’t I have a bicycle?” he would beg his
mother. “Alexei, you know you can’t.” “Mayn’t I play tennis?” “Dear,
you know you mustn’t.” Often these hard denials of the natural play
impulse were followed by a gush of tears as the child cried out: “Why
can other boys have everything and I nothing?”

Suffering and self-denial had their effect on the character of Alexei.
Knowing what pain and sacrifice meant, he was extraordinarily
sympathetic towards other sick people. His thoughtfulness of others was
shown in his beautiful courtesy to women and girls and to his elders,
and in his interest in the troubles of servants and dependents. It was a
failing of the Emperor that even when he sympathized with the troubles
of others he was rather slow to take action, unless indeed the matter
was really serious. Alexei, on the contrary, was always for immediate
action. I remember an instance when a boy in service at the palace was
discharged for some reason which I have quite forgotten. The story
somehow reached the ears of Alexei, who immediately took sides with the
boy and gave his father no rest until the whole case was reviewed and
the culprit was forgiven and restored to duty. Alexei usually defended
all offenders, yet when the day came when his parents, in deep distress,
told him that Father Gregory, that is, Rasputine, had been killed by
members of his own family the boy’s grief was swallowed up in rage and
indignation. “Papa,” he exclaimed, “is it possible that you will not
punish them? The assassins of Stolypine were hanged.”

I ask the reader to remember that the Imperial Family firmly believed
that they owed much of Alexei’s improving health to the prayers of
Rasputine. Alexei himself believed it. Several years before Rasputine
had assured the Empress that when the boy was twelve years old he would
begin to improve and that by the time he was a man he would be entirely
well. The undeniable fact is that after the age of twelve Alexei did
begin very materially to improve. His illnesses became farther and
farther apart and before 1917 his appearance had changed marvelously for
the better. He resembled in no way the invalid sons of his mother’s
sister, Princess Henry of Prussia, who suffered from his own terrible
malady. What the best physicians of Europe had been unable to do in
their case some mysterious force had done in the case of the Tsarevitch.
His parents to whom the young boy was as their very heart’s blood
believed that the healing hand of God had wrought the cure, and that it
was in answer to the supplication of one whose spirit was able to rise
in higher flight than theirs or any other’s. They knew of course that
the boy was not yet entirely well, but they believed that he was getting
well. Alexei believed this also and it is certain that he looked forward
to a healthy, normal manhood.

Alexei, like his father, dearly loved the army and all the pageants of
military display. He had every kind of toy soldier, toy guns and
fortresses, and with these he played for hours, with his sailor
companion Derevanko, or “Dina” as the boy called him, and with the few
boy companions he was allowed. Two of these boys were sons of “Dina,”
and a third was the son of one of the family physicians, by coincidence
also named Derevanko. In the last years before the Revolution a few
carefully selected boys, cadets from the Military School, were called
to the palace to play with Alexei. These boys were warned of the danger
of any rough play, and all were extremely mindful of their
responsibility. It was because no other type of boy could be trusted to
play with Alexei that the Empress did not often invite to the palace the
children of the Grand Dukes. They were Romanoffs, brusque and rude in
their manners, thoughtless of the feelings of others, and the Empress
literally did not dare to leave them alone with her son. But because of
her caution she was bitterly assailed by her enemies who spoke
sneeringly of her preference for “low born” children over the
aristocratic children of the family.

The Emperor and Empress and all the children were passionately fond of
pets, especially dogs. The Emperor’s inseparable companion for many
years was a splendid English collie named Iman, and when in the natural
course of time this dog died the Emperor was inconsolable. After that he
had a fine kennel of collies but he never made a special pet of any dog.
The favorite dog of the Empress was a small, shaggy terrier from
Scotland. This dog’s name was Eira, and, to tell the truth, I did not
like the little animal at all. His disagreeable habit of darting from
under chairs and snapping at people’s heels was a trial to my nerves.
Nevertheless the Empress doted on him, carried him under her arm even to
the dinner table, and amused herself greatly talking to and playing with
the dour little creature. When he fell ill and had to be mercifully
killed she wept in real grief and pity. Alexei’s pets were two, a silky
little spaniel named Joy and a beautiful big gray cat, the gift of
General Voyeikoff. It was the only cat in the household and it was a
privileged animal, even being allowed to sleep on Alexei’s bed. There
were two other dogs, Tatiana’s French bull and a little King Charlie
which I contributed to the menagerie. Both of these dogs went with the
family to Siberia, and Jimmie, the King Charles spaniel, was found shot
to death in that dreadful deserted house in Ekaterinaburg.

How far, how unbelievably far away now seem those peaceful days of 1912,
when we were watching the Tsar’s daughters growing towards womanhood,
and even in our minds speculating on possible marriages for them. Their
prospects as far as marriage was concerned, I must say, were rather
vague. Foreign matches, because of religion and even more because of the
girls’ devotion to home and country, were almost out of the question,
and suitable husbands in Russia seemed to be entirely lacking. There was
a time in his boyhood when Dmitri, son of the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke
Paul, was a great favorite with the Imperial Family. But Dmitri as he
grew older became so dissipated that he quite cut himself off from the
prospect of an alliance with any of the Grand Duchesses. There had once
been a faint possibility of an engagement between Olga and Crown Prince
Carol of Rumania. As early as 1910 the beautiful Queen Marie and her son
visited Russia for the purpose of introducing the young people, but
nothing came of the visit. In 1914 the family made a return visit to
Rumania on the _Standert_, the Rumanian Royal family, including the old
Queen, “Carmen Sylva,” meeting the yacht at Constanza, on the Black Sea,
and making a splendid fête which lasted for three days. This time the
matter was seriously broached to Olga who, in her usual quick,
straightforward manner, declined the match. In 1916 Prince Carol again
visited the Russian Court, and now his young man’s fancy rested on
Marie. He made a formal proposal for her hand, but the Emperor,
declaring that Marie was nothing more than a schoolgirl, good-naturedly
laughed the Prince’s proposal aside.

Not all these proposals ended so merrily. One day coming as usual to
Peterhof, I found the Empress in tears. A formal proposal had just been
received from the old Grand Duchess, Marie Pavlovna, aunt of the
Emperor, for a marriage between her son Boris Vladimirovitch and Grand
Duchess Olga. This young man, Prince Boris, was much better known in
questionable circles in Paris than in the Court of Russia and the mere
suggestion of a marriage with one of her daughters was enough to reduce
the Empress to mortified tears. Of course the proposal was rejected,
greatly to the wrath of Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, a Russian _grande
dame_ of the old school in which the debauchery of young men was
regarded as a perfectly natural phenomenon. She never forgave the
slight, as she chose to consider it, and later became one of the most
active of the circle of intriguers which, from the safety of a foreign
embassy in Petrograd, plotted the ruin of the Imperial Family and of
their country.

In the summer of 1912 the family and their immediate household,
including myself, went on another long cruise in Finnish waters. During
the cruise the yacht was visited by the Empress Dowager of whom
previously I had seen but little. I write with some hesitation about the
Empress Dowager, who is still living, and for whom I entertain all due
respect. She was, as I remember her then, a small, slender woman, not
beautiful certainly, not as attractive as her sister, Queen Alexandra of
England, but with a great deal of presence and, when she chose to exert
it, considerable personal charm. The Emperor she apparently loved less
than her other children, especially her son, Grand Duke Michail, and the
Empress I fear she loved not at all. To the children she was
affectionate but a trifle distant. I am sure that she resented the fact
that the first four children were girls, and there is little doubt that
she felt bitterly the affliction of the heir. Possibly she felt in her
secret heart that it should have been her own strong son Michail who was
the acknowledged successor of Nicholas II. I say this from my own
conjecture and observations and not from positive knowledge. Yet after
events, I think, confirmed my opinion.

The Dowager Empress after the death of Alexander III relinquished with
rather bad grace her position of reigning Empress. In fact she never did
relinquish it altogether, always taking precedence on public occasions
of Alexandra Feodorovna. Just why the Tsar consented to this I never
knew, but certain it is that always, when the Imperial Family made a
state entrance the Tsar appeared first with his mother on his arm, the
Empress following on the arm of one of the Grand Dukes. Society
generally approved this procedure, the Empress Mother enjoying all the
popularity which the Empress lacked. There were actually in Russia two
Courts, a large one represented by society and the Grand Dukes, and a
small one represented by the intimate circle of the Emperor and Empress.
In the one everything done by the Empress Mother was right and by the
shy and retiring Empress wrong. In the small Court it was exactly the
other way around, except that even in the palace a certain amount of
petty intrigue always existed.

The visit to Finnish waters by the Empress Mother in 1912 was marred by
no coldness or disharmony. When we went ashore for tennis the Emperor
admonished us all to play as well as we could, “because Mama is coming.”
We lunched aboard her yacht and she dined with us on the _Standert_. On
the 22d of July, which was her name day, as well as that of the little
Grand Duchess Marie, she spent most of the day on the Emperor’s yacht,
and after luncheon I took a photograph of her sitting with her arm
around the Emperor’s shoulders, her two little Japanese spaniels at
their feet. She made us dance for her on deck, photographing us as we
danced. After tea the children performed for her a little French playlet
which seemed to delight her. Yet that evening at dinner I could not help
noticing how her fine eyes, so kind and smiling towards most of the
company, clouded slightly whenever they were turned to the Emperor or
the Empress. Still I must record that later, passing the open door of
Alexei’s cabin, I saw the Empress Mother sitting on the edge of the
child’s bed talking gaily and peeling an apple quite like any loving
grandmother.

I do not pretend to understand the Empress Dowager or her motives, but,
as far as I can judge, her chief weakness was love of power. She carried
her insistence on precedence so far that the _chiffres_ of the maids of
honor of both Empresses bore the initials M. A. instead of A. M., which
was the proper order. She wanted to be first in everything and could not
bear to abdicate either power or influence. She never, I believe,
understood her son’s preference for a quiet, family life, or the changed
and softened manners he acquired under the influence of his wife.



CHAPTER VII


In the autumn of 1912 the family went to Skernevizi, their Polish
estate, in order to indulge the Emperor’s love for big-game hunting. In
the vast forests surrounding the estate all kinds of game were preserved
and the sport of hunting there was said to be very exciting. During the
war these woods and all the game were destroyed by the Germans, but
until after 1914 Skernevizi was a favorite retreat of the Emperor. I had
returned to my house in Tsarskoe Selo but I was not allowed long to
remain there. A telegram from the Empress conveyed the disquieting news
that Alexei, in jumping into a boat, had injured himself and was now in
a serious condition. The child had been removed from Skernevizi to
Spala, a smaller Polish estate near Warsaw, and to Warsaw I accordingly
traveled. Here I was met by one of the Imperial carriages and was driven
to Spala. Driving for nearly an hour through deep woods and over a
heavy, sandy road I reached my destination, a small wooden house,
something like a country inn, in which the suite was lodged. Two rooms
had been set apart for me and my maid, and here I found Olga and Tatiana
waiting to help me get settled. Their mother, they said, was expecting
me, and without any loss of time I went with them to the palace.

I found the Empress greatly agitated. The boy was temporarily improved
but was still too delicate to be taken back to Tsarskoe Selo. Meanwhile
the family lived in one of the dampest, gloomiest palaces I have ever
seen. It was really a large wooden villa very badly planned as far as
light and sunshine were concerned. The large dining room on the ground
floor was so dark that the electric lights had to be kept on all day.
Upstairs to the right of a long corridor were the rooms of the Emperor
and Empress, her sitting room in bright English chintzes being one of
the few cheerful spots in the house. Here we usually spent our evenings.
The bedrooms and dressing rooms were too dark for comfort, but the
Emperor’s study, also on the right of the corridor, was fairly bright.

As long as the health of little Alexei continued fairly satisfactory the
Emperor and his suite went stag hunting daily in the forests of the
estate. Every evening after dinner the slain stags were brought to the
front of the palace and laid out for inspection on the grass. The
huntsmen with their flaring torches and winding horns standing over the
day’s bag made, I was told, a very picturesque spectacle. The Emperor
and his suite and most of the household used to enjoy going out after
dinner to enjoy this fine sight. I never went myself, having a foolish
love of animals which prevents enjoyment of the royal sport of hunting.
I even failed to appreciate, as the head of the estate, kind Count
Velepolsky, thought I should, the many trophies of the chase with which
the corridors and apartments of the palace were adorned.

What I did enjoy was the beautiful park which surrounded the palace, and
the rapid little river Pilitsa that flowed through it. There was one
leafy path through which I often walked in the mornings with the
Emperor. This was called the Road of Mushrooms because it ended in a
wonderful mushroom bench. The whole place was so remote and peaceful
that I deeply sympathized with their Majesties’ irritation that even
there they could never stir abroad without being haunted by the police
guard.

Although Alexei’s illness was believed to have taken a favorable turn
and he was even beginning to walk a little about the house and gardens,
I found him pale and decidedly out of condition. He occasionally
complained of pain, but the doctors were unable to discover any actual
injury. One day the Empress took the child for a drive and before we had
gone very far we saw that indeed he was very ill. He cried out with pain
in his back and stomach, and the Empress, terribly frightened, gave the
order to return to the palace. That return drive stands out in my mind
as an experience of horror. Every movement of the carriage, every rough
place in the road, caused the child the most exquisite torture, and by
the time we reached home he was almost unconscious with pain. The next
weeks were endless torment to the boy and to all of us who had to listen
to his constant cries of pain. For fully eleven days these dreadful
sounds filled the corridors outside his room, and those of us who were
obliged to approach had often to stop our ears with our hands in order
to go about our duties. During the entire time the Empress never
undressed, never went to bed, rarely even lay down for an hour’s rest.
Hour after hour she sat beside the bed where the half-conscious child
lay huddled on one side, his left leg drawn up so sharply that for
nearly a year afterwards he could not straighten it out. His face was
absolutely bloodless, drawn and seamed with suffering, while his almost
expressionless eyes rolled back in his head. Once when the Emperor came
into the room, seeing his boy in this agony and hearing his faint
screams of pain, the poor father’s courage completely gave way and he
rushed, weeping bitterly, to his study. Both parents believed the child
dying, and Alexei himself, in one of his rare moments of consciousness,
said to his mother: “When I am dead build me a little monument of stones
in the wood.”

The family’s most trusted physicians, Dr. Rauchfuss and Professor
Fedoroff and his assistant Dr. Derevanko, were in charge of the case and
after the first consultations declared the Tsarevitch’s condition
hopeless. The hemorrhage of the stomach from which he was suffering
seemed liable to turn into an abscess which could at any moment prove
fatal. We had two terrible moments in which this complication
threatened. One day at luncheon a note was brought from the Empress to
the Emperor who, pale but collected, made a sign for the physicians to
leave the table. Alexei, the Empress had written, was suffering so
terribly that she feared the worst was about to happen. This crisis,
however, was averted. On the second occasion, on an evening after dinner
when we were sitting very quietly in the Empress’s boudoir, Princess
Henry of Prussia, who had come to be with her sister in her trouble,
appeared in the doorway very white and agitated and begged the members
of the suite to retire as the child’s condition was desperate. At
eleven o’clock the Emperor and Empress entered the room, despair written
on their faces. Still the Empress declared that she could not believe
that God had abandoned them and she asked me to telegraph Rasputine for
his prayers. His reply came quickly. “The little one will not die,” it
said. “Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.” As a matter of
fact the turning point came a few days later, the pain subsided, and the
boy lay wasted and utterly spent, but alive.

Curiously enough there was no church on this Polish estate, but during
the illness of the Tsarevitch a chapel was installed in a large green
tent in the garden. A new confessor, Father Alexander, celebrated mass
and after the first celebration he walked in solemn procession from the
altar to the sickroom bearing with him holy communion for the sick boy.
The Emperor and Empress were very much impressed with Father Alexander
and from that time on they retained him in their private chapel at
Tsarskoe Selo. He was a good man but not a brave one, for when the
Revolution came, and the Emperor and the Empress sent for him to come to
them, he confessed himself afraid to go. Poor man! His caution, after
all, did not save him. He was shot by the Bolsheviki a year or two
afterwards, on what pretext I do not know.

The convalescence of Alexei was slow and wearisome. His nurse, Marie
Vechniakoff, had grown so hysterical with fatigue that she had to be
relieved, while the Empress was so exhausted that she could hardly move
from room to room. The young Grand Duchesses were tireless in their
devotion to the poor invalid, as was also M. Gilliard, who read to him
and diverted him hours on end. Gradually the distracted household
assumed a more normal aspect. The Emperor, in Cossack uniform, began
once more to entertain the officers of his Varsovie Lancers, commanded
by a splendid soldier, General Mannerheim, of whom the world has heard
much. As Alexei’s health continued to improve there was even a little
shooting, and a great deal of tennis which the girls, after their long
confinement to the house, greatly enjoyed. All of us began to be happy
again, but one day the Emperor called me into his study and showed me a
telegram from his brother, Grand Duke Michail, in which the latter
announced his morganatic marriage to the Countess Brassoff, of whom the
Emperor strongly disapproved. It was not the marriage itself that so
strongly disturbed the Emperor, but that Michail had solemnly given his
word of honor that it would never take place. “He broke his word--his
word of honor,” the Emperor repeated again and again.

Another blow which the Emperor received at this time was the suicide of
Admiral Chagin, commandant of the _Standert_ and one of the closest
friends of the family. The Admiral shot himself on account of an unhappy
love affair, and deeply as the Emperor mourned his death he was even
more indignant at the manner of it. Russians, I know, are inclined to
morbidity, and suicide with them is not an uncommon thing. But Nicholas
II always regarded it as an act of dishonor. “Running away from the
field of battle,” was his characterization of such an act, and when he
heard of Chagin’s suicide he gave way to a terrible mood of anger and
grief. Speaking of both Michail and Chagin he said bitterly: “How, in
the midst of the boy’s illness and all our trouble, how could they have
done such things?” The poor Emperor, to whom every failure of those he
loved and trusted came as an utterly unexpected blow, how near was his
hour of complete and final disillusionment of nearly all earthly
loyalties.

We had a few weeks of peaceful enjoyment before leaving Spala that
autumn. The girls, bright and happy once more, rode every morning, the
crisp air and the exercise coloring their cheeks and raising their
spirits high. The Emperor tramped the woods, sometimes with me as his
companion, and on one of these outings we both had a narrow escape from
drowning. The Emperor took me for a row on the river which, as I have
said, had a very rapid current. Intent on keeping the boat well into the
current, the Emperor ran us into a small island, and for a few seconds
escape from an ignominious upset seemed impossible. I was thoroughly
frightened, the Emperor not a little embarrassed, and ardor for water
sports was, for a time, rather lessened in both of us.

On October 21 (Russian Calendar) we celebrated the accession to the
throne with high mass and holy communion, and a few days later the
doctors decided that Alexei was well enough to be moved to Tsarskoe
Selo. The Imperial train was made ready and their Majesties decided that
I was to travel on it with the rest of the suite. This was, as a matter
of fact, contrary to strict etiquette, and the announcement created
among the ladies in waiting much consternation, not to say rancor. There
is no question that being a regularly appointed lady in waiting to
royalty and having nothing to do when a mere friend of the exalted one
happens to be at hand is a bit irritating, so I cannot really blame the
Empress’s ladies for objecting to me as a traveling companion. The
Imperial train, now used, one hears, by the inner circle of the
Communists, was composed of a number of luxurious carriages, more like a
home than a railway train. In the carriage of the Emperor and Empress
the easy chairs and sofas were upholstered in bright chintz and there
were books, family photographs, and all sort of familiar trinkets. The
emperor’s study was in his favorite green leather, and adjoining their
dressing rooms was a large and perfectly equipped bathroom. In this
carriage also were rooms for the personal attendants of their Majesties.
The Grand Duchesses and their maids had a similar carriage, and Alexei’s
carriage, which had compartments for the maids of honor and myself, was
furnished with every imaginable comfort. The last carriage was the
dining wagon with a small anteroom where the inevitable zakouski, the
Russian table of _hors d’œuvres_, was served. At the long dining table
the Emperor sat with his daughters on either hand, while facing him were
Count Fredericks and the ladies in waiting. Throughout the journey of
nearly two days the Empress was served in her own room or beside the bed
where Alexei lay, very weak, but bright and cheerful once more.

This chapter may well close with one of the opening events of 1913, the
Jubilee of the Romanoffs, celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of
their reign. In February the Court moved from Tsarskoe Selo to the
Winter Palace in Petrograd, a place they disliked because of the vast
gloominess of the building and the fact that the only garden was a tiny
space hardly large enough for the children to play or to exercise in. On
reaching Petrograd the family drove directly across the Neva to Christ’s
Chapel, the little church of Peter the Great, where is, or was,
preserved a miraculous picture of the Christ, very old and highly
revered. The public had not been notified that the Imperial Family would
first visit this chapel, but their presence quickly became known and
they drove back to the Winter Palace through excited, but on the whole
undemonstrative, masses of people, a typical Petrograd crowd.

The actual celebration of the Jubilee began with a solemn service in the
Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, which everyone familiar with Petrograd
remembers as one of the most beautiful of Russian churches. The vast
building was packed to its utmost capacity, and that means a much larger
crowd than in ordinary churches, since in Russia the congregation stands
or kneels through the entire service. From my position I had a very good
view of both the Emperor and the Tsarevitch, and I was puzzled to see
them raise their heads and gaze long at the ceiling, but afterwards they
told me that two doves had appeared and had floated for several minutes
over their heads. In the religious exaltation of the hour this appeared
to the Emperor a symbol that the blessing of God, after three

[Illustration: THE EMPEROR AND EMPRESS IN OLD SLAVONIC DRESS. 1913
JUBILEE.]

[Illustration: THE INVALID EMPRESS ON HER BALCONY AT PETERHOF.]

centuries, continued to rest on the House of Romanoff. There followed a
long series of functions at the palace, with deputations coming from all
over the Empire, the women appearing at receptions and dinners in the
beautiful national dress, which were also worn by the Empress and her
daughters. The Empress, for all her weariness, was regal in her richly
flowing robes and long-veiled, high _kokoshnik_, the Russian national
headdress, set with magnificent jewels. She also wore the wide-ribboned
order of St. Andrew, which was her sole privilege to wear, and at the
most formal of the state dinners she wore the most splendid of all the
crown jewels. The young Grand Duchesses were simply but beautifully
gowned on all occasions, and they wore the order of Catherine the Great,
red ribbons with blazing diamond stars. The crowds were enormous in all
the great state rooms, the Imperial Family standing for hours while the
multitudes filed past with sweeping curtsies and low bows. So long and
fatiguing were these ceremonies that at the end the Empress was
literally too fatigued to force a smile. Poor little Alexei also, after
being carried through the rooms and obliged to acknowledge a thousand
greetings, was taken back to his room in a condition of utter
exhaustion.

There were state performances at the theater and the opera, Glinka’s
“Life for the Tsar” being sung to the usual tumult of applause and
adulation, but for all that I felt that there was in the brilliant
audience little real enthusiasm, little real loyalty. I saw a cloud over
the whole celebration in Petrograd, and this impression, I am almost
sure, was shared by the Empress. She told me that she could never feel
happy in Petrograd. Everything in the Winter Palace reminded her of
earlier years when she and her husband used to go happily to the theater
together and returning would have supper in their dressing gowns before
the fire talking over the events of the day and evening. “I was so happy
then,” she said plaintively, “so well and strong. Now I am a wreck.”

Much as both she and the Emperor desired to shorten their stay in
Petrograd, they were obliged to remain several weeks after the close of
the official celebration because Tatiana, who unwisely had drunk the
infected water of the capital, fell ill of typhoid and could not for
some time be moved. With her lovely brown hair cut short, we finally
went back to Tsarskoe Selo, where she made good progress back to health.

In the spring began the celebration of the Jubilee throughout the
Empire. The visit to the Volga, especially to Kostrama, the home of the
first Romanoff monarch, Michail Feodorovnitch, was a magnificent
success, the people actually wading waist deep in the river in order to
get nearer the Imperial boat. It was the same through all the
surrounding governments, crowds, cheers, acclamations, prayers, and
great choruses singing the national hymn, very evidence of love and
loyalty. I particularly remember when the cortège reached the town of
Pereyaslovl, in the Vladimir Government, because it was from there that
my father’s family originated, and some of his relatives took part in
the day’s celebration. The Empress, to my regret, was not present, being
confined to her bed on the Imperial train, ill and fatigued, yet under
obligation to be ready for special ceremonies in Moscow. It would need
a more eloquent pen than mine adequately to describe those days in
Moscow, the Holy City of Russia. The weather was perfect, and under the
clear sunshine the floating flags and banners, the flower-trimmed
buildings, and the numberless decorations made up a spectacle of
unforgettable beauty. Leaving his car at some distance from the Kremlin,
the Emperor entered the great gate on foot, preceded by chanting priests
with waving censers and holy images. Behind the Emperor and his suite
came the Empress and Alexei in an open car through crowds that pressed
hard against the police lines, while overhead all the bells of Moscow
pealed welcome to the Sovereigns. Every day it was the same,
demonstrations of love and fealty it seemed that no time or circumstance
could ever alter.



CHAPTER VIII


Nineteen-fourteen, that year of fate for all the world, but more than
all for my poor country, began its course in Russia, as elsewhere, in
apparent peace and tranquillity. With us, as with other civilized
people, the tragedy of Sarajevo came as a thrill of horror and surmise.
I do not know exactly what we expected to follow that desperate act
committed in a distant province of Austria, but certainly not the
cataclysm of a World War and the ruin of three of the proudest empires
of earth. Very shortly after the assassination of the Austrian heir and
his wife the Emperor had gone to Kronstadt, headquarters of the Baltic
fleet, to meet French and British squadrons then on cruise in Russian
waters.[2] From Kronstadt he proceeded to Krasnoe, near Petrograd, the
great summer central review center of the old Russian Army where the
usual military maneuvers were in progress. Returning to Peterhof, the
Emperor ordered a hasty departure to Finland because, he said, the
political horizon was darkening and he needed a few days of rest and
distraction. We sailed on July 6 (Russian Calendar) and had a quiet
cruise, the last one we were ever destined to enjoy. Not that we
intended it to be our last, for returning to Peterhof, from whence the
Emperor hurried again to the reviews, we left nearly all our luggage on
the yacht. The Empress, however, in one of her fits of melancholy, told
me that she felt that we would never again be together on the
_Standert_.

The political skies were indeed darkening. The Serbian murders and the
unaccountably arrogant attitude of Austria grew in importance every
succeeding day, and for many hours every day the Emperor was closeted in
his study with Grand Duke Nicholas, Foreign Minister Sazonoff and other
Ministers, all of whom urged on the Emperor the imperative duty of
standing by Serbia. During the short intervals of the day when we saw
the Emperor he seemed half dazed by the momentous decision he was called
upon to make. A few days before mobilization I went to lunch at Krasnoe
with a friend whose husband was on the Russian General Staff. In the
middle of luncheon this officer, Count Nosstiz, burst into the room
exclaiming: “Do you know what the Emperor has done? Can you guess what
they have made him do? He has promoted the young men of the Military
Academy to be officers, and he has sent the regiments back to their
casernes to await orders. All the military attachés are telegraphing
their Governments to ask what it means. What can it mean except war?”

From my friend’s house I went almost at once back to Peterhof and
informed the Empress what I had heard. Her amazement was unbounded, and
over and over she repeated that she did not understand, that she could
not imagine under what influence the Emperor had acted. He was still at
the maneuvers, and although I remained late with the Empress I did not
see him that night. The days that followed were full of suspense and
anxiety. I spent most of my time playing tennis--very badly--with the
girls, but from my occasional contacts with the Empress I knew that she
was arguing and pleading against the war which apparently the Emperor
felt to be inevitable. In one short talk I had with him on the subject
he seemed to find a certain comfort in the thought that war always
strengthened national feeling, and in his belief Russia would emerge
from a truly righteous war stronger and better than ever. At this time a
telegram arrived from Rasputine in Siberia, which plainly irritated the
Emperor. Rasputine strongly opposed the war, and predicted that it would
result in the destruction of the Empire. But the Emperor refused to
believe it and resented what was really an almost unprecedented
interference in affairs of state on the part of Rasputine.

I think I have spoken of the Emperor’s aversion to the telephone. Up to
this time none of his studies were ever fitted with telephones, but now
he had wires and instruments installed and spent a great deal of time in
conversations with Ministers and members of the military staff. Then
came the day of mobilization, the same kind of a day of wild excitement,
waving street crowds, weeping women and children, heartrending scenes of
parting, that all the warring countries saw and ever will remember.
After watching hours of these dreadful scenes in the streets of
Peterhof I went to my evening duties with the Empress only to find that
she had remained in absolute ignorance of what had been taking place.
Mobilization! It was not true, she exclaimed. Certainly armies were
moving, but only on the Austrian frontiers. She hurried from the room
and I heard her enter the Emperor’s study. For half an hour the sound of
their excited voices reached my ears. Returning, the Empress dropped on
her couch as one overcome by desperate tidings. “War!” She murmured
breathlessly. “And I knew nothing of it. This is the end of everything.”
I could say nothing. I understood as little as she the incomprehensible
silence of the Emperor at such an hour, and as always, whatever hurt her
hurt me. We sat in silence until eleven when, as usual, the Emperor came
in to tea, but he was distraught and gloomy and the tea hour also passed
in almost complete silence.

The whole world has read the telegrams sent to Nicholas II by ex-Emperor
William in those beginning days of the war. Their purport seemed to be
sincere and intimate, begging his old friend and relative to stop
mobilization, offering to meet the Emperor for a conference which yet
might keep the peace. Historians of the future will have to decide
whether those tenders were made in good faith or whether they were part
of the sinister diplomacy of that wicked war. Nicholas II did not
believe in their good faith, for he replied that he had no right to stop
mobilization in Russia when German mobilization was already a matter of
fact and that at any hour his frontiers might be crossed by German
troops. After this interval the Emperor seemed to be in better spirits.
War had come indeed, but even war was better than the threat and the
uncertainty of the preceding weeks. The extreme depression of the
Empress, however, continued unrelieved. Up to the last moment she hoped
against hope, and when the German formal declaration of war was
announced she gave way to a perfect passion of weeping, repeating to me
through her tears: “This is the end of everything.” The state visit of
their Majesties to Petrograd soon after the declaration really seemed to
justify the Emperor’s belief that the war would arouse the national
spirit, so long latent, in the Russian people. Never again do I expect
to behold such a sight as the streets of Petrograd presented on that
day. To say that the streets were crowded, thronged, massed, does not
half express it. I do not believe that one single able-bodied person in
the whole city remained at home during the hours spent in the capital by
the Sovereigns. The streets were almost literally impassable, and the
Imperial motor cars, moving at snail’s pace from quay to palace through
that frenzied sea of people, cheering, singing the national hymn,
calling down blessings on the Emperor, was something that will live
forever in the memories of all who witnessed it. The Imperial cortège
was able, thanks to the police, to reach the Winter Palace at last, but
many of the suite were halted by the crowds at the entrance to the great
square in front of the palace and had to enter at a side door opening
from the small garden to the west.

Inside the palace the crowd was relatively as great as that on the
outside. Apparently every man and woman who had the right to appear at
Court were massed in the corridors, the staircases, and the state
apartments. Slowly their Majesties made their way to the great _Salle de
Nicholas_, the largest hall in the palace, and there for several hours
they stood receiving the most extraordinary tokens of homage from
thousands of officials, ministers, and members of the _noblesse_, both
men and women. Te Deums were sung, cheers and acclamations arose, and as
the Emperor and Empress moved slowly through the crowds men and women
threw themselves on their knees, kissing the hands of their Sovereigns
with tears and fervent expressions of loyalty. Standing with others of
the suite in the _Halle de Concert_, I watched this remarkable scene,
and I listened to the historic speech of the Emperor which ended with
the assurance that never would there be an end to Russian military
effort until the last German was expelled from the beloved soil. From
the _Salle de Nicholas_ the Sovereigns passed to a balcony overlooking
the great square. There with the Tsarevitch at their side they faced the
wildly exulting people who with one accord dropped to their knees with
mute gestures of love and obedience. Then as countless flags waved and
dipped there arose from the lips and hearts of that vast assembly the
moving strains of our great hymn: “God Save the Tsar.”

Thus in a passion of renewed love and patriotism began in Russia the war
of 1914. That same day the family returned to Peterhof, the Emperor
almost immediately leaving for the casernes to bid farewell to regiments
leaving for the front. As for the Empress, she became overnight a
changed being. Every bodily ill and weakness forgotten, she began at
once an extensive plan for a system of hospitals and sanitary trains for
the dreadful roll of wounded which she knew must begin with the first
battle. Her projected chain of hospitals and sanitary centers reached
from Petrograd and Moscow to Charkoff and Odessa in the extreme south of
Russia. The center of her personal activity was fixed in a large group
of evacuation hospitals in and around Tsarskoe Selo, and there, after
bidding farewell to my only brother, who immediately left for the
southern front, I joined the Empress. Already her plans were so far
matured that ten sanitary trains, bearing her name and the children’s,
were in active service, and something like eighty-five hospitals were
open, or preparing to open, in Tsarskoe Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk, Louga,
Sablino, and neighboring towns. The Empress, her two older daughters,
and myself immediately enrolled under a competent woman surgeon, Dr.
Gedroiz, as student nurses, spending two hours of every afternoon under
theoretical instruction, and the entire hours of the morning in ward
work in the hospitals. For the benefit of those who imagine that the
work of a royal nurse is more or less in the nature of play I will
describe the average routine of one of those mornings in which I was
privileged to assist the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the Grand
Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, the two last-named girls of nineteen and
seventeen. Please remember that we were then only nurses in training.
Arriving at the hospital shortly after nine in the morning we went
directly to the receiving wards where the men were brought in after
having first-aid treatment in the trenches and field hospitals. They
had traveled far and were usually disgustingly dirty as well as
blood-stained and suffering. Our hands scrubbed in antiseptic solutions
we began the work of washing, cleaning, and bandaging maimed bodies,
mangled faces, blinded eyes, all the indescribable mutilations of what
is called civilized warfare. These we did under the orders and the
direction of trained nurses who had the skill to do the things our lack
of experience prevented us from doing. As we became accustomed to the
work, and as both the Empress and Tatiana had extraordinary ability as
nurses, we were given more important work. I speak of the Empress and
Tatiana especially because Olga within two months was almost too
exhausted and too unnerved to continue, and my abilities proved to be
more in the executive and organizing than in the nursing end of hospital
work. I have seen the Empress of Russia in the operating room of a
hospital holding ether cones, handling sterilized instruments, assisting
in the most difficult operations, taking from the hands of the busy
surgeons amputated legs and arms, removing bloody and even
vermin-infected dressings, enduring all the sights and smells and
agonies of that most dreadful of all places, a military hospital in the
midst of war. She did her work with the humility and the gentle
tirelessness of one dedicated by God to a life of ministration. Tatiana
was almost as skillful and quite as devoted as her mother, and
complained only that on account of her youth she was spared some of the
more trying cases. The Empress was spared nothing, nor did she wish to
be. I think I never saw her happier than on the day, at the end of our
two months’ intensive training, she marched at the head of the
procession of nurses to receive the red cross and the diploma of a
certificated war nurse.

From that time on our days were literally devoted to toil. We rose at
seven in the morning and very often it was an hour or two after midnight
before we sought our beds. The Empress, after a morning in the operating
room of one hospital, snatched a hasty luncheon and spent the rest of
the day in a round of inspection of other hospitals. Every morning early
I met her in the little Church of Our Lady of Znamenie, where we went
for prayers, driving afterwards to the hospitals. On the days when the
sanitary trains arrived with their ghastly loads of wounded we often
worked from nine until three without stopping for food or rest. The
Empress literally shirked nothing. Sometimes when an unfortunate soldier
was told by the surgeons that he must suffer an amputation or undergo an
operation which might be fatal, he turned in his bed calling out her
name in anguished appeal. “Tsaritsa! Stand near me. Hold my hand that I
may have courage.” Were the man an officer or a simple peasant boy she
always answered the appeal. With her arm under his head she would speak
words of comfort and encouragement, praying with him while preparations
for the operation were in progress, her own hands assisting in the
merciful work of anesthesia. The men idolized her, watched for her
coming, reached out bandaged hands to touch her as she passed, smiling
happily as she bent over their pillows. Even the dying smiled as she
knelt beside their beds murmuring last words of prayer and consolation.

In the last days of November, 1914, the Empress left Tsarskoe Selo for
an informal inspection of hospitals within the radius of her especially
chosen district. Dressed in the gray uniform of a nursing sister,
accompanied by her older daughters, myself, and a small suite, she went
to towns surrounding Tsarskoe Selo and southward as far as Pskoff, staff
headquarters, where the younger Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna was a
hospital nurse. From there she proceeded to Vilna, Kovno, and Grodno, in
which city she met the Emperor and with him went on to Dvinsk. The
enthusiasm and affection with which the Empress was met in all these
places and in stations along the route beggars description. A hundred
incidents of the journey crowd my memory, each one worth the telling had
I space to include them in this narrative. I remember, for example, the
remarkable scene in the big fortress of Kovno, where acres of hospital
beds were assembled and where the tall figure of the Empress, moving
through those interminable aisles, was greeted like the visit of an
angel. I never recall that journey without remembering the hospital at
Grodno, where a gallant young officer lay dying of his wounds. Hearing
that the Empress was on her way to the hospital, he rallied unexpectedly
and declared to his nurses that he was determined to live until she
came. Sheer will power kept life in the man’s body until the Empress
arrived, and when, at the door of the hospital, she was told of his
dying wish to see her she hurried first to his bedside, kneeling beside
it and receiving his last smile, his last gasping words of greeting and
farewell.

After one very fatiguing day our train passed a sanitary train of the
Union of Zemstvos moving south. The Empress, who should have been
resting in bed at the time, ordered her train stopped that she might
visit, to the surprise and delight of the doctors, this splendidly
equipped rolling hospital. Another surprise visit was to the estate of
Prince Tichkevitch, whose family supported on their own lands a very
efficient hospital unit. It was impossible to avoid noticing how in the
towns visited by the Empress, dressed as a simple sister of mercy, the
love of the people was most manifest. In Grodno, Dvinsk, and other
cities where she appeared with the Emperor there was plenty of
enthusiasm, but on those occasions etiquette obliged her to lay aside
her uniform and to dress as the wife of the Emperor. Much better the
people loved her when she went among them in her nurse’s dress, their
devoted friend and sister. Etiquette forgotten, they crowded around her,
talked to her freely, claimed her as their own.

Soon after returning from this visit of inspection the Empress
accompanied by Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, General Racine,
Commander of the Palace Guards, a maid of honor and myself, set off on a
journey to Moscow, where to my extreme sorrow and dismay I perceived for
the first time unmistakable evidences of a spreading intrigue against
the Imperial Family. At the station in Moscow the Empress was met by her
sister, the Grand Duchess Serge and the latter’s intimate friend and the
executive of her convent, Mme. Gardieve. Welcome from the people there
was none, as General Djounkovsky, Governor of Moscow, had announced,
without any authority whatsoever, that the Empress was in the city
incognito and did not wish to meet anyone. In consequence of this order
we drove to the Kremlin through almost empty streets. Nevertheless the
Empress began at once the inspection of hospitals, accompanied by
General Racine and her maid of honor, Baroness Boukshoevden, daughter of
the Russian Ambassador in Denmark. During our stay in Moscow I was not
as constantly with the Empress as usual, our rooms in the Kremlin being
far apart. However, General Odoevsky, the fine old Governor of the
Kremlin, installed a telephone between our rooms, and on her free
evenings the Empress often summoned me to sit with her in her dressing
room, hung with light blue draperies and looking out over the river and
the ancient roofs of Moscow. I lunched and dined with others of the
suite in an old part of the immense palace known as the Granovita
Palata, and here occurred one night a disagreeable scene in which
General Racine, in the presence of the whole company, administered a
stinging rebuke to General Djounkovsky, Governor of Moscow, for his
responsibility for the cold welcome accorded her Majesty. The Governor
turned very pale but made no answer to the accusation of General Racine.
Already my mind was in a tumult of trouble, more and more conscious of
the atmosphere of intrigue, plots, and conspiracies, the end of which I
could not see. In the coldness of the Grand Duchess Serge, in my
childhood such a friend to me and to my family, her chilly refusal to
listen to her sister’s denial of preposterous tales of the political
influence exerted by Rasputine, by the general animosity towards myself,
I began dimly to realize that there was a plot to strike at her Majesty
through Rasputine and myself. There was absolutely nothing I could do,
and I had to watch with tearless grief the breach between the sisters
grow wider and deeper until their association was robbed of most of its
old intimacy. I knew well enough, or I was convinced that I knew, that
the dismissed maid of honor, Mlle. Tutcheff, was at the bottom of the
whole affair, her family being among the most prominent in Moscow. But I
could say nothing, do nothing.

With great relief we saw our train leave Moscow for a round of visits in
surrounding territory, and here again the enthusiasm with which the
people welcomed the Empress was unbounded. In the town of Toula, for
example, and a little farther on in Orel, the people were so tumultuous
in their greeting, they crowded so closely around their adored Empress,
that our party could scarcely make our way to church and hospital. Once,
following the Empress out of a church, carrying in my hands an ikon
which had been presented to her, I was fairly overthrown by the crowding
multitude and fell halfway down the high flight of steps before friendly
hands could get me to my feet. I did not mind this, being only too
rejoiced at evidences of love and devotion which the simple people of
Russia felt for their Empress. In one town where there were no modern
carriages she was dragged along in an old coach of state such as a
medieval bishop might have used, the coach being quite covered with
flowers and branches. In the town of Charkoff hundreds of students met
the train bearing aloft portraits of her Majesty. In the small town of
Belgorod, where the Empress wished to stop in order to visit a very
sacred monastery, I shall never forget the joy with which the sleepy
ischvostiks hurried through the darkness of the night to drive us the
three or four versts from the railway to the monastery. Nor can I forget
the arrival at the monastery, the sudden flare of lights as the monks
hastened out to meet and greet their Sovereign Empress. These were the
people, the plain people of Russia, and the difference between them and
the plotting officials we had left behind in Moscow was a sad and a
terrible contrast.

On December 6 (Russian Calendar), the birthday of the Emperor, we met
his train at Voronezh, where our parties joined in visits to Tambov,
Riasan, and other towns where the people gave their Majesties wonderful
greetings. In Tambov the Emperor and Empress visited and had tea with a
charming woman of advanced age, Mme. Alexandra Narishkin, friend of
Alexander III and of many distinguished men of her time. Mme. Narishkin,
horrible to relate, was afterwards murdered by the Bolsheviki, neither
her liberal mind nor her long services to her country, and especially to
her humble friends in Tambov, sparing her from the blood lust of the
destroyers of Russia.

The journey of their Majesties terminated at Moscow, where the younger
children of the family awaited them. I can still see the slim, erect
figure of Alexei standing at salute on the station platform, and the
rosy, eager faces of Marie and Anastasie welcoming their parents after
their long separation. The united family drove to the Kremlin, this
time not quite so inhospitably received. In the days following the
Moscow hospitals and military organizations were visited in turn, and we
included in these visits out of town activities of the Moscow Zemstvo
(county council), canteens, etc. In one of these centers our host was
Prince Lvoff, afterwards active in demanding the abdication of the Tsar,
and I remember with what deference he received their Majesties, and the
especial attention he paid to the Tsarevitch, whose autograph he begged
for the visitors’ book. Before we left Moscow the Empress paid two
visits, one to the old Countess Apraxin, sister of the former first lady
in waiting, Princess Galatzine and, with the Emperor, to the
Metropolitan Makari, a good man, but mercilessly persecuted during the
Revolution.

There was one small but significant incident which happened after our
return to Tsarskoe Selo, near the end of the year 1914. It failed of its
intended effect, but had it not failed it might have had a far-reaching
influence on world events at that time. Looking back on it now, I
sometimes wonder exactly what lay back of the plot, and who was
responsible for its inception. One evening late in the year I received a
visit from two war nurses lately released from a German prison where
they had been taken with a portion of a captured Russian regiment. In
much perturbation of spirit these nurses told me of a third nurse who
had been captured and imprisoned with them. This woman they had come to
distrust as she had been accorded many special favors by the Germans.
She had been given good food and even champagne, and when the nurses
were released she alone was conveyed to the frontier in a motor car, the
others going on foot. While in prison this woman had boasted that she
expected to be received by the Emperor, to whom she proposed to present
the flag of the captured regiment. The other nurses declared that in
their opinion his Majesty should be warned of the woman’s dubious
character.

Hardly knowing what to think of such an extraordinary story, I thought
it my duty to lay the matter before General Voyeikoff, Chief Commander
of the Palace Guards, and when I learned from him that the Emperor had
consented to receive the nurse I begged that the woman be investigated
before being allowed to enter the palace. The Emperor showed some
vexation, but he consented. When General Voyeikoff examined the woman
she made a display of great frankness, handing him a revolver which she
said it had been necessary for her to carry at the front. General
Voyeikoff, thinking it strange that the weapon had not been taken away
from her by the Germans, immediately ordered a search of her effects. In
the handbag which she would certainly have carried with her to the
palace were found two more loaded revolvers. The woman was, of course,
arrested, and although I cannot explain why, her arrest caused great
indignation among certain members of the aristocracy who previously had
received her at their homes. The whole onus of her arrest was placed on
me, although the Emperor declared his belief that she was a German spy
sent to assassinate him. That she was a spy I have never doubted, but in
my own mind I have never even tried to guess from whence she came.



CHAPTER IX


A very few days after the events chronicled in the last chapter I became
the victim of a railroad accident which brought me to the threshold of
death and for many months made it impossible for me to follow the events
of the war, or the growing conspiracy against the Sovereigns. At a
little past five o’clock of the afternoon of January 2, 1915, I took the
train at Tsarskoe for a short visit to my parents in Petrograd. With me
in my carriage was Mme. Shiff, a sister of a distinguished officer of
Cuirassiers. We sat talking the usual commonplaces of travel when
suddenly, without a moment’s notice, there came a tremendous shock and a
deafening crash, and I felt myself thrown violently forward, my head
towards the roof of the carriage, and both legs held as in a vise in the
coils of the steam-heating apparatus. The overturned carriage lurched
and broke in two like an eggshell and I felt the bones of my left leg
snap sharply. So intense was the pain that I momentarily lost
consciousness. Too soon my senses returned to me and I found myself
firmly wedged in the wreckage of wood and iron, a great bar of steel
crushing my face, and my mouth so choked with blood that I could not
utter a sound. All I could do in my agony was silently to pray that God
would give me the relief of a quick death, for I could not believe that
any human being could endure such pain and live.

After what seemed to me an interminable length of time I felt the
pressure on my face removed and a kind voice asked: “Who lies here?” As
I managed to breathe my name the rescuers exclaimed in astonishment and
alarm, and immediately began to endeavor to extricate me from my
agonizing position. By means of ropes passed under my arms and using
great care and gentleness they ultimately got me free and laid me on the
grass. In a moment’s flash I recognized one as a Cossack of the
Emperor’s special guard, an excellent man named Lichatchieff, and the
other as a soldier of the railway battalion. Then I fainted. Ripping
loose one of the doors of the railway carriage, the men placed me on it
and carried me to a near-by hut already crowded with wounded and dying.
Regaining consciousness for a moment, I begged in whispers that
Lichatchieff would telephone my parents in Petrograd and their Majesties
at the palace. This the good fellow did without delay, and he also
brought to my corner one of the surgeons summoned to the wreck. The man
gave me a rapid examination and said briefly: “Do not disturb her. She
is dying.” He left to attend to more hopeful cases, but the faithful
soldiers still knelt beside me, straightening my crushed and broken legs
and wiping the blood from my lips. In about two hours another doctor,
this time the surgeon Gedroiz, under whom the Empress, her daughters,
and myself had taken our nurses’ training, approached the corner where I
lay. I looked with a kind of terror into the face of this woman, for I
knew her to be no friend of mine. Simply giving my wounded head a
superficial examination she said carelessly that I was a hopeless case,
and left me without the slightest attempt to soothe my pain. Not until
ten o’clock that night, four hours after the collision which had wrecked
two trains, did any help reach me. At that hour arrived General Racine
from the palace with orders from their Majesties to do everything
possible in my behalf. At his imperative commands I was again placed on
a stretcher and carried to a relief train made up of cattle cars. At the
moment my poor father and mother arrived from Petrograd and the last
things I remember were their sobs and a teaspoonful of brandy mercifully
poured down my throat.

At the end of the journey to Tsarskoe Selo I dimly recognized the
Empress and the four Grand Duchesses who had come to the station to meet
the train. Their faces were full of sympathy and grief, and as they bent
over me I found strength to whisper to them: “I am dying.” I believed it
because the doctors had said so, and because my pain was so great. Then
came the ordeal of being lifted into the ambulance and the
half-consciousness that the Empress was there too, holding my head on
her knees and begging me to have courage. After that came an interval of
darkness out of which I awoke in bed and almost free from pain. The
Empress who, with my parents, remained near me, asked me if I would like
to see the Emperor. Of course I replied that I would, and when he came I
pressed the hand he gave me. Dr. Gedroiz, who was in charge of the ward,
told everyone coldly to take leave of me as I could not possibly live
until morning. “Is it so hopeless?” asked the Emperor. “She still has
some strength in her hand.”

Later on, I do not know exactly when, I opened my eyes quite clearly,
and saw standing beside my bed the tall, gaunt form of Rasputine. He
looked at me fixedly and said in a calm voice: “She will live, but will
always be a cripple.” A prediction which was literally fulfilled, for to
this day I can walk only slowly and with the aid of a stout stick. I
have been told that Rasputine recalled me from unconsciousness, but of
his words I know only what I have recorded.

The next morning I was operated on and for the six weeks following I
suppose I suffered as greatly as one can and live. My left leg which had
sustained a double fracture, troubled me less than my back and my right
leg which had been horribly wrenched and lacerated. My head wounds were
also intensely painful and for a time I suffered from inflammation of
the brain. My parents, the Empress, and the children came every day to
see me, but despite their presence the neglect and unkindness of Dr.
Gedroiz continued. The suggestion of the Empress that her trusted
physician, Dr. Federoff, be brought into consultation was rudely
repulsed by this woman, of whom I may finally say that she is now in
high favor with the Bolsheviki whose ranks she joined in the autumn of
1917. Waited upon by none but the most inexperienced nurses, I do not
know what might have become of me had not my mother brought to the
hospital an old family nurse whom she absolutely insisted should take
charge of me. Things went a little better after this, but happy was I
when at the end of the sixth week, against the will of Dr. Gedroiz, I
left that wretched hospital and was removed to my own home. There in the
peace and security of my comfortable bedroom I enjoyed for the first
time since my accident quiet and refreshing sleep.

It seems strange that the hostile and envious Court circle had deeply
resented the daily visits of the Emperor and Empress to my bedside. To
placate the gossipers the Emperor, before visiting me, used to make the
rounds of all the wards. In spite of it all I had many visitors and many
daily inquiries from the Empress Dowager and others. Very soon after my
arrival home I was examined by skillful surgeons, among them Drs.
Federoff and Gagentorn, who pronounced my crushed right leg to be in a
very bad condition and placed it in a plaster cast, where it remained
for two months. The Empress visited me daily, but the Emperor I seldom
saw because, as I learned indirectly, the War was going very badly on
the Russian front, and the Emperor was almost constantly with the
armies. In the last week before Lent he came to my bedside with the
Empress, in accordance with an old Russian custom, before confession, to
beg my forgiveness for possible wrongs done me during the year past.
Their pious humility and also the white and careworn face of the Emperor
filled me with emotion which later events served only to increase, for
very momentous and trying hours were even then crowding the destiny of
Nicholas II, Tsar of all the Russias.

A soldier of the sanitary corps, a man named Jouk, had been assigned to
duty at my house, and as soon as I was able to leave my bed he took me
daily in a wheeled chair to church, and to the palace. This was the
summer of 1915, a time of great tribulation for the Russian Army, as
every student of the World War is aware. Grand Duke Nicholai
Nicholaievitch was pursuing a policy which rightly disturbed the
Emperor, who constantly complained that the commander in chief of his
armies sent the men forward without proper ammunition, without artillery
support, and with no adequate preparations for safe retreat. Disaster
after disaster confirmed the Emperor’s fears. Fortress after fortress
fell to the Germans. Kovno fell. Novogeorgiesk fell, and finally Warsaw
itself fell. It was a terrible day when the Emperor, white and
trembling, brought this news to the Empress as we sat at tea on her
balcony in the warm autumn air. The Emperor was fairly overcome with
grief and humiliation as he finished his tale. “It cannot go on any
longer like this,” he exclaimed bitterly, and then he went on to declare
that in spite of ministerial opposition he was determined to take
personal command of the army himself. Only that day Krivosheim, Minister
of Agriculture, had addressed him on the impossible condition of Russian
internal affairs. Nicholai Nicholaievitch, not content with military
supremacy, had assumed almost complete authority over all the business
of the Empire. There were in fact two governments in Russia, orders
being constantly issued from military headquarters without the
knowledge, much less the consent, of the Emperor.

Very soon after the fall of Warsaw it became clear to the Emperor that
if he were to retain any dignity whatever he would have to depose
Nicholai Nicholaievitch, and I wish here to state, without any
reservation whatever, that this decision was reached by the Emperor
without advice from Rasputine, myself, or any other person. Even the
Empress, although she approved her husband’s resolution, had no part in
forming it. M. Gilliard has written that the Emperor was forced to his
action by bad advisers, especially the Empress and Rasputine, but in
this he is absolutely mistaken. M. Gilliard writes that the Emperor was
told that Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaievitch was plotting to confine his
Sovereign in a monastery. I do not believe for a moment that Rasputine
ever made such a statement, but he did, in my presence, warn the Emperor
to watch Nicholai Nicholaievitch and his wife who, he alleged, were at
their old practices of table-tipping and spiritism, which he thought to
be a highly dangerous way to conduct a war against the Germans. As for
me, I repeat that never once did I say or do anything to influence the
Emperor in state affairs. I wish I could here reproduce a letter written
to my father by the Emperor in which all the reasons for taking the step
he did were explained. The letter, alas! was taken from me by the
Bolsheviki after my father’s death, and I suppose was destroyed.

On the evening when the Emperor met his ministers to announce his great
decision I dined at the palace, and I was deeply impressed with the
firmness of the Emperor’s decision not to be overborne by arguments or
vain fears on the part of timid statesmen. As he arose to go to the
council chamber the Emperor begged us to pray for him that his
resolution should not falter. “You do not know how hard it has been for
me to refrain from taking an active part in the command of my beloved
army,” he said at parting. Overcome and speechless, I pressed into his
hand a tiny ikon which I had always worn around my neck, and during the
long council which followed the Empress and I prayed fervently for the
Emperor and for our distracted country.

As the time passed the Empress’s anxiety grew so great that, throwing a
cloak around her shoulders and beckoning me to follow, she went out on
the balcony, one end of which gave on the council room. Through the lace
of the window curtains we could see the Emperor sitting very upright,
surrounded by his ministers, one of whom was on his feet speaking
earnestly. Our eleven o’clock tea was served long before the Emperor,
entirely exhausted, returned from the conference. Throwing himself in an
armchair, he stretched himself out like a man spent after extreme
exertion, and I could see that his brow and hands were wet with
perspiration.

“They did not move me,” he said in a low, tense voice. “I listened to
all their long, dull speeches, and when all had finished I said:
‘Gentlemen, in two days from now I leave for the Stavka.’” As he
repeated the words his face lightened, his shoulders straightened, and
he appeared like a man whose strength was suddenly renewed.

Yet one more struggle was before him. The Empress Dowager, whom the
Emperor visited immediately after the ministerial conference, was by
this time thoroughly imbued with the German-spy mania in which the
Empress and Rasputine, not to mention myself, were involved. She
believed the whole preposterous tissue of lies which had been built up
and with all her might she struggled against the Emperor’s decision to
assume supreme command of the army. For over two hours a painful scene
was enacted in the Empress Dowager’s gardens, he trying to show her that
utter disaster threatened the army and the Empire under existing
conditions, and she repeating over and over again the wicked slanders of
German plots which she insisted that he was furthering. In the end the
Emperor left, terribly shaken, but with his resolution as strong as
ever.

Before leaving for staff headquarters the Emperor and his family took
communion together at the Feodorovsky Cathedral and at their last meal
together he showed himself calm and collected as he had not been for
some time; in fact, not since the beginning of the last disastrous
campaign. From headquarters the Emperor wrote full accounts of the
scenes which took place when he assumed personal command, and of the
furious anger, not only of the deposed Nicholai Nicholaievitch but of
all his staff, “Every one of whom,” wrote the Emperor, “has the ambition
himself to govern Russia.”

I am not attempting to write a military history of those years, and I am
quite aware of the fact that most published accounts of the Russian Army
represent Nicholai Nicholaievitch as the devoted friend of the Allies
and the Emperor as the pliant tool of German influences. It is
undeniable, however, that almost as soon as Nicholai Nicholaievitch had
been sent to the Caucasus and the Emperor took command of the Western
Army a marked improvement in the general morale became apparent. Retreat
at various points was stopped, the whole front strengthened, and a new
spirit of loyalty to the Empire was manifest.

I wish to interpolate here, in connection with the Emperor’s personal
command of the army, a word on the immense service he rendered it at the
beginning of the War in suppressing the manufacture and sale of vodka,
the curse of the Russian peasantry. The Emperor did this entirely on his
own initiative, without advice from his ministers or the Grand Dukes.
The Emperor said at the time: “At least by this I will be remembered,”
and he was, because the condition of the peasants, the town workers, and
of course the army became at once immeasurably better. In the midst of
war-time privations the savings-banks accounts of the people increased
enormously, and in the army there was none of the hideous debauchery
which disgraced Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. As an eminent French
correspondent long afterwards wrote: “It is to the dethroned Emperor
Nicholas that we must accord the honor of having effected the greatest
of all internal reforms in war-time Russia, the suppression of
alcoholism.”

In October the Emperor came to Tsarskoe Selo for a brief visit, and on
his return he took with him to the Stavka the young Tsarevitch. This is
the first time he had ever separated the boy from his mother, and the
Empress was never happy except in the few minutes each day when she was
reading the child’s daily letter. At nine o’clock at night she went up
to his bedroom exactly as though he were there and she was listening to
his evening prayers. By day the Empress continued her tireless work in
the hospitals from which, by reason of my accident, I had long been
excluded. However, at this time, I received from the railroad as
compensation for my injuries the considerable sum of eighty thousand
rubles, and with the money I established a hospital for convalescent
soldiers in which maimed and wounded men received training in various
useful trades. This, it is needless to say, became a great source of
happiness to me, since I knew as well as the soldiers what it meant to
be crippled and helpless. From the first my hospital training school was
a most gratifying success, and my personal interest in it never ceased
until the Revolution, after which all my efforts at usefulness and
service ended in imprisonment and persecution.

Not this action of mine, patriotic though it must have appeared, no
amount of devotion of the Empress to the wounded, sufficed to check the
rapidly growing propaganda which sought to convict the Imperial Family
and all its friends of being German spies. The fact that in England the
Empress’s brother-in-law, Prince Louis of Battenberg, German-born but a
loyal Briton, was forced to resign his command in the British Navy was
used with effect against the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She knew and
resented keenly this insane delusion, and she did everything in her
power to overcome it. I remember a day when the Empress received a
letter from her brother Ernest, Grand Duke of Hesse, in which he
implored her to do something to improve the barbarous conditions of
German prisoners in Russia. With streaming tears the Empress owned
herself powerless to do anything at all in behalf of the unhappy
captives. She had organized a committee for the relief of Russian
prisoners in Germany, but this had been fiercely attacked, especially in
the columns of _Novy Vremya_, an influential organ of the Constitutional
Democratic Party. In this newspaper and in general society the Empress’s
committee was accused of being a mere camouflage gotten up to shield her
real purpose of helping the Germans. Against such attacks the Empress
had no defense. Her secretary, Count Rostovseff, indeed tried to refute
the story concerning the Empress’s prison-camp committee, but the
editors of _Novy Vremya_ insolently refused to publish his letter of
explanation.

The German-spy mania was extended from the palace to almost every
Russian who had the misfortune to possess a name that sounded at all
German. Count Fredericks and Minister Sturmer were among those who
suffered calumny, although neither spoke a single German sentence. But
the greatest sufferers were those barons of the Baltic Provinces whose
ancestors had bequeathed them names of quite certain German origin. Many
of these men were arrested and sent to die, or to suffer worse than
death in exile. The sons and relatives of many of these very Baltic
proprietors were at the time fighting loyally in the Russian Army. That
there were German spies at work in Russia all during the War I have no
reason to doubt, but they were the men who after 1917 invited in and
exalted Lenine and Trotzky, and not the Empress and her friends, nor yet
the persecuted estate owners of the Baltic Provinces. Did the Emperor’s
family call upon the Germans to rescue them from Siberia? Did any of
the Baltic Provinces at Versailles ask to be united to Germany?

The army and navy still remained loyal to the Sovereigns. On one of his
home visits to Tsarskoe Selo the Emperor brought with him as a proof of
this the Cross of the Order of St. George, the highest of all Russian
military decorations, which none could bestow except the Emperor, or the
chief command of one of the armies in the field. In this case it was the
gallant Southern Army which had voted to bestow it on the Emperor, and
his pride and joy in it were humbly great.



CHAPTER X


To one who has always held the honor and faith of the Russian people
very dear, who has never doubted that after the last hideous phase of
revolution and anarchism has passed, the Russian nation will emerge
stronger and better than ever before, the writing of these next chapters
is a duty inexpressibly painful. I must tell the truth, otherwise it
would have been better for me never to have written at all. Yet to
picture in anything like its true colors the decadence of Petrograd
society from 1914 onward is a task from which any loyal Russian must
shrink. Without a knowledge of these conditions, however, students of
the Russian Revolution will never be able to understand why the fabric
of government slipped so easily from the feeble hands of the Provisional
Government to the ruthless and bloody grasp of the Bolshevists.

During the entire winter of 1915, when the War was being waged on all
fronts with such disaster to the Allies, when millions of men, Russians,
Frenchmen, Belgians, Englishmen, were giving up their lives in the cause
of freedom, the aristocracy of the Russian capital was indulging in a
reckless orgy of dancing, sports, dining, yes, and wining also in spite
of the Emperor’s edict against alcohol, spending enormous sums for gowns
and jewels, and in every way ignoring the terrible fact that the world
was on fire and that civilization was battling for its very life. In
the palace the most frugal régime had been adopted. Meals were simple
almost to parsimony, no money was spent except for absolute necessities,
and the Empress and her daughters spent practically every waking hour
working and praying for the soldiers. But society, when it was not
otherwise amusing itself, was indulging in a new and madly exciting game
of intrigue against the throne. To spread slanders about the Empress, to
inflame the simple minds of workmen against the state was the most
popular diversion of the aristocracy. A typical instance of this mania
was related to me by my sister, who one morning was surprised by an
unexpected visit from her sister-in-law, daughter of a very great lady
of the aristocracy. Bursting into the room, this woman exclaimed
delightedly: “What do you think we are doing now? Spreading stories
through all the factories that the Empress is keeping the Emperor
constantly drunk. Everybody believes it.” I mention this story as
typical because the woman involved afterwards became very prominent in
the Grand Ducal cabal that forced the abdication, and she was also one
of two women present in the Yusupoff Palace on the night of Rasputine’s
assassination.

Every possible circumstance, no matter how inconsequential, was eagerly
seized as capital by these plotters. A former lady in waiting, Marie
Vassilchikoff, long retired from Court and living on her Austrian
estates, came to Petrograd, I know not how, and asked for an audience
with the Empress. Since Russia was at war with Austria this audience
could not be granted, nor did the Empress even remotely desire it. Yet
as the story was circulated Marie Vassilchikoff was represented as
having been sent for by the Empress to negotiate a separate peace with
Austria, and that this treachery was frustrated only by the vigorous
intervention of the Grand Duchess Serge.

These stories were spread not only by Court and society people, but were
made into a regular propaganda in the army, especially among the higher
command. The propaganda was chiefly in the hands of members of the Union
of Zemstvos, its most successful agent being the infamous Goutchkoff,
who now, it is gratifying to know, has earned the contempt of every
Russian political group, even including the Bolshevists. Thus in a whirl
of heartless gaiety and an organized campaign against the Sovereigns and
against the Empire passed the winter of 1915, the dark prelude of darker
years to come.

In the spring of that year, my health being still very precarious, their
Majesties sent me in charge of a sanitary train filled with invalid
soldiers and officers to the soft climate of the Crimea. With me went a
sister of mercy and the sanitary-corps man Jouk, of whom I have spoken.
On the same train journeyed also three members of the secret police,
ostensibly to protect, but really, as I well understood, to spy upon me.
Their presence the Empress, who came in the pouring rain to see the
train off from the station, was powerless to forbid, as she herself was
constantly under the surveillance of the dread Okhrana. Our train
traveled slowly, taking five days from Petrograd to the Black Sea. But
this we did not mind as we were very comfortable, the weather became
beautiful, and our frequent stops at Moscow and towns farther south were
full of interest. Our destination was Evpatoria on the eastern shore of
the Black Sea, and here all of us were cordially received, M. Duvan, the
head man of the city, giving me for a residence his own flower-hung
villa overlooking the sea. Here I spent two peaceful months, finding the
mud baths wonderfully restoring, and meeting some unusually interesting
people. I am sure that few people outside of Russia have ever heard of
the Karaim, a racial group among the most ancient in the world and of
whom, even then, a bare ten thousand existed. They were not Jews,
although they worshipped in synagogues, because they acknowledged Christ
as God, or at least a special prophet of God. They were, and are, if
they still exist, a strange mixture of pious Jews and early Christians,
left-overs from the days of the decaying Roman Empire when Judaism and
Christianity were trying to unite in one faith. The head of the Karaim
in Evpatoria was a fine black-bearded patriarch named Gaham, and with
him I formed an almost immediate friendship. Dressed in the long black
robe of his office, he used to sit with me for hours reading and
reciting the legends of his people, many reaching back into the dim
twilight of civilization. I liked the patriarch, not only for his
simplicity and his kindness to me, but for his evident love and loyalty
to the Imperial Family, a loyalty shared by all the people of the
Karaim.

A telegram from the Empress told me that she was then leaving for the
Stavka, from which she and the Emperor and the whole Imperial Family
would proceed to the Crimea for an important military and naval review.
Obeying her instructions I motored from Evpatoria to Sevastopol, through
an enchanting landscape of hills and plains, the latter being literally
carpeted with scarlet poppies. Arriving at Sevastopol, I had some
difficulty in passing the guard, but the Empress’s telegram, marked
“Imperial,” I had brought with me, and this proved the open sesame to
the Emperor’s special train. I lunched with the Empress and the Grand
Duchesses, meeting the Emperor and Alexei when they came from the
reviews at six o’clock. I spent that night in town, and the next day
returned to Evpatoria, their Majesties promising to visit me within a
few days. On May 16 they arrived and received a most enthusiastic
welcome, not only from the townspeople but from the Tartars, who came in
from the hills by thousands, from the people of the Karaim, and others
as strange and as picturesque. The huge square before the cathedral was
strewn with fragrant roses over which the Imperial Family walked to
service. The next few hours were spent in a round of visits to churches,
hospitals, and sanatoriums, and it was to a late luncheon at my villa
that they finally arrived. After luncheon we walked and sat on the
beach, but the gathering crowd became so large and so curious that the
poor Emperor, who had looked forward to a sea bath and a swim, had to
relinquish both. Alexei enjoyed the day, boy fashion, without regard to
the crowds, playing on the beach and building a big sand fortress, which
the schoolboys of the town next day surrounded by a high wall of stones
to protect it from the ravages of the tide. We had tea in the garden,
the Empress greatly enjoying the Oriental sweets sent her by the
Tartars. In the evening I dined on the Imperial train and traveled with
it a short distance on its way back to Petrograd.

In June I returned to Tsarskoe and resumed work in my beloved hospital
training school. The weather was unusually hot but the Empress continued
her constant duties in the hospitals and operating rooms. Often I
accompanied her on her rounds, and it came to me as a painful shock that
the surgeons and some of the wounded officers no longer regarded her, as
before, with respect and veneration. Too often an officer would assume
in her presence a careless and indifferent manner which even a
professional nurse would have resented. The Empress never did. She must
have noticed evidences of disrespect but no word of complaint ever
passed her lips. When I ventured to suggest to her that it might be well
to go less frequently to her hospital, she rewarded me with a look of
reproach. Whatever other people did, whatever their attitude towards the
War, Royalty knew its duty and would perform it faithfully to the end.

Both the Emperor and the Empress during all this rising tide of
disaffection persisted in underestimating its importance. The Emperor
especially treated the whole movement with the contempt which no doubt
it merited but which as a national menace it was far too dangerous to
ignore. I realized it keenly, but knowing how impossible it was to make
their Majesties understand that everything that was said against me,
against Rasputine, against the Ministers, was actually directed against
themselves, I was obliged to keep my lips closed. My parents realized as
well as I did what was going on. They had good reason, in fact, for my
mother had received two most insulting letters, one from Princess
Galatzine, sister of Mme. Rodzianko, whose husband was President of the
Duma, and another from Mme. Timasheff, a woman of the highest
aristocracy, letters which indicated a certain collusion between the
writers. In them my mother was brutally informed that neither of the
women desired any further acquaintanceship or association with her as
she too undoubtedly belonged to the German-spy party. My parents at the
time were living quietly in the little seaside town of Terioke, near
Petrograd, and were studiously avoiding the vulgar orgies and intrigues
of society.

In the midst of all these heart-breaking events I sought distraction in
the enlargement and perfecting of my occupational hospital which was
rapidly becoming overcrowded with invalids. I bought an additional piece
of land and arranged for four portable houses to be brought from
Finland. Two of these arrived duly, and I spent hours of absorbing
interest watching them being put together on the newly acquired land.
All these days I was constantly being bothered by people who, perhaps
believing that the money I was investing in hospitals was another proof
of my power over the Imperial treasury, tormented me with petitions of
every kind and description, but all of them alike in the selfishness of
their character. With cold hatred in their eyes, but with hypocritical
words on their lips, these people besought my good offices with their
Majesties on behalf of their sons, husbands, and relatives, all of whom
were alleged to be worthy of promotions and of lucrative positions under
the State. One woman of good social position invaded my hospital one day
and treated me to a disgraceful scene because I had assured her that I
was powerless to further her ambition to see her husband appointed head
of a certain Government. Naturally it happened that some petitioners
were poor and needy, and these, to the best of my ability, but without
any political influence whatever, I did endeavor to help. I know now,
after witnessing true sympathy and kindness to prisoners and persecuted,
like myself in later days, that I never did half what I might have done
in the time of my prosperity. If better days come to Russia in my
lifetime God help me to devote all that remains of my years to the poor
and especially to prisoners. Now that I have tasted poverty, now that I
have known the hopelessness of captivity, I know better than I did what
can be done for the lowly and unfortunate.

A number of very disquieting events occurred to us during the summer. On
very hot days it was the custom of the Empress and the children to drive
through the woods and shaded roads to Pavlovsk, a few versts from
Tsarskoe Selo. One stifling afternoon we started out as usual in two
carriages, the Empress and myself leading the way. The horses were
magnificent animals, apparently in the very pink of condition, but
suddenly one of the horses uttered a piercing scream and dropped dead in
his harness. The other horse plunged sidewise in terror and for a few
minutes it was all the coachman could do to avoid an overturn. The
Empress, pale, but as always courageous, got out of the carriage and
helped me, who was still on crutches, to alight. The carriage of the
children drove up, and getting in, we returned without further incident
to the palace. Whatever caused the sudden death of that horse, or what
was the object of that carriage accident--if indeed it was an
accident--we never knew, but it left behind in my mind, and I think also
in the mind of the Empress, a strangely sinister impression. The Empress
nevertheless went steadfastly on with her hospital work, arranging in
the convalescent wards concerts and entertainments for the pleasure of
the wounded. The best singers, the most accomplished musicians, were
secured for these concerts, and the men seemed appreciative of them. Yet
over the head of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna drifted darker and
darker the shadow of impending doom. The things I dared not say to her
began to reach her from others. In August came from the Crimea the head
man of the Karaim, of whom I have spoken. From the first he made an
agreeable impression on the Empress and the children, especially upon
Alexei, who never tired of listening to his stories. But Gaham had not
made the journey from the Crimea to relate legends and tales. He had
previously been connected with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serving
in Persia and the East, and his acute mind was still occupied with the
foreign affairs of the Empire on which he kept himself well informed.

Determined, if possible, to force the Empress to understand the gravity
of the situation, he told her a number of extraordinary things which had
come to his knowledge, among them an organized plot against the throne
which was being carried on by near relatives of the Tsar in the
seclusion of an allied foreign embassy in Petrograd. His story,
involving, as it did, the ambassador of a friendly power, the trusted
representative of an own cousin of the Emperor, seemed to the Empress
too preposterous to be credited. Horrified, she ended the conversation,
and a few days later she went, taking me with her, to visit the Emperor
at the Stavka. What he had to comment on her report of an alleged
ambassadorial plot against him I never knew, but I soon became aware
that representatives of other foreign countries were undeniably hostile.
At the Stavka were military commissions of practically every allied
country, among them General Williams and his staff from Great Britain,
General Janin from France, General Rikkel from Belgium, and high
officers from Italy, Serbia, Rumania, Japan, and other countries, all
accompanied by subordinate officers. One afternoon when the gardens were
quite crowded by these men and men of our own army, and while the
Empress was making her customary circle, I chanced to overhear a
conversation among officers of the foreign military missions, in which
the most slanderous words against her Majesty were uttered. “She has
come again, it appears,” said one of these men, “to see her husband and
give him the latest orders of Rasputine.” “The suite hate to hear her
arrival announced,” said another officer. “They know it means changes.”

Worse things were said, but without waiting to listen I managed to make
my way to the Empress, and that night inviting, as I was well aware, her
irritation and disbelief, I related something of what I had overheard. I
went further and reminded her of what we both knew, the increasing
demoralization of the Emperor’s staff. The Grand Dukes and the
commanding officers were, as a matter of course, invited each day to
lunch with the Emperor, but with insolence and audacity hitherto unheard
of, many of the Emperor’s near kinsmen declined these invitations. They
gave the most trivial and transparent excuses for their
absence--headaches, fatigue, previous engagements, alleged duties. The
Empress listened to what I said, silent and distraught. She knew, and I
also knew, that nothing she could say to the Emperor would make the
slightest impression. His eyes and ears were still closed to the
gathering tempest.

General Alexieff, Chief of Staff, and undoubtedly a valuable officer,
had, I soon learned, been drawn into the plot. The Emperor suspected him
to be in correspondence with the traitor Goutchkoff, but when questioned
General Alexieff denied this vehemently. He was soon, however, to prove
his treachery to the Emperor. There was in attendance on his Majesty at
the Stavka an old officer, General Ivanoff, a St. George Cross man, who
formerly had held command of the Army of the South. This devoted and
loyal old soldier General Alexieff knew he must get rid of, and this,
had he been honest, he might have done by pleading age or decreased
usefulness. Instead, he merely summoned General Ivanoff and informed him
that to the regret of the whole staff he was removed. The Chief of
Staff was not responsible for this, he declared, the order having come
from the Empress and her accomplices, Rasputine and Mme. Virubova. What
General Alexieff said to the Emperor on the subject I do not know, but
when next the two met the Emperor turned his head aside. This sudden
coldness on the part of the Emperor, whom old General Ivanoff loved
dearly, made it impossible for him to seek an audience, and yet the
general was valiantly determined not to leave the Stavka without
presenting his case to the Sovereign. Calling on me that same day, he
repeated to me, while tears rolled down his white beard, the lying words
of General Alexieff against the Empress. Feeling it against reason and
justice that the Emperor should remain in ignorance of this insult to
his wife, I promised to speak to him about it, and this I did, but to
little purpose. The Emperor’s wrath against Alexieff was indeed kindled
but he evidently felt that he could not, at that critical hour, dismiss
an officer whose services were so urgently in demand. Afterwards,
however, his manner towards old General Ivanoff became conspicuously
kind.

We remained for some time after this at the Stavka, days to me of such
sad remembrance that I can scarcely endure the task of recording them.
The Empress and her suite, the Grand Duchesses, and myself lived on
board the Imperial train, motor cars coming each day at one o’clock to
take us to staff headquarters to luncheon. Headquarters were in an
ancient villa of the Governor of the Province, a rather old-fashioned
and uncomfortable place. Even the huge dining room where the Emperor and
Empress, the staff and the officers of the foreign missions met each day
was a dull and gloomy room. When the weather became very warm this
dismal apartment was abandoned, and luncheon was served in a large tent
in a shady part of the grounds overlooking the town and farther away
still the flowing tide of the mighty Dnieper. The only really bright
circumstance of the time was the growing health and strength of the
Tsarevitch. He was developing marvelously through the summer, both in
bodily vigor and in gaiety of spirits. With his tutors, M. Gilliard and
Petroff, he romped and played as though illness were a thing to him
unknown. With, several of the allied officers, notably with the Belgian
General Rikkel, he was also on the best of terms.

Every day after luncheon the maids came from the train with what gowns
and other apparel we needed for the remaining functions of the day.
There was little room in the house in which to change, but we managed to
appropriate a few nooks and corners, and to make ourselves as
presentable as possible in the circumstances. In the Emperor’s scant
hours of leisure he loved to walk with his family in the woods along the
river brink, and sometimes when I saw the Empress sitting on the grass
talking informally with the peasant women who crowded around her, I took
comfort, believing then, as I still believe, that the great mass of the
Russian people were to the end faithful to their Sovereigns. As for the
suite, most of them became increasingly indifferent, bound up in their
foolish personal affairs, diverting themselves with whispered gossip
and laughter, apparently quite indifferent to the calamitous progress of
the War. People to whom religion is still in these cynical days a real
refuge will understand me when I tell them what comfort I found in an
ancient convent in the neighborhood, and in the poor little church which
adjoined it. The one treasure of this church was an old and highly
revered image of Our Lady of Mogiloff and almost every day of that
distressful summer I managed to spend a few minutes on my knees before
her dark and mystic image. One day, feeling in my heart the imminence of
a danger I dared not name even to myself, I took off my diamond earrings
and laid them at the foot of the shrine where I had sought and received
peace of mind. I hope my poor offering was received with grace by the
saint, who of course did not need it, but whose helpless ones always do.
A little later the monks presented me with a small replica of the image,
and strangely enough this was the one ikon I was permitted to take with
me when I was sent to the Fortress of Peter and Paul.

Of that unhappy summer of 1916 I have only one or two more incidents to
relate. One of these was a visit to the Stavka of the Princess Paley,
wife of Grand Duke Paul. Coming from Kiev, where the Empress Dowager and
the Grand Duke Nicholai Michailovitch were in residence, it appeared
ominous to me that they too, all of them, seemed to be inoculated with
the delusion of the German spy and the Rasputine influence. Neither the
Princess nor the Grand Duke were in the least tactful in the expression
of their opinions on the subject. Another visitor to the Stavka was
Rodzianko, who came to demand the instant dismissal of Protopopoff,
Minister of the Interior, once his friend and confidant, but now accused
by the President of the Duma of being a lunatic. The Emperor received
Rodzianko coldly, and did not even invite him to lunch. At tea that
afternoon the Emperor said that the interview had angered him intensely
as he knew quite well that Rodzianko’s representations and motives were
wholly insincere. Almost everything at the Stavka was growing worse and
worse, the Grand Dukes being more insolent than ever and continually
annoying General Voyeikoff by ordering trains and motors for themselves
without any regard to the requirements of the Emperor. It was with
feelings of unspeakable relief that in November, 1916, we left the
Stavka for Tsarskoe Selo. In the Imperial train with us traveled young
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch who even then was probably involved in a
deadly plot against their Majesties. Yet this young man was able to keep
up a pretense of friendship with the Empress, sitting beside her couch
and entertaining her by the hour with amusing gossip and stories.
Hearing the laughter the Emperor often opened his study door to listen
and to join in the conversation. It was a merry journey home, yet within
a few days after we arrived troubles again began to multiply. Entering
the Empress’s door one day, I found her in a passion of indignation and
grief. As soon as she could speak she told me that the Emperor had sent
her a letter from Nicholai Michailovitch, in which the Empress was
specifically charged with the most mischievous political machinations.
“Unless this is stopped,” the letter concluded, “murders will certainly
begin.”[3]

Nicholai Michailovitch, it appears, had gone to the Stavka from the
group in Kiev, with the express object of delivering this letter. Every
member of the staff knew his errand and expected him to be ignominiously
ejected from the Emperor’s study. Nothing of the kind happened, and the
Grand Duke stayed to luncheon in the most friendly manner. I do not know
what he said to the Emperor, but I do know that the letter was laid on
the Emperor’s desk. Nothing was said or done to avenge this deadly
insult to the wife of Nicholas II whom undoubtedly he loved dearer than
his own life. The only explanation I can think of was the Emperor’s
complete absorption in the War, and in his unshaken conviction that the
plotters’ gossip was entirely harmless. He had the kind of mind which
could concentrate on only one thing at a time, and at this period his
whole heart and soul was with the fighting armies. I well remember
scraps of conversation with him during those days which indicated that
in the back of his mind were many plans for future internal reforms. He
spoke of important social changes which must come after the War, social
and constitutional reforms. “I will do everything necessary afterwards,”
he said in more than one of these conversations. “But I cannot act now.
I cannot do more than one thing at a time.”

The Empress, I think, for all her sensitiveness to the abominable
accusations brought against her, tried to preserve the same waiting
state of mind. Most disagreeable incidents she kept to herself, yet one
day she showed me a letter written directly to her by a Princess
Vassilchikoff, a letter so insulting that the Emperor was aroused to
order the Princess and her husband, a member of the Duma, to their
country estates. This letter was written on small scraps of paper
evidently torn from a cheap writing tablet. “At least,” said the Empress
with faint sarcasm, “she might have used the stationery of a lady when
addressing her Sovereign.”

What had taken possession of Petrograd society? I often asked myself.
Was it a mob delusion, contagious, like certain diseases? Was it a
madness born of the War similar to other strange hysterias which arose
during some of the wars of the Middle Ages? That the delusion was
confined to Petrograd and a few other towns frequented by the
aristocracy was perfectly apparent. In the last days of 1916 the Empress
with Olga, Tatiana, and General Racine paid a brief visit to Novgorod to
inspect military hospitals and to pray in the monastery and church of
Sofisky Sobor, one of the oldest churches in Russia. Her visit was
opposed, quite senselessly, by Petrograd society, which accused her of
going for some bad purpose, God knows what. But at Novgorod the people
poured out in throngs to greet her with peals of bells, music, and
cheers. Before leaving the city the Empress paid a visit to a very old
woman who had spent forty helpless years in bed, still wearing the heavy
chains of penitence which as a pilgrim she had, almost a lifetime
before, assumed. As her Majesty entered the old woman’s cell a feeble
voice uttered these words: “Here comes the martyred Empress, Alexandra
Feodorovna.” What could this aged and bedridden recluse have known or
guessed of events which were to come?



CHAPTER XI


In preceding chapters I have mentioned the name of Rasputine, that
strange and ill-starred being about whom almost nothing is known to the
multitude but against whom such horrible accusations have been made that
he is universally classed with such monsters of iniquity as Cain, Nero,
and Judas Iscariot. Even H. G. Wells, in whose “Outline of History” Joan
of Arc and Abraham Lincoln are disposed of in a line, sacrifices
valuable space to state as an established fact that in 1917 the Russian
Court was “dominated by a religious impostor, Rasputin, whose cult was
one of unspeakable foulness, a reeking scandal in the face of the
world.” I have no desire in this book to attempt an exoneration of
Rasputine, for I am not so ambitious as to believe that I can change the
collective mind of the world on any point. In the interests of
historical truth, however, I believe it to be my simple duty to record
the plain tale of how and why Rasputine came to be a factor in the lives
of Nicholas II and of Alexandra Feodorovna, his wife, and exactly to
what extent he did, or rather, did not, dominate the Russian Court.
Those who expect from me secret and sensational disclosures will, I
fear, be disappointed, for Rasputine’s every movement for years was
known to the Russian police, and the most sensational fact of his whole
career, his assassination, has been described by practically every
writer of the events of the Russian Revolution.

I will first explain the exact status of the man, for this does not
appear to be generally understood. He has been called a priest, more
often still a monk, but the truth is he was not in holy orders at all.
He belonged to a curious species of roving religious peasant which in
Russia were called _Stranniki_, the nearest English translation of the
word being pilgrims. These wandering peasants, common sights in the old
Russia, were accustomed to travel from one end of the Empire to the
other, often walking with heavy chains on their bodies to make their
progress more painful and difficult. They went from church to church,
shrine to shrine, monastery to monastery, praying, fasting, mortifying
the flesh, and their prayers were, by a very considerable population,
eagerly sought and devoutly believed in. Once in a while a _Strannik_
appeared who, by virtue of his extreme piety, gift of speech, or strong
personality, acquired more than local reputation. Churchmen of high
rank, estate owners, and even members of the nobility invited these men
to their houses, listened with interest to their discourses, and asked
for their prayers. Such a _Strannik_ was Gregory Rasputine, who from the
humblest beginnings in a remote Siberian village became known all over
the Empire as a man of almost superhuman endowment.

Of the type of Russians to whom the _Stranniki_ made a genuine appeal
the Emperor and Empress undoubtedly belonged. The Emperor, like several
of his near ancestors, was a born mystic, and the soul of Alexandra
Feodorovna, either from natural inclination or from close association
with him whom she so dearly loved, leaned also towards mysticism. By
this I do not mean that the Emperor and the Empress were at all
interested in spiritualism, table-tipping, or alleged materializations
from the world beyond. Far from it. In the earliest days of my
acquaintance with the Empress, as far back as 1905, she gave me a
special warning against these things, telling me that if I wished for
her friendship never to have anything to do with so-called spiritism.
Both the Emperor and the Empress were profoundly interested in the
religious life and expressions of the whole human race. They read with
sympathy and understanding the religious literature not only of
Christendom but of India, Persia, and the countries of the Far East. I
remember in connection with the Empress’s first warning against
spiritism that she gave me a book, an obscure fourteenth-century missal
called “_Les Amis des Dieu_” which, in spite of her warm recommendation,
I found great difficulty in reading. This interest in religion and the
life of the spirit was actually what constituted what Mr. Wells calls
the “crazy pietism” of Nicholas II. It was simple Christianity lived and
not merely subscribed to as a theory. They believed that prophecy, in
the Biblical sense of the word, still existed in certain highly gifted
and spiritually minded persons. They believed that it was possible
outside the church and without the aid of regularly ordained bishops and
priests to hold communion with God and with His Spirit. Before I came to
Court there was a Frenchman, Dr. Philippe, in whom they reposed the
greatest confidence, believing him to be one in whom the gift of
prophecy existed. I never knew Dr. Philippe, hence I can speak of him
only as a sort of a forerunner of Rasputine, because, as the Empress
told me, his coming was foretold by Dr. Philippe. Very shortly before
his death the French mystic told them that they would have another
friend authorized to speak to them from God, and when Rasputine appeared
he was accepted as that friend.

Rasputine, although very poor and humble and almost entirely illiterate,
had acquired a great reputation as a preacher, and had especially
attracted the attention of Bishop Theofan, a churchman of renown in
Petrograd. Bishop Theofan introduced the _Strannik_ to the wife of Grand
Duke Nicholas, who immediately conceived a warm admiration for him, and
began to speak to her friends of his marvelous piety and spiritual
insight. At that time the Emperor was on very friendly terms with the
Grand Duke Nicholas, or rather with his wife and her sister, two
princesses of Montenegro who had married, not quite in conformity with
the rules of the Orthodox Church, the brothers, Grand Dukes Nicholas and
Peter. One of these sisters, Princess Melitza, Grand Duchess Peter, had
something of a reputation as a mystic, and it was at her house that the
Emperor and Empress met first Dr. Philippe and later Rasputine. In one
of my first conversations with the Empress she told me this, and told me
also how deeply the conversation of the Siberian peasant had interested
both her husband and herself. In fact Rasputine, at that period,
interested and impressed almost everyone with whom he came in contact.
When the house of Stolypine was blown up by terrorist bombs and, among
others, his beloved daughter was grievously wounded, it was Rasputine
whom the famous statesman summoned to her bedside for prayer and
supplication. I am aware that the public generally believes that it was
I who introduced Rasputine into the Russian Court, but truth compels me
to declare that he was well known to the Sovereigns and to most of the
Court long before I ever saw him.

It was about a month before my marriage in 1907 that the Empress asked
Grand Duchess Peter to make me acquainted with Rasputine. I had heard
that the Grand Duchess was very clever and well read, and I was glad of
the opportunity of meeting her in her palace on the English Quay in
Petrograd. Interesting as I found her, I was nevertheless thrilled with
excitement when a servant announced the arrival of Rasputine. Before his
entrance the Grand Duchess said to me: “Do not be astonished if I greet
him peasant fashion,” that is, with three kisses on the cheek. She did
so greet him and then she presented us to each other. I saw an elderly
peasant, thin, with a pale face, long hair, an uncared-for beard, and
the most extraordinary eyes, large, light, brilliant, and apparently
capable of seeing into the very mind and soul of the person with whom he
held converse. He wore a long peasant coat, black and rather shabby from
hard wear and much travel. We talked and the Grand Duchess, speaking in
French, bade me ask him to pray for some special desire of mine. Timidly
I begged him to pray that God would permit me to spend my whole life
serving their Majesties. To this he replied: “Your whole life will be
thus spent.” We parted then, but shortly afterwards, just before my
wedding day, when my heart was in a tumult of doubt and anxiety, I
wrote to the Grand Duchess Peter and asked her to seek Rasputine’s
counsel in my behalf. His word to me was that I would marry as I had
planned but that I should not find happiness in my marriage. It will be
seen how little I regarded him as a prophet at this time since I paid no
attention to his warning. A full year after my marriage I saw Rasputine
for the second time. It was on a train going from Petrograd to Tsarskoe
Selo, he being on his way there to visit friends who were in no way
connected with the Court.

But, asks the bewildered reader, when and how did Rasputine acquire the
dreadful, almost unprintable reputation which classes him with the
arch-fiend himself? To answer the question satisfactorily I should have
to reveal at great length the strangely abnormal and hysterical
mentality of the Russian people of that epoch. I shall try to do this as
I go farther, but here I shall give, as a sort of illustration of the
lunacy of the hour, a little experience of my own. It was on the first
occasion after my arrest by Kerensky in the spring of 1917, when I was
brought before the High Commission of Justice of the Provisional
Government. Weak and ill from my long imprisonment in the gloomy
Fortress of Peter and Paul, I found myself facing an imposing group of
something like forty judges, all learned in the law and clothed in such
dignity of office that I gazed at them in a kind of awe. In my
distracted mind I asked myself what questions these grave magistrates
would ask me, and in what profound language would their questions be
clothed. My heart almost stopped beating while I waited for the words
of the chief judge. And this is what was said, in a deep and solemn
voice: “Tell me, who was it at Court that Rasputine called a flower?”
Sheer amazement held me speechless, but even had I been given time I
could not have answered the question because there was no such person.
The judges whispered together for a moment and then the same man,
handing me a piece of cardboard, demanded impressively: “What is the
meaning of this secret card which was found in your house by the
soldiers?”

I took the piece of cardboard and almost instantly recognized it as a
menu card of the yacht _Standert_, dated 1908. On the reverse side were
written the names of war vessels present at that date at a naval review
held near Kronstadt, Russian vessels all, among which the position of
the Imperial yacht was marked by a crown. I handed the menu card back to
the judge saying merely: “Look at it, and look at the date.” He looked
at it and in some confusion muttered: “It is true.” One more question
those giant intellects found to ask me. “Is it a fact that the Empress
could not live without you?” To which I replied as any sensible person
would have done: “Why should a happy wife and mother be unable to live
without a mere friend?” The inquiry was then hastily closed and I was
ordered back to prison, to be watched more closely than ever, _because I
would not answer to judgment_.

This is a perfectly fair sample of the madness and confusion of the
Russian mind, or rather the Petrograd mind, before and after the
Revolution. That this madness, this unreasoning mania for the
destruction of all institutions might have something to justify itself
in the public mind, it was absolutely necessary to find and to persecute
individuals who typified, in popular imagination, the things which were
so bitterly hated. Rasputine, more than any one other individual in the
Empire, did typify old and unpopular institutions, and I can readily see
why some intelligent and fair-minded persons thus accepted him. Dillon,
for example, in his book, “The Eclipse of Russia,” says: “It is my
belief that although his friends were influential Rasputine was a
symbol.”

Russia, like eighteenth-century France, passed through a period of acute
insanity from which it is only now beginning to emerge in remorse and
pain. This insanity was by no means confined to the ranks of the
so-called Revolutionists. It pervaded the Duma, the highest ranks of
society, Royalty itself, all as guilty of Russia’s ruin as the most
blood-thirsty terrorist. What had happened in these dark years between
1917 and 1923 is simply the punishment of God for the sins of a whole
people. When His avenging hand has so plainly been laid upon all of the
Russian people how dare any of us lay the calamity entirely at the doors
of the Bolsheviki? We Russians look on the appalling condition of our
once great country, we behold the famishing millions on the Volga and in
the Ukraine, we count the fearful roll of the murdered, the imprisoned,
the exiled, and we cry weakly that the Tsar was guilty, Rasputine was
guilty, this man and that woman were guilty, but never do we admit that
we were all guilty, guilty of blackest treason to our God, our Emperor,
our country. Yet not until we cease to accuse others and repent our own
sins will the white dawn of God’s mercy rise over the starved and
barren desert that was once mighty Russia.

Rasputine, it seems to be generally assumed, having been introduced to
the Imperial Family, took up his residence in the palace of the
Romanoffs and thereafter held in his hands the reins of government.
Those who do not literally believe this are nevertheless persuaded that
Rasputine lived very near their Majesties, saw them constantly, was
consulted and obeyed by the Ministers, and with the aid and connivance
of adoring women attached to the Court, ruled by fear and superstition
the whole governing class of the Empire. If I denied that Rasputine ever
lived at Court, ever had the smallest influence over governmental
policies, ever ruled through adoring and superstitious women, I should
not hope to be believed. I will then simply call attention to the fact
that every move of Rasputine from the hour when he began to frequent the
palaces of the Grand Dukes, especially from the day he met the Emperor
and Empress in the drawing room of the Grand Duchess Melitza, to the
midnight when he met his death in the Yusupoff Palace on the Moika Canal
in Petrograd, is a matter of the most minute police record. The police
know how many days of each year Rasputine spent in Petrograd and how
much of his time was lived in Siberia. They know exactly how many times
he called at the palace at Tsarskoe Selo, how long he stayed and who was
present. They know when and under exactly the circumstances Rasputine
came to my house, and who else came to the house at the same time. The
police know more about Rasputine than all the journalists and the
historians put together, and their records show that he spent most of
his time in Siberia, and that when he visited Petrograd he lived in
rather humble lodgings in an unfashionable street, 54 Gorochovaia.
Rasputine never lived in the palace, seldom visited it, saw the Emperor
less frequently than the Empress, and had among the women of the Court
more enemies than friends.

The English-speaking reader may doubt the completeness and the accuracy
of police records, knowing that in his own country only criminals and
people of the underworld are really watched by the police. To know what
police surveillance can mean it is necessary to have known Russia before
1917. I do not speak of the Bolshevik police. It is fairly well known
what they are, but after all their methods, if not their motives, are
founded on the Okhrana of the old days.

To give an idea of the ever-open and searching eye of the old Russian
police I will describe what the situation was in the Imperial palace
itself. In connection with the palace, or any of the Imperial
residences, the persons of the Emperor and his family, the police force
was organized in three sections. There were the palace police, a Cossack
_convoi_, and a regiment of Guards known as the _Svodny Polk_. Besides
the ranking officers of these organizations there was, over them all, a
palace commandant, in the latest days of the Empire, General Voyeikoff.
It was impossible for anyone to approach the palace, much less to be
received by one of their Majesties, without the fact being known to
scores of these police guards. Every soldier, every guard, in uniform or
out, kept a notebook in which he was obliged to write down for
inspection by his superiors the movements of all persons who entered the
palace and even those who passed its walls. Moreover, they were obliged
to communicate by telephone with their superior officers every event,
however trivial, of which they were witness. This vigilance was extended
even to the persons of the Emperor and his family. If the Empress
ordered her carriage for two o’clock in the afternoon, the lackey
receiving the order immediately informed the nearest police guard of the
fact. The guard telephoned the news to the palace commandant’s office
and from there the information went by telephone to the offices of the
separate police organizations: “Her Majesty’s carriage has been ordered
for two o’clock.” This meant that from the time the Empress and her
companion, or her children, drove from the palace doors to the hour when
they returned the roads were lined with police, ready with their
notebooks to record every single incident of the drive. Should the
Empress stop her carriage to speak to an acquaintance, that unhappy
individual would afterwards be approached by a guard standing in the
road or behind trees or shrubbery, who would demand: “What is your name,
and for what reason had you conversation with her Majesty?” With all her
heart the Empress detested this system of police espionage, but it was
one of the Russian ironclad traditions which neither she nor the Emperor
could alter or abolish.

If the Imperial Family was thus subject to police surveillance the
reader can easily imagine how closely the ordinary citizen and
especially citizens of eminence were watched. I would not venture to
declare on my own unsupported authority that Rasputine rarely visited
the palace, at first two or three times a year, and but little oftener
at the last, but I can state that these facts are on record in the
police annals of Petrograd and Tsarskoe Selo. In the year of his death,
1916, Rasputine saw the Emperor exactly twice. There is one unfortunate
fact in connection with these visits. I write it regretfully but it is
true, and I can see how that circumstance served with some people to put
a false emphasis on the visits of Rasputine to the Imperial household.
In spite of the well-known fact that every visit of Rasputine was
necessarily a public appearance, in full limelight, as it were, the
Emperor and Empress attempted to throw over his visits a certain veil of
secrecy. They had done the same thing with Dr. Philippe, and I suppose
from the same motives. Every human being craves a little personal
privacy. In the most loving family circle who does not at times want to
be alone with his thoughts or his prayers behind closed doors? Thus it
was with their Majesties. Rasputine represented to them hopes and
aspirations far removed from earthly power and glory, and from earthly
pain and suffering. They knew that he was a simple peasant and that many
people of rank in official circles thought it strange, some even thought
it undignified, for their Majesties of great Russia to listen to the
counsels of so lowly and ignorant a man. For this reason, I know of no
other, the Emperor and Empress vainly tried to make the visits of
Rasputine as inconspicuous as possible. He was admitted into a side
entrance instead of the main doorway; he went upstairs by a small
staircase; he was received in the private apartments and never in the
public drawing rooms. It was the same in Tsarskoe Selo and in the
Crimea, in which latter place a day’s visit served for a year’s gossip
throughout the entire estate. More than once I pointed out to the
Empress the futility of the course pursued. “You know that before he
reaches the palace, much less your boudoir, he has been written down at
least forty times,” I reminded her. The Empress always agreed. She knew
that the police were everywhere, inside and outside the palace, in every
corridor, at every door. She knew that there could be no secrets in the
palace, and the Emperor knew it as well as she did, yet they persisted
in trying to shield Rasputine from the publicity they knew to be
inevitable for everyone.

It was generally in the evening that he was received, not because the
eternal police vigilance was relaxed at that time, but because it was
only in the evening that the Emperor found leisure for his personal
friends. In the hour following dinner it sometimes happened that little
Alexei came downstairs in his blue nightgown to talk with his father a
few minutes before going to bed. When on these occasions Rasputine was
present, the boy and his parents and any intimate friend who happened to
be in the room would listen fascinated while the _Strannik_ talked of
Siberia and its peasants, of his wanderings through remote corners of
Russia, and of his sojourn in the Holy Lands. His speech was simple, but
strangely eloquent and uplifting. Their Majesties talked gladly to him
of whatever happened to be on their minds, the ill health of their only
son, principally, and he seemed to know how to comfort and to give them
hope. They were always lighter of heart after his visits, and even had I
conspired with him to gain their friendship the effort would have been
quite useless and unnecessary. They liked him so well that when gossip
or newspaper accusations of Rasputine’s drunkenness and debauchery were
brought to their attention they said only: “He is hated because we love
him.” And that ended the matter.

I will say for the Empress that although she had the fullest confidence
in Rasputine’s integrity she thought it worth while to make some
inquiries into his private life in Siberia, where most of his time was
spent. On two occasions she sent me, with others, to his distant village
of Pokrovskoe to visit him. I wished then, and I do now, that she had
selected someone wiser and more critical than myself. Of detective
ability I possess not a trace. With me it is always, what I have seen I
have seen. In company with Mme. Orloff, mother of General Orloff, and
with two other women and our maids, I made the long journey to Siberia
leaving the railroad at the little town of Toumean. Here Rasputine met
us with a clumsy peasant cart drawn by two farm horses. In this
springless vehicle we drove eighty versts across the steppes to the
village where Rasputine dwelt with his old wife, his three children, and
two aged spinsters who helped in the housework and in the care of the
fields and the cattle. The household was almost Biblical in its bare
simplicity, all the guests sleeping in an upper chamber on straw
mattresses laid on the rough board floor. Except for the beds the rooms
were practically without furniture, although on the walls were ikons
before which faint tapers burned. We ate our plain meals in the common
room downstairs, and in the evening there usually came four peasant men,
devoted friends of Rasputine, who were called “the brothers.” Sitting
around the table they sang prayers and psalms with rustic faith and
fervor. Almost every day we went down to the river to watch Rasputine
and the brothers, fishermen all, draw in their nets, and often we ate
our dinner by the river, cooking fish over little campfires on the
shore, sharing in common our raisins, bread, nuts, and perhaps a little
pastry. The season being Lent we had no meat, no milk, nor butter.

On my return to Tsarskoe Selo I described this pastoral existence to the
Empress, and I had to add to my observations only that the clergy of the
village seemed to dislike Rasputine, while the majority of the villagers
merely took him for granted as one they had long been accustomed to. In
a later year I was again sent to Siberia, this time with Mme. Julia
(Lili) Dehn, wife of a naval officer on the yacht _Standert_, and
several others, and a man servant as my special assistant as I was then
very lame from the railroad accident which I have described. This time
we went by boat from Toumean to Tobolsk on the River Toura, to view the
relics of the Metropolitan John of Tobolsk, a sainted man of the time of
Peter the Great. While in Tobolsk we were entertained in the house of
the Governor of the Department, the same house where in the first days
of their Siberian exile the Imperial Family were lodged. It was a large,
very well furnished house on the river, but one could see that in winter
it must have been extremely cold. On our way back we stopped for two
days at Pokrovskoe, visiting Rasputine and finding him exactly as
before, the old wife and the serving maids still occupied with household
tasks and with field labor. I may add that in both of these visits I
went to the famous monastery of Verchotourie, on the Ural River, where
are kept some deeply venerated relics of St. Simeon. In the forests
surrounding the monastery are many tiny wooden huts in which dwell
solitary monks or anchorites, and among these was a celebrated old monk
known as Father Makari. This aged and pious monk apparently held
Rasputine in higher respect than did the village clergy, and they talked
together like equals and friends, while we listened silently but with
deep interest.

The wave of popular opposition against Rasputine began, I should say, in
the last two and a half years of his life. Long after it began, long
after his name was reviled and execrated in the press and in society,
his lodgings in Petrograd, where he began to spend longer and longer
intervals, were constantly crowded with beggars and petitioners. These
were people of all stations who believed that whether he were good or
evil his influence at Court was limitless. Every kind of petty official,
every sort of poverty-stricken aspirant and grafting politician, and, of
course, a whole crew of revolutionary agents, spies, and secret police
haunted the place, pressing on Rasputine papers and petitions to be
presented to the Emperor. To do Rasputine strict justice, he was forever
telling the petitioners that it would be no good at all for him to
present their papers, but he did not seem to have strength of mind to
refuse point-blank to receive them. Often in pity for those who were
sick and poor, or as he thought deserving, he would send them to one or
another of his rich and influential acquaintances with a note saying:
“Please, dear friend, receive him.” It is very sad to reflect that his
recommendation was the worst possible introduction a poor wretch could
bear with him.

One of the hardest tasks which the Empress imposed upon me was the
taking of messages, usually about the health of Alexei, to these crowded
lodgings of Rasputine. As often as I appeared the people overwhelmed me
with demands for money, positions, advancement, pardons, and what not.
It was of no use to assure the people that I neither possessed nor
desired to possess the kind of influence they believed to be mine. It
was equally useless to assure them that their petitions, if I took them,
would not be read by the Empress, but would merely be referred to her
secretary, Count Rostovseff. Sometimes I encountered a case of great
distress which if possible I tried privately to relieve. One day I met
on the staircase a very poor young student who asked me if I could help
him to a warm coat. I knew where I could get such a coat and I sent it
to the student. Months afterwards when I was a prisoner in the fortress
I received a note from this young man, telling me that he prayed daily
for my safety and release. This almost unique instance of gratitude
remains in my mind among memories much less agreeable of my visits to
the lodgings of Rasputine.



CHAPTER XII


There is a photograph which, in the last days of the Empire, was
published all over Russia, and was, I am informed, also published in
western Europe and in America. It represents Rasputine sitting like an
oracle in his lodgings, surrounded by ladies of the aristocracy. This
photograph is supposed to illustrate the enormous hold which Rasputine
possessed on the affections of the women of the Court. In plain language
it is assumed to be a representation of Rasputine sitting in the midst
of his harem. There has been no account published which, as far as I
know, does not dwell on this phase of the Rasputine story, and there
have been books published in which the most erotic letters, purporting
to have been written him by the Empress herself and even by the innocent
young Grand Duchesses, have been included, the publishers apparently
never having inquired into their authenticity. Knowing that my evidence
will be considered of little worth, I still have the temerity to state
without any qualification whatsoever that these stories are without the
slightest foundation. Rasputine had no harem at Court. In fact, I cannot
remotely imagine a woman of education and refinement being attracted to
him in a personal way. I never knew of one being so attracted, and
although accusations of secret debauchery with women of the lower
classes were made against him by agents of the Okhrana, the special
inquiry instituted by the Commission of the Provisional Government
failed to produce any evidence in support of the charges. The police
were never able to bring forward a single woman of any class whom they
could accuse with Rasputine.

The photograph, however, is authentic. I figure in it myself, therefore
I am in a position to explain it. It shows a group of women and men who
after attending early Mass sometimes gathered around Rasputine for
religious discourse, for advice on all manner of things, and probably on
the part of some for the gratification of idle curiosity. I do not know
whether or not in western countries religion produces in the neurotic
and shallow-minded a kind of emotional excitement which they mistake for
faith, but in Russia there was a time when this was so. For the most
part, however, it was really serious people, men and women, who went
after Mass to listen to the discourses of Rasputine. He was, as I have
said, an unlettered man, but he knew the Scriptures and his
interpretations were so keen and so original that highly educated
people, even learned churchmen, liked to listen to them. In matters of
faith and doctrine he could never be confused or confounded. Moreover,
his sympathy and his charity were so wide and tender that he attracted
women of narrow lives whose small troubles might have been dismissed as
trivial by ordinary confessors. For example, many lovelorn women (men
too) used to go to those morning meetings to beg his prayers on their
heart’s behalf. He knew that unsatisfied love is a very real trouble,
and he was always gentle and patient with such people, that is, if
their souls were innocent. For irregular love affairs he had no patience
whatever, and in this connection I remember an incident which
illustrates this point, and also his remarkable powers of divination, or
if you prefer, his keen intuition. A young married woman, harmless
enough in her intentions, but rather frivolous nevertheless, came one
morning to Rasputine’s lodgings en route to a rendezvous with a handsome
young officer who at the moment strongly attracted her. It was her idea
to ask Rasputine’s prayers in behalf of her special desire, but before
she could say a word to him he gave her a keen glance and said: “I am
going to relate to you a story. Once when I was traveling in Siberia I
entered a small railroad station and beheld at a table a monk who
recognized me and begged me to join him in a glass of tea. As I
approached the table I saw him hastily conceal a bottle under the folds
of his soutaine. He said: ‘You are called a saint. Will you not help me
to understand some of the troubled problems of my life?’ I replied ‘Ah!
You call me a saint. But why do you at the time of asking me to help
your troubled soul try to hide that bottle under your robe?’” The young
woman turned deathly pale and without a word rose hastily and left the
room.

This is only one of many similar incidents. Once at Kiev a Government
functionary approached Rasputine and asked his prayers for one lying
very ill. Rasputine’s amazing eyes gazed into the eyes of the other and
he said calmly: “I advise you to beseech not my prayers but those of
Ste. Xenia.” The functionary completely taken aback exclaimed: “How

[Illustration: THE THREE CHILDREN OF RASPUTINE BEFORE THEIR HOUSE IN
SIBERIA.]

[Illustration: THE GUEST ROOM (THE ONLY LARGE ROOM) IN RASPUTINE’S HOUSE
IN SIBERIA.]

could you know that her name was Xenia?” I could relate many other such
instances which can, of course, be attributed to intuition, thought
transference, anything you like. But of true predictions of future
events made by Rasputine what explanation can be given? What of his
mysterious powers over the sick?

In behalf of the suffering little Tsarevitch the Emperor and Empress
constantly asked the prayers of Rasputine, and the incident which I
shall now relate will appeal to any mother or father of a suffering
child and will render less childlike the faith of the afflicted parents
of the heir to the throne. One day during the War the Emperor left
Tsarskoe Selo for general headquarters, taking with him as usual the
Tsarevitch. The child seemed to be in good condition, but a few hours
after leaving the palace he was taken with a nosebleed. This is
ordinarily a harmless enough manifestation, but in one suffering from
Alexei’s incurable malady it was a very serious thing. The doctors tried
every known remedy, but the hemorrhage became steadily worse until death
by exhaustion and loss of blood was threatened. I was with the Empress
when the telegram came announcing the return of the Emperor and the boy
to Tsarskoe Selo, and I can never forget the anguish of mind with which
the poor mother awaited the arrival of her sick, perhaps her dying
child. Nor can I ever forget the waxen, gravelike pallor of the little
pointed face as the boy with infinite care was borne into the palace and
laid on his little white bed. Above the blood-soaked bandages his large
blue eyes gazed at us with pathos unspeakable, and it seemed to all
around the bed that the last hour of the unhappy child was at hand. The
physicians kept up their ministrations, exhausting every means known to
science to stop the incessant bleeding. In despair the Empress sent for
Rasputine. He came into the room, made the sign of the cross over the
bed and, looking intently at the almost moribund child, said quietly to
the kneeling parents: “Don’t be alarmed. Nothing will happen.” Then he
walked out of the room and out of the palace.

That was all. The child fell asleep, and the next day was so well that
the Emperor left for his interrupted visit to the Stavka. Dr. Derevanko
and Professor Fedoroff told me afterwards that they did not even attempt
to explain the cure. It was simply a fact. For this and for other like
services Rasputine never received any money from the Emperor or the
Empress. Indeed he was never given any money by their Majesties except
an occasional one-hundred-ruble note to pay cab fares and traveling
expenses when he was sent for. In the last two years of his life the
rent of his modest lodgings in Petrograd was paid. What money he had was
received from petitioners who hoped through him to benefit in high
quarters. Rasputine took this money, but he gave most of it to the poor,
so that when he died his family was left practically penniless. That
Rasputine, whatever his faults, was no mercenary is the simple truth. As
far back as 1913 Kokovseff, Minister of Finance, who disliked and
distrusted Rasputine, offered him 200,000 rubles if he would leave
Petrograd and never return. Two hundred thousand rubles was a fortune
beyond the dream of avarice to a Russian peasant, but Rasputine
declined it, saying that he was not to be bought by anybody. “If their
Majesties wish me to leave Petrograd,” he said, “I will go at once, and
for no money at all.”

I know of many cases of illness where the prayers of Rasputine were
asked, and had he been so minded he might have demanded and been given
vast sums of money. But the fact is he often showed himself extremely
reluctant to exert whatever strange power he possessed. In some
instances where sick children were involved he would even object,
saying: “If God takes him now it is perhaps to save him from future
sins.”

This indifference to money on the part of Rasputine was all the more
conspicuous in a country where almost every hand was stretched out for
reward, graft, or blackmail. The episode of one of Rasputine’s bitterest
enemies, the “mad” monk Illiador, is illuminating. Illiador was a person
altogether disreputable, an unfrocked monk, and in my opinion a man
mentally as well as morally irresponsible. He made friends with certain
ministers, among them Chvostoff, one of several who, after the death of
Stolypine, held for a time the portfolio of Minister of the Interior.
Between Chvostoff and Illiador was concocted a plot to assassinate
Rasputine. This was not successful because Illiador made the mistake of
sending his wife to Petrograd with incriminating documents. But he was
able to send a woman to Siberia, and she dealt Rasputine a knife wound
from which he with difficulty recovered. This was in 1914.

After Rasputine the object of Illiador’s greatest hatred was the
Empress. His plot against Rasputine failing, he wrote against the
Empress one of the most scurrilous and obscene books imaginable, but
before attempting to publish it he sent her word that he would sell her
the manuscript for sixty thousand rubles. Publishers in America, he
wrote, would pay him a much higher price for the book, but he was
willing to sacrifice something to save a woman’s reputation. To this low
blackmailer the indignant Empress returned no answer at all. Illiador
lives in Russia now, a great favorite with the Bolsheviki because of his
bitter attacks on the clergy. But whether or not they permitted him to
retain his profits on the book against the Empress I do not know.

But what of Rasputine’s political influence, his treason with the
Germans? The excuse for his murder was that he was leading the Emperor
and Empress into the German net, persuading them to betray the Allies by
making a separate peace. If I knew or suspected this to be true I would
not hesitate to record it here. I would not dare to suppress such
important historical evidence, if I had it, because all that I am
writing in this book is for the future, not the present; for history,
not for the ephemeral journalism of the day. Ministers, politicians,
churchmen haunted the lodgings of Rasputine, and if any man ever had an
opportunity to mingle in secret diplomacy he was that man. As a matter
of plain justice to him, I do not believe such matters ever interested
him. On two occasions of which I have knowledge he did give the Emperor
political advice, and very shrewd advice, although it was received with
irritation and resentment by his Majesty. One of these occasions was in
1912 when Grand Duke Nicholas, whose wife it will be remembered was a
Montenegran, tried his every power of persuasion to bring Russia into
the Balkan Wars. Rasputine implored the Emperor not to listen to this
counsel. Only enemies of Russia, he declared, wanted to involve their
country in that struggle, the inevitable outcome of which would be
disaster to the Empire and to the house of Romanoff.

Rasputine always dreaded war, predicting that it would surely bring ruin
to Russia and the monarchy. At the beginning of the World War he was
lying wounded by Illiador’s assassin in Siberia, but he sent a long
telegram to the Emperor begging him to preserve peace. The Emperor,
believing intervention in Serbia a point of honor, tore up the telegram
and for a time appeared rather cold towards Rasputine. But as the War
progressed they became friends again, for after it became inevitable
Rasputine wanted the War fought through to a victorious end. The last
time the Emperor saw him, about a month before his assassination, he
gave a signal proof of this. The meeting took place in my house, and I
heard every word of the conversation. The Emperor was depressed and
pessimistic. Owing to heavy storms and lack of transportation facilities
there had been difficulty in getting foodstuffs into Petrograd, and even
some army battalions were lacking certain necessities. Nature itself,
said the Emperor, seemed to be working against Russia’s success in the
War, to which Rasputine replied strongly advising the Emperor never, on
any account, to be tempted to give up the struggle. The country that
held out the longest against adverse circumstances, he said, would
certainly win the War.

As Rasputine was leaving the house the Emperor asked him, as usual, for
his blessing, but Rasputine replied: “This time it is for you to bless
me, not I you.” Finally at parting he humbly begged the Emperor to do
everything he could in behalf of the wounded and of war orphans,
reminding him that all Russia was giving its nearest and dearest for his
sake. Did Rasputine on this day have a premonition of the fate that was
so soon to overtake him? I cannot answer that question. It is impossible
for me to know with any certainty whether or not this strange man was
actually gifted with the spirit of prophecy or whether his frequent
forecastings of truth were simply fruits of a mind more than normally
keen and observant. All I can do, all I have attempted to do, is to
picture Rasputine as I knew him. I never once saw him otherwise than I
have described. I knew that he was reputed to drink and to indulge in
other reprehensible practices. I heard, I suppose, every wild tale that
was told of him. But no one ever presented to the Imperial Family or to
myself any evidence, any facts in support of these accusations. It is a
matter of record, and this the historians of the future will stress,
that this man was called a criminal, but that he was never meted out the
common justice which is supposed to be the right of the most abandoned
criminal. He was accused of nameless crimes and he was executed for
those crimes. But he was denied even the rough justice of a trial by his
self-appointed judges. Did “Tsarist” Russia ever do such a thing to a
man caught red-handed in the murder of an Emperor?

I have added as an appendix to this book a document which has been
published in Russian and French, but which I believe appears here for
the first time in English. It is the statement of Vladimir Michailovitch
Roudneff, a judge of a superior court in Ekaterinoslav, one of a number
of distinguished jurists appointed by Kerensky, when Minister of Justice
in the Provisional Government, to a special High Commission of Inquiry
and Investigation into the Acts of the Sovereigns and other prominent
personages before the Revolution of 1917. Judge Roudneff, with great
courage and honesty, made an effort to sift the evidence against
Rasputine and to separate truth from mere rumor. That he was unable to
treat the matter in a mood of perfect judicial calm, although he
earnestly wished to do so, is proof enough of the madness of the Russian
mind in that time of turmoil and bewilderment. Anyone at all familiar
with rules of evidence will perceive how, with the best intentions,
Judge Roudneff often offers opinion where facts alone are called for. A
great many of his statements, if given in a court of justice, would in
any civilized country be challenged and probably ruled out. However, the
statement is valuable because it is the unique attempt of a
justice-loving individual to escape from the mob mind of 1917 Russia and
to present impartially the known facts about Rasputine. For his honesty
in insisting that the facts be made public Judge Roudneff was
ignominiously removed from the commission by its president, Judge
Mouravieff. As far as I know and believe, none of the other members of
the commission attempted to publish their findings.

I shall always feel that it was a great pity that Rasputine was not
arrested, tried in the presence of his accusers and of all available
witnesses, and if found guilty punished to the very limit of the law. As
it was he was merely lynched and the question of his guilt or innocence
will ever remain unsolved. Latest accounts certainly absolve the Empress
of Russia from being his tool and his guilty partner, and death, whether
by assassination or at the hand of public justice, has the same end, the
righteous judgment of God, and from that perfect justice not the worst
enemy of the man could bar the soul of Rasputine.

One thing more I deeply regret and that is that Judge Roudneff could not
have tried Rasputine in person as he did try me. I appeared before him
no less than fifteen times and I always found him studious at getting at
the truth, separating facts from hysterical gossip, all in the interests
of justice and of historical records. In his reports concerning me there
are some errors, but not serious ones, some confusion of dates, but
nothing important, and once or twice some trifling injustice for which I
bear not the slightest malice. Judge Roudneff, for example, accuses me
of loquacity, and in my testimony of jumping irrelevantly from one
thought to another. I cannot help wondering if even a learned judge,
after weeks of imprisonment, accompanied by inhuman insults and bodily
injuries, and for the first time given an opportunity for explanation
and self-defense, would have spoken in quite a calm and normal manner.
However, I do not complain of anything Judge Roudneff says of me. I am
grateful to the only Russian in a position of authority who has had the
chivalry to give me the benefit of a reasonable doubt.

All others, including members of the Romanoff family who have known me
from my earliest childhood, who in youth danced and chatted with me at
Court balls, who knew my mother and my father, with his long and
honorable record, have assailed me without a shred of mercy. They have
represented me as a common upstart, an outsider in society who managed
through unworthy schemes to worm her way into the confidence of the
Empress. They have represented me as an abandoned woman, a criminal, a
would-be poisoner of the Tsarevitch. They have been so loud in their
denunciations of one defenseless woman that they have succeeded in
concealing the fact of their own participation in events for which the
Sovereigns were brought to ruin. They have thrown a blind before their
responsibility for bringing Rasputine to the Court of Russia. Never do
they allow it to be remembered that it was the Grand Dukes Nicholas and
Peter and their Montenegran wives, Stana and Melitza, who introduced the
Emperor and Empress to the poor peasant pilgrim who, had he never been
taken up by these aristocrats, might have lived out an obscure, and
perhaps valuable, existence in far Siberia. It was easier for these
powerful ones, these sheltered women, these noble gentlemen, to avoid
explanation of their part in the Russian tragedy and to take refuge
behind the skirts of a woman who, after the overthrow of the Imperial
Family, had not a friend on earth to defend or to protect her.



CHAPTER XIII


Two days after the return of the Empress from her visit to Novgorod, in
the earliest hours of December 17 (December 31, Western Calendar) was
struck the first blow of the “bloodless” Russian Revolution, the
assassination of Rasputine. On the afternoon of December 16 (December
30) I was sent by the Empress on an errand, entirely non-political, to
Rasputine’s lodgings. I went, as always, reluctantly, because I knew the
evil construction which would be placed on my errand by any of the
conspirators who happened to see me. Yet, as in duty bound, I went. I
stayed the shortest possible time, but in that brief interval I heard
Rasputine say that he expected to pay a late evening visit to the
Yusupoff Palace to meet Grand Duchess Irene, wife of Prince Felix
Yusupoff. Although I knew that Felix had often visited Rasputine it
struck me as odd that he should go to their house for the first time at
such an unseemly hour. But to my question Rasputine replied that Felix
did not wish his parents to know of his visit. As I was leaving the
place Rasputine said a strange thing to me. “What more do you want?” he
asked in a low voice. “Already you have received all.” All that his
prayers could give me? Did he mean that?

That evening in the Empress’s boudoir I mentioned this proposed
midnight visit, and the Empress said in some surprise: “But there must
be some mistake. Irene is in the Crimea, and neither of the older
Yusupoffs are in town.” Once again she repeated thoughtfully: “There is
surely a mistake,” and then we began to talk of other things. The next
morning soon after breakfast I was called on the telephone by one of the
daughters of Rasputine, both of whom were being educated in Petrograd.
In some anxiety the young girl told me that her father had gone out the
night before in the Yusupoff motor car and had not returned. I was
startled, of course, and even a little frightened, but I did not then
guess the real significance of her news. When I reached the palace I
gave the message to the Empress, who listened with a grave face but with
little comment. A few minutes later there came a telephone call from
Protopopoff in Petrograd. The police, he said, had reported to him that
some time after the last midnight a patrolman standing near the entrance
of the Yusupoff Palace had been startled by the report of a pistol.
Ringing the doorbell, he was met by a Duma member named Puritchkevitch
who appeared to be in an advanced stage of intoxication. In answer to
the policeman’s inquiry as to whether there was trouble in the house the
drunken Puritchkevitch said in a jocular tone that it was nothing,
nothing at all, only they had just killed Rasputine. The policeman,
probably a none too intelligent specimen, took it as a casual joke of
one of the high-born. They were always joking about Rasputine. The man
moved on, but somewhat later he decided that he ought to report the
matter to headquarters, which he did, but even then his superiors
appear to have been too incredulous to act at once.

Protopopoff’s message, however, so disquieted the Empress that she asked
me to summon another of her trusted friends, Mme. Dehn, whose name I
have mentioned before. Mme. Dehn came and we talked over the mystery
together, but still without conviction that Puritchkevitch’s reckless
statement contained any real truth. Later in the day, however, came a
telephone message from Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch, asking to be
allowed to take tea with the Empress that afternoon at five. The message
was conveyed to the Empress, who, pale and reflective, answered formally
that she did not care just then to receive his Highness. Dmitri took the
reply in bad grace, insisting that he must see the Empress as he had
something special to tell her. Again the Empress refused, this time even
more curtly. Almost immediately afterwards, almost as if the two men
were in the same room, there came a telephone message from Felix
Yusupoff asking if I would see him at tea, or later in the day if I so
preferred. I answered that the Empress did not wish me to receive any
visitors that day, whereupon Felix demanded an audience with the Empress
that he might give her a true account of what had occurred. Her
Majesty’s reply was: “If Felix has anything to say let him write to me.”
Several times before the day ended telephone messages came from Felix to
me, but none of these would the Empress allow me to answer.

Felix finally wrote a letter to the Empress. I cannot quote this letter
verbatim, but I remember exactly its contents. By the honor of his house
Prince Felix Yusupoff swore to his Sovereign Empress that the rumor of
Rasputine’s visit to his home was without any foundation whatever. He
had indeed seen Rasputine in the interests of Irene’s health, but he had
never decoyed the man to his palace, as charged. There had been a party
there, on the night in question, just a few friends, including Dmitri,
to celebrate the opening of Felix’s new apartments. All, he confessed,
became drunk, and some foolish and reckless things were said and done.
By chance, on leaving the house, one of the guests had shot a dog in the
courtyard. That was absolutely all. This letter was not answered, but
was turned over to the Minister of Justice.

Thoroughly aroused, the Empress now ordered Protopopoff to make an
investigation of the whole affair. She called into council also Minister
of War Belaieff, a good man, afterwards murdered by the Bolsheviki. The
police, at their commands, went to the deserted Yusupoff palace, first
searching for and finding the body of the dog which Felix said they had
shot. But the bullet hole in the dog’s head had let out little blood,
and when the men entered the palace they found it a veritable shambles
of blood and disorder. Evidences of a terrific struggle were found in
the downstairs study of Prince Felix, on the stairs leading to an upper
room, and in the room itself. Then, indeed, the whole power of the
police was invoked, and somebody was found to testify that in the dead
of night a motor car without any lights was seen leaving the Yusupoff
Palace and disappearing in the direction of the Neva. Winter nights in
Russia are very dark, as everyone knows, and the car was soon swallowed
up in the shadows. The river was next searched, and by a hole in the
ice, not far from Krestovsky Island, the police found a man’s golosh. By
Protopopoff’s orders divers immediately searched the hole in the ice,
and from it was soon dragged the frozen body of Rasputine. Arms and legs
were tightly bound with cords, but the unfortunate man had managed to
work loose his right hand which was frozen in a last attempt to make the
sign of the cross. The body was taken to the Chesma Hospital, where an
autopsy was performed. Although there were bullet holes in the back and
innumerable cuts and wounds all over the body, the lungs were full of
water, proving that they had thrown him alive into the icy river, and
that death had occurred by drowning.

As soon as the news became public all Petrograd burst into a wild orgy
of rejoicing. The “beast” was slain, the “evil genius” had disappeared
never to return. There was no limit to the wild hysteria of the hour. In
the midst of these demonstrations came a telephone message from
Protopopoff asking the Empress’s advice as to an immediate burial place
for the murdered man. Ultimately the body would be sent to his Siberian
village, but in the present circumstances the Minister of the Interior
thought a postponement of this advisable. The Empress agreed, and she
replied that a temporary interment might be arranged at Tsarskoe Selo.
On December 29 (January 12) the coffin, accompanied by a kind-hearted
sister of mercy, arrived at Tsarskoe. That same day the Emperor came
home from the front, and in the presence of the Imperial Family and
myself the briefest of services were held. On the dead man’s breast had
been laid an ikon from Novgorod, signed on the reverse by the Empress
and her daughters as a last token of respect. The coffin was not even
buried in consecrated ground, but in a corner of the palace park, and as
it was being lowered a few prayers were said by Father Alexander, priest
of the Imperial chapel. This is a true account of the burial of
Rasputine, about which so many fantastic tales have been embroidered.

The horror and shock caused by this lynching, for it can be called by no
other name, completely shattered the nerves of the family. The Emperor
was affected less by the deed itself than by the fact that it was the
work of members of his own family. “Before all Russia,” he exclaimed, “I
am filled with shame that the hands of my kinsmen are stained with the
blood of a simple peasant.” Before this he had often shown disgust at
the excesses of the Grand Dukes and their followers, but now he
expressed himself as being entirely through with them all.

But Yusupoff and the others were by no means through with the Rasputine
affair. Now that they had murdered and were applauded for the deed by
all society, it seemed to them that they were in a position to claim
full legal immunity. Grand Duke Alexander Michailovitch, the Emperor’s
brother-in-law, went to Dobrovolsky, Minister of Justice, and with a
good deal of swagger told him that it was the will of the family--that
is, of the Grand Dukes--that the whole matter should be quietly dropped.
The next day, December 21 (January 5), Alexander Michailovitch drove
with his oldest son to Tsarskoe Selo and, without the slightest
assumption of deference or respect, entered the Emperor’s study,
demanding, in the name of the family, that no further investigation of
the manner of Rasputine’s death be made. In a voice that could easily be
heard in the corridor outside the Grand Duke shouted that should the
Emperor refuse this demand the throne itself would fall. The Emperor’s
answer to this insolence was an order of banishment to their estates of
Nicholai Michailovitch, Felix, and Dmitri. At this the wrath of the
Grand Dukes knew no bounds. A letter blazing with anger and impudence,
signed by the whole family, was rushed to the Emperor, but his only
comment was a single sentence written on the margin: “Nobody has a right
to commit murder.” Following this came a cringing letter from Dmitri
who, like Felix, tried to lie himself out of all complicity in the
crime. On his sacred honor, he declared he had had nothing to do with
it. If the Emperor would only consent to see him he promised to
establish his innocence. But the Emperor would not consent to see
Dmitri. Pale and stern he moved through the rooms or sat so darkly
plunged in thought that none of us ventured to disturb or even to speak
to him. Into this troubled atmosphere a letter was brought to the
Emperor by the Minister of the Interior, who had a right to seize
suspicious mail matter. It was a letter written by the Princess Yusupoff
to the Grand Duchess Xenia, sister of the Tsar and mother of Felix
Yusupoff’s wife. It was a most indiscreet letter to be sent at such a
time, for it was a clear admission of the guilt of all the plotters.
Although as a mother (she wrote) she felt deeply her son’s position, she
congratulated the Grand Duchess Zenia on her husband’s conduct in the
affair.

[Illustration: THE EMPRESS AND YOUNG GRAND DUKE DMITRI, AFTERWARDS ONE
OF RASPUTINE’S ASSASSINS.]

[Illustration: MINISTER OF COURT COUNT FREDERICKS, THE EMPRESS IN HER
RECLINING CHAIR, AND GRAND DUCHESS TATIANA TAKING TEA IN THE WOODS IN
FINLAND, 1911.]

Sandro, she said, had saved the whole situation, evidently meaning that
his demand for immunity for all concerned would have to be granted. _She
was only sorry that the principals had not been able to bring their
enterprise to its desired end._ However, there remained only the task of
confining _Her_. Before the affair was finally concluded, she feared,
they might send Nicholai Nicholaievitch and Stana to their estates. How
stupid to have sent away Nicholai Michailovitch!

This was by no means the end of letters and telegrams seized by the
police and brought to the palace. Many were written by relatives and
close friends, people of the highest rank, and they all revealed a depth
of callousness and treachery undreamed of before by the unhappy
Sovereigns. When the Empress read these communications and realized that
her nearest and dearest connections were in the ranks of her enemies,
her head sank on her breast, her eyes grew dark with sorrow, and her
whole countenance seemed to wither and grow old. A few days later the
Grand Duchess Serge sent her sister several sacred ikons from the shrine
of Saratoff. The Empress, without even looking at them, ordered them
sent back to the convent of the Grand Duchess in Moscow.

I should add that from the day of the assassination of Rasputine my mail
was full of anonymous letters threatening me with death. The Empress,
perhaps more than any of us, instinctively aware of the endless
ramifications of the Rasputine affair, commanded me in terms that
admitted of no argument to leave my house and to take up residence in
the palace. Sad as I was to leave the peace of my little home, I had no
alternative than to obey, and with my maid I moved into two rooms in the
Grand Ducal wing of the palace, occupied also by maids of honor and
reached by the fourth large entrance to the palace. From that day, by
command of their Majesties, every movement of mine was closely guarded.
The soldier Jouk was assigned to my service and without him I never left
the palace even to visit my hospital. When in the February following my
only brother was married I was not allowed to attend the wedding.

Little by little, in spite of fears, the palace took on a certain air of
tranquillity. In the evenings we sat in the mauve boudoir of the
Empress; and as of old, the Emperor read aloud. At Christmas their
Majesties saw that the customary trees and gifts were sent to the
hospitals and that the usual presents were distributed to the servants.
The children too had their Christmas celebration, but over us all hung a
cloud of sorrow and of disillusionment. Never had the Emperor and
Empress of Russia, rulers of nearly two hundred million souls, seemed so
lonely or so helpless. Deserted and betrayed by their relatives,
calumniated by men who, in the eyes of the outside world, seemed to
represent the Russian people, they had no one left except a few faithful
friends, and the Emperor’s chosen ministers every one of whom was under
the ban of popular obloquy. Most of them were accused of being the
appointees of Rasputine, but this at least I am in a position to deny.

Sturmer, Minister of the Interior, and afterwards Prime Minister, was,
according to Witte, recommended to the Tsar after the assassination of
Pleve. The well-known fact that Sturmer was head of the nobility in the
Government of Tver, that he was possessed of enormous estates, and that
he had held several important positions at Court, ought to be sufficient
proof that he needed no help from Rasputine or any other man. Sturmer
was an old man, not brilliant perhaps, but certainly a man of high
principles. He was arrested by the Provisional Government, and in the
fortress suffered such frightful hardships that he died within a day
after the Government, unable to fasten on him the slightest guilt,
released him from prison. The Social Revolutionary Sokoloff, a just man,
if wrong-headed, has declared publicly that had any Constitutional
Assembly been held in Russia, the responsibility of Sturmer’s death
would have been laid upon Milukoff personally.

As for Protopopoff, he was appointed by the Emperor mainly on his record
as a confidential agent of the Duma, and as a personal representative of
Rodzianko, President of the Fourth Duma. After Protopopoff’s return from
an important foreign mission on behalf of the Duma he was presented to
the Emperor at G. H. Q., and in a letter to the Empress a few days
later, he expressed himself as delighted with the man. The appointment
was made in one of those moments of impulse characteristic of Nicholas
II, yet it must have been the result of some reflection, as it was the
Emperor’s expressed desire at this time to name a Minister of the
Interior who could work in harmony with the Duma. Protopopoff, who,
aside from his relations with Rodzianko, had for many years been a
delegate from his own Zemstvo to the Union of Zemstvos, naturally
appealed to the Emperor as an ideal popular candidate. No one could
have been more astonished than he when, almost immediately after his
appointment, Rodzianko and almost the entire majority party in the Duma
joined in a clamor for Protopopoff’s removal. The only charge I ever
heard against him was that his mind had suddenly failed. Protopopoff,
who was a man of high breeding, was nevertheless exceedingly nervous,
and I always thought, somewhat weak-willed. He was not the infirm old
man he has generally been represented, being about sixty-four years of
age with white hair and mustache and young, bright black eyes. That he
had plenty of physical and moral courage was proved by his conduct after
the Revolution. Walking to the door of the council chamber of the Duma
he announced himself thus: “I am Protopopoff. Arrest me if you like.” He
was arrested by orders of Rodzianko, but was released later, only to
meet death by the bullets of the Bolsheviki. That Protopopoff was on
friendly terms with Rasputine is true, but that Rasputine had anything
to do with his appointment, or with his retention in office after the
attack by the Duma, is simply absurd.

Maklakoff, Minister of the Interior before Protopopoff, was a former
governor of Chernigoff. The Emperor met him in the course of a journey
to the famous fête of Poltava, a jubilee of the wars of Peter the Great.
The acquaintance was made in the leisure of a boat trip, and the
Emperor, in another of his fits of impulsiveness, decided that he had
found an ideal Minister of the Interior. Their friendship deepened with
time, and the Emperor found great satisfaction in his new minister’s
reports, which he declared reflected his own point of view. Nothing
against the administration of Maklakoff was ever even whispered until
late in 1914, when Nicholai Nicholaievitch, as supreme commander of the
Russian forces in the field, suddenly demanded his demission. Grand Duke
Nicholas, it must be said, continually interfered with the affairs of
the interior government, with which as military chief he had nothing
whatever to do, but in the early days of the War the Emperor seemed to
think it the part of wisdom to suffer this irregularity. Reluctantly he
yielded to the request for Maklakoff’s demission, saying to him with
genuine regret: “They demand it, and at such a time I cannot stand
against them.”

In the place of Maklakoff was named Tcherbatkoff, a friend and protégé
of Nicholai Nicholaievitch, a man whose former office had been head of
the remount department of the State. Doubtless he knew a great deal
about horses, but of the interior affairs of State he knew so little
that even the influence of Grand Duke Nicholas was powerless to retain
him in office longer than two months.

Tcherbatkoff was followed by Khvostoff who, previous to his appointment,
was an entire stranger to Rasputine. Khvostoff had made a record as
governor of Nizjni Novgorod, and afterwards as a vigorous anti-German
orator in the Duma. He was also supposed to be a devoted friend of the
Imperial Family. Soon after his appointment Khvostoff began sedulously
to cultivate the friendship of Rasputine, and it is a matter of police
record that this Minister of the Interior frequently played on
Rasputine’s unfortunate weakness for drink. Possibly he thought that by
getting the poor man intoxicated he could worm from him the many Court
secrets he was supposed to possess. Failing in this Khvostoff began,
with the help of Chief of Police Belezky, a plot against Rasputine which
nearly succeeded in the latter’s assassination. This being discovered
the demission of Khvostoff became imperative.

Soukhomlinoff, who when I knew him was an old man of seventy-five, was a
former military governor of Kiev, and before his appointment as Minister
of War, had been a great favorite of the Emperor. That he showed
brilliant ability in the mobilization of the Russian Army in 1914 was
admitted by the Allied Governments, and in fact no intrigue against him
developed until some time after the beginning of the War. His principal
enemies were Grand Duke Nicholas, General Polivanoff, and the notorious
Goutchkoff. In my opinion their propaganda against him was instigated
solely with the object of impairing the prestige of the Emperor. The
crimes laid at the door of Soukhomlinoff were almost countless. He was
accused of withholding ammunition from the armies, of harboring German
spies in his house, and in general of being completely incapable of
performing his duties of office. Of him the English historian Wilton
says that time alone will prove whether the odium of the Russian war
scandals rested on Soukhomlinoff or on Grand Duke Nicholas. At all
events it was poor old Soukhomlinoff who was arrested, tried before a
tribunal of the Provisional Government, and sentenced to life
imprisonment. His young wife, who was arrested with him, occupied a cell
next to mine in the Fortress of Peter and Paul, and without regard to
the charges brought against her, I had reason constantly to admire the
courage and self-possession with which she bore the hardships of prison
life. So great was her dignity and self-command that she became
universally respected by the soldiers, and I am confident that this
alone saved us both from far worse indignities than those which we were
called upon to bear. In prison Mme. Soukhomlinoff managed to keep
herself constantly occupied. She wrote and read whenever writing
materials and books were procurable, and her clever fingers fashioned
out of scraps of the miserable prison bread really beautiful sprays of
flowers. For coloring matter she used the paint from a moldering blue
stripe on the walls of her cell, and scraps of red paper in which tea
was wrapped. After months of imprisonment, bravely endured, Mme.
Soukhomlinoff was brought to trial before a court of the Provisional
Government. Her examination was of the most searching character, but at
its close she left the courtroom fully acquitted, to the applause of the
numerous spectators. Taking advantage of an amnesty pronounced some time
later Mme. Soukhomlinoff got her aged husband released from prison and
saw him safely to Finland. It is rather an anticlimax to the story that
after so many trials borne together the marriage of the Soukhomlinoffs
was dissolved, Mme. Soukhomlinoff marrying a young Georgian officer with
whom she later perished under the Bolshevist terror.

One more person of whom I can speak with knowledge was, although not a
minister, falsely alleged to be an appointee of Rasputine. This was the
Metropolitan Pitirim, a man of impeccable honesty and very liberal
views regarding Church administration. The Emperor met him in late 1914
on one of his visits to the Caucasus, Pitirim then being Exarch of
Georgia. Not only the Emperor but his entire suite were enchanted by the
charming manners, the piety, and learning of the Exarch, and when, a
little later, the Empress met the Emperor at Veronesh, he told her that
he had Pitirim in mind for Metropolitan of Petrograd. Almost immediately
after his appointment the propagandists began to connect his elevation
with the Rasputine influence, but the truth is that the two men were
never at any time on terms of more than formal acquaintanceship. As for
their Majesties, they liked and respected Pitirim but he never was an
intimate member of their household. Practically all their conversations
which I overheard concerned the state of the Church in Georgia, which
Pitirim insisted was lower than in other parts of the Empire. The Church
of Georgia, Pitirim alleged, received too little support from the State,
although it deserved as much if not more than others, because Georgian
Christianity is the oldest in all Russia. According to tradition this
Church was established by the Holy Virgin herself who, after a shipwreck
off Mount Athos, visited Georgia, converted its chiefs and established
the first Christian temple. Pitirim was essentially a churchman, yet he
always advocated a certain separation of Church and State. That is, he
desired the establishment of a parish system whereby the support of the
Church should be the responsibility of the people rather than of the
Imperial Government. Unworldly to the last degree, he nevertheless came
in for his full share of slander and abuse. After my arrest by the
Provisional Government my mother visited Kerensky in my behalf, and was
astounded when he brutally told her that one of the charges against me
was that all my diamonds were gifts from Pitirim, the inference being
that we were on unduly intimate terms.

Another high personage to whom I wish to pay the tribute of just
appreciation is Count Fredericks, chief minister of the Court. This
honorable gentleman had spent almost his entire life in the service of
the Imperial Family, having first been attached to the person of
Alexander III. Nicholas II and his family he served with ability,
discretion, and rare devotion. In virtue of his office he had to deal
personally with the affairs of the Grand Dukes, their complicated
financial transactions, their morganatic marriages, and other
confidential affairs. Everyone, except those of the Grand Dukes who with
reason had earned his contempt, loved this charming man whom their
Majesties usually spoke of as “our old man.” Count Fredericks, in his
turn, always called them “_mes enfants_.” His house was to me for many
years a second home, his daughters, the elder Mme. Voyeikoff, and the
younger one, Emma, being among my dearest friends. Emma, who suffered a
painful curvature of the spine, had the compensation of a rarely
beautiful singing voice with which she often charmed the Emperor and
Empress. Count Fredericks was arrested by the Provisional Government,
but owing to his great age, was afterwards released.

The charge has often been brought against Nicholas II that he
surrounded himself with inferior men. The fact of the case is that in
the beginning of his reign he chose as his chief advisers men of ability
and integrity who had been friends of his father, Alexander III. Later
he chose men who in his opinion were the best ones available, and it
must be admitted that there were few men of first-class ability among
whom he could choose. The events of the War and the Revolution prove
this, for neither of these two terrible emergencies produced in Russia a
single man of conspicuous merit. Not one real leader appeared then nor
in the years which have since elapsed. Truly has a distinguished
American writer pointed out that never could Bolshevism and its insane
philosophy have taken such strong roots in Russia, had not the soil been
previously so well prepared. Every Russian who really loved his country
must admit the truth of this statement. Too many exiled Russians,
however, still cling to the delusion that some outside influence was the
cause of their country’s downfall. Let them acknowledge the truth that
it was Russians themselves, especially Russians of the privileged
classes, who principally are responsible for the catastrophe. For years
before the Revolution the national spirit was in a state of decline. Few
men or women cherished ideals of duty for duty’s sake. Patriotism was
practically extinct. Family life was weakened, and in the last days, the
morale of the whole people was lower than in almost any other country of
the civilized world.

May the blood of the thousands of innocents who have perished in War and
Revolution wipe out the sins of the old hard-hearted and decadent
Russia. May the millions still living, in exile and under Communist
oppression, learn that only by repentance and by toleration of others’
weaknesses can there be any possibility of a restoration of national
life. Not by any outside help but by our own efforts, by loyal Russians
coming together, not as political groups but as compatriots, can great
Russia rise again out of her shame and desolation and become once more a
nation among the nations of the earth.



CHAPTER XIV


For two months after the assassination of Rasputine the Emperor remained
at Tsarskoe Selo, but he was by no means idle. In fact his whole heart
and mind were occupied, not so much with the scandal that had reached
its tragic climax in the Yusupoff Palace, but with the War which at that
moment seemed to favor Russian arms. According to our advices the food
shortage in Germany and in Turkey had become acute, and the Emperor
believed that a vigorous spring offensive might bring the War to a
speedy close. In his billiard room were spread out a large number of
military maps which no one of the household, not even the Empress, was
invited to inspect. The Emperor spent hours over these maps and his plan
of a spring campaign, and when he left the billiard room he locked the
door and put the key in his pocket. I had never seen him more completely
the soldier, the commander in chief of a great army. All this time, from
December, 1916, to February, 1917, the Russian front was comparatively
quiet, furious snowstorms preventing the advance either of our own or
the enemy’s forces. Alas! The storms interfered also with railroad
transport and Petrograd and Moscow were beginning to feel the pinch of
hunger, a fact that gave their Majesties constant concern.

Meanwhile the Grand Duke Alexander Michailovitch persisted in his
demand for an interview with the Empress, and as his letters to her
failed of their object he began to write to the Grand Duchess Olga. The
Empress, whose courage was great enough to enable her to ignore any
possible danger to herself, decided to see the man and once for all let
him have his say. In this decision the Emperor concurred, but he
stipulated that he should be present in case the conversation should
become unduly disagreeable. The Emperor’s aide-de-camp for the day
happened to be a spirited young officer, Lieutenant Linevitch, who after
luncheon on the day set for the audience, lingered in the palace,
apparently occupied in an amusing puzzle game with Tatiana. Afterwards
Linevitch told me that so well did he know the extent of the Grand Ducal
cabal, and especially the character of Alexander Michailovitch, that he
had remained on purpose and that his sword had been ready at any moment
to rescue the Empress from insult or from attempted assassination. As we
expected the Grand Duke had nothing new to say to the Empress, but
merely reiterated in more than usually violent terms the demand for
Protopopoff’s dismissal and for a constitutional form of government. The
answer to these demands was as usual--everything necessary after the
War, no fundamentally dangerous changes while the Germans remained on
our soil. The Grand Duke, purple with anger, rushed out of the Empress’s
sitting room, but instead of leaving the palace, as he was expected to
do, he entered the library, ordered pens and paper and began to write a
letter to the Emperor’s brother, Michail Alexandrovitch. No sooner had
he begun his epistle than he perceived standing respectfully in the
room the aide-de-camp Linevitch, whom, after a more or less civil
greeting, he tried to dismiss. “You may go now,” he said, coldly polite,
but the astute Linevitch replied with ceremony: “No, your Highness, I am
on service today and as long as your Highness is here it is not
permitted for me to leave.” In a fury Alexander Michailovitch got up and
left the palace.

Men like Linevitch and many others, as faithful as ever to their
Majesties, saw the threatening tempest more clearly than those within
palace walls could possibly see it. The day after the visit of Alexander
Michailovitch I received a call from one of the finest of the Romanoff
connections, Duke Alexander of Luchtenberg. Painfully agitated, the Duke
told me that he wanted me to help him to induce the Emperor to take a
remarkable, indeed an unprecedented step. At the time of his accession
to the throne every member of the family, it is well known, must make a
solemn vow of fealty to the Tsar, and the Duke of Luchtenberg now begged
me to persuade the Emperor, through the Empress, to exact from all the
family a renewal of this vow. For the lives and safety of the Imperial
Family the Duke believed this to be absolutely essential. “None of them
are loyal, not one,” he said earnestly. “And if the Emperor values the
lives of his wife and children he must force the Grand Dukes and their
families to declare themselves.” Quite staggered, I replied that it was
impossible for me to make such a proposition to their Majesties, but I
added that the Duke himself, as a member of the family, might with
entire propriety do so, and thus the matter was decided. Of the details
of the conversation between the Emperor and his kinsman I know nothing,
but I know that the conversation took place, because later the Emperor
remarked in my hearing that “Sandro” Luchtenberg, in the kindness of his
heart, had made a great matter out of a trifle, and he added, “Of course
I could not ask of my own family the thing he suggested.”

As one more indication of the gathering storm there came to me at my
hospital from Saratoff an old man so feeble and so deaf that he had to
bring with him a woman relative who through long familiarity was able to
act as an interpreter in his conversations. This old man represented an
organization known as the Union of the Russian People, a large group
devoted to the Empire and to the persons of their Majesties. With
intense emotion he told me that his organization had incontestable
proofs of most treacherous propaganda which was being circulated by the
Union of Zemstvos and Towns, under the personal direction of Goutchkoff
and Rodzianko. He had brought with him documentary proofs of his
assertions and he implored me to help him lay his proofs before the
Emperor. I communicated his message to the Emperor, but as he was that
day importantly engaged he suggested that the Empress might receive him
instead. This she consented to do, but after an hour’s conversation she
sent the old man away, touched by his devotion but unconvinced of the
gravity of the situation as he presented it.

To relieve somewhat the dullness and gloom that had settled on the
palace we organized in those early winter days of 1917 a series of
chamber-music recitals, the performers being Rumanian musicians who had
been playing very beautifully in the convalescent wards of the Tsarskoe
Selo hospitals. At the request of the Empress I arranged for
performances in my own apartments in the palace, inviting, with their
Majesties’ approval, the Duke of Luchtenberg, Mme. Dehn, Count
Fredericks, his daughters, my sister and her husband, and a few other
intimate friends. The concerts were delightful, greatly cheering us all,
including the somewhat lonely young Grand Duchesses and the much
harassed Emperor. But something in the music, perhaps its wild and
mournful tzigane numbers, moved the Empress to the depths of her
sensitive soul. Her beautiful eyes became more than ever filled with
melancholy and her heart seemed heavy with premonitions of disaster.

Partly because of her increased melancholy and partly moved by just
anger against the propagandist press in which our innocent concerts were
described as “palace orgies,” the Emperor for the first time was
awakened to consciousness that the safety of his family was indeed
threatened. At least he became aware of the fact that despite the
dangerous unrest of the times, Tsarskoe Selo and even Petrograd remained
practically ungarrisoned. The capital was guarded by only a few
regiments of reserves, while Tsarskoe Selo, the residence of the
Imperial Family, had no regiments at all outside its peace-time quota of
soldier and Cossack guards. At the command of the Emperor several
additional regiments which had served for some time at the front were
ordered to Tsarskoe for rest and recuperation, and, although naturally
nothing of this was mentioned in the order, to augment if necessary the
inadequate military force at hand. The first order was given for a
strong detachment of naval guards, but after these men were actually
entrained for Tsarskoe they were stopped by a counter order from General
Gourko, who in the illness of General Alexieff was in command at G. H.
Q. This counter order being at once communicated to the Emperor, he
exercised his supreme authority and the regiment once more started for
Tsarskoe Selo. But the audacity of General Gourko had not yet reached
its limit. When the military train reached the station at Tsarskoe it
was met by a telegram from General Gourko to the officer in command,
ordering the regiment back to the front. The bewildered officer for a
few moments was at a loss what to do, but fortunately news of his
dilemma was telephoned to the palace, and the regiment, under the
peremptory command of the Emperor, left the train and went into garrison
at Tsarskoe. The Emperor next commanded that one of his favorite
regiments of Varsovie Lancers be sent to Tsarskoe, but instead General
Gourko left headquarters for the palace, where a long interview between
the Emperor and the commander took place. By arguments of which I have
no knowledge the Emperor was persuaded that the Lancers could not, for
the time being, be spared from their front-line position, and he
recalled his order.

However, it was clear that the Emperor was at last awake to the
appalling menace of disaffection which was closing in like black cloud
banks on every hand. The War was going badly, as every student of the
times must remember. Brusiloff’s brilliant offensive of the summer and
autumn of 1916 had indeed made it plain that Russia was by no means out
of the struggle, but although this famous drive had netted the Russians
a gain of territory even larger than that which was yielded in the great
Battle of the Somme, it had finally stopped leaving us with much lost
territory still unredeemed. The Emperor knew this and it tormented his
heart and soul. The intriguers knew it and resolved to use it as a
weapon to get the Tsar away from his capital and from his family. It was
on the 19th or 20th of February (Russian Calendar) that the Emperor’s
brother, Grand Duke Michail Alexandrovitch, visited the palace and told
the Emperor that it was his immediate duty to return to the Stavka
because of grave threats of mutiny in the army. Very reluctantly the
Emperor consented to go. Mutiny in the army was a serious enough matter
and demanded the presence of the commander in chief. But other things
were at the same time occurring to cause keen anxiety. The Empress had
acquainted me with the nature of these disquieting events, but because
of the international character of the most serious I dislike even now to
put them in writing. However, I am here repeating only what was then
told me and I have no firsthand information to offer in verification of
their truth. Their Majesties had been informed and finally from a source
which they believed to be absolutely reliable, that the center of
intrigue against the throne was not in any secret garret of disaffected
workingmen but in the British Embassy, where the Ambassador, Sir George
Buchanan, was personally aiding the Grand Dukes to overthrow Nicholas
II and to replace him by his cousin Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovitch. Sir
George Buchanan’s main purpose, it was said, was not so much to further
the ambitions of the Grand Dukes as it was to weaken Russia as a factor
in the future peace conference. Unable fully to believe that an
ambassador of one of the Allied Powers would dare to meddle maliciously
in the internal affairs of the Empire, the Tsar had nevertheless decided
to communicate his information in a personal letter to his cousin King
George of England. The Empress, deeply indignant, advised a demand on
King George for the Ambassador’s recall, but the Emperor replied that he
dared not, at such a critical time, make public his distrust of an
Ally’s representative. Whether or not the Emperor ever wrote his letter
to King George I never knew, but that his anxiety and depression of
spirits persisted I can well testify. On the evening of February 29, the
day before the Emperor’s departure, I gave a small dinner to some
intimate friends among the officers of the Naval Guard, Mme. Dehn
helping me in my duties as hostess. A note from the Empress summoned us
all to spend the end of the evening in her sitting room, and as soon as
I saw the Emperor I knew that he was seriously upset. During the tea
hour he spoke little, and when I tried to catch his eye he turned his
head aside. The Empress murmured in my ear that all his instincts warned
him against leaving Tsarskoe Selo at that time, and as this coincided
exactly with my own judgment I ventured to tell him, on saying good
night, that I should hope to the last moment that he would not go away
until the worst of the uncertainties in Petrograd were removed. At this
he smiled, almost cheerfully, and said that I must not allow myself to
be frightened by wild rumors and idle gossip. Go he must, but within ten
days he expected to be able to return.

The next morning I went to the door and watched his motor car drive out
of the palace grounds, the Empress and the children going with it as far
as the station. As usual on such occasions, there was a display of
flags, of guards standing at salute, and bells from the churches pealing
their farewell. Everything appeared the same, yet in that hour the
flags, the soldiers, the pealing bells were speeding the Tsar of all the
Russias to his doom.

I felt ill that morning, ill physically as well as mentally, yet as in
duty bound I went to my hospital, where a soldier in whose case I took a
special interest was to undergo an operation which he dreaded and at
which he had implored me to be present. While the anesthetic was being
administered I stood beside the poor man holding his hand, but at the
same time I realized that I was becoming feverish and that my headache
was almost unbearably increasing. Returning to the palace, I lay down in
my bedroom, after writing a line to the Empress excusing myself from
tea. An hour later Tatiana came in, sympathetic as usual, but troubled
because both Olga and Alexei were in bed with high temperatures and the
doctors suspected that they might be coming down with measles. A week or
two before some small cadets from the military school had spent the
afternoon playing with Alexei, and one of these boys had a cough and
such a flushed face that the Empress had called the attention of M.
Gilliard to the child, fearing illness. The next day we heard that he
was ill with measles, but because our minds were so troubled with many
other things none of us thought much of the danger of contagion. As for
me, even after Tatiana had told me that Olga and Alexei were suspected
cases, it did not at once occur to me that I was going to be ill. Still
my temperature went on rising and my headache was unrelieved. I lay in
bed all the next day until the dinner hour when Mme. Dehn came in and I
made a futile effort to get up and dress. Mme. Dehn made me lie down
again, and looking me over carefully she said: “You look very badly to
me. I think you will have to have the doctor.” The next instant, so it
seemed to me, the doctor was in the room and I heard him say: “Measles.
A bad case.” Then I drifted off into sleep or unconsciousness.

That same day Tatiana fell ill, and now the Empress had four of us on
her hands. Putting on her nurse’s uniform, she spent all the succeeding
days between her children’s rooms and mine. Half conscious, I felt
gratefully her capable hands arranging my pillows, smoothing my burning
forehead, and holding to my lips medicines and cooling drinks. Already,
as I heard vaguely, Marie and Anastasie had begun to cough, but this
news disturbed me only as a passing dream. I was conscious of the
presence of my mother and father and of my younger sister, and still as
in a kind of nightmare I understood that they and the Empress spoke in
hurried whispers of riots and disorders in Petrograd. But of the first
days of Revolution, the strikes in Petrograd and Moscow, the revolt of
the mobs and the hesitancy of the half-disciplined reserves to restore
order, I know nothing except what was afterwards related to me. I do
know, however, that through it all the Empress of Russia was completely
calm and courageous, and that when my sister, hurrying to the palace
after witnessing the wild scenes in Petrograd, had cried out to the
Empress that the end had come, her fears were quieted by brave and
reassuring words.

It was the devoted old Grand Duke Paul, as the Empress afterwards told
me, who brought her the first official tidings, and made her understand
that that most calamitous of all blunders, a political revolution in the
midst of world war, had been accomplished. Even then she lost none of
her marvelous courage. She did not call upon the Ministers or upon the
Allied Ambassadors to protect her and her children. With dignity,
unmoved she witnessed day by day the cowardly desertion of men who for
years had lived at Court and who had enjoyed the faith and friendship of
the Imperial Family. One by one they went, General Racine, Count
Apraxine, officers and men of the bodyguard, servants the oldest and the
most trusted, all with smooth excuses and apologies which translated
meant only _sauve qui peut_.

One night came the noise of rioting and the sharp staccato of machine
guns apparently approaching nearer and nearer the palace. It was about
eleven o’clock and the Empress was sitting for a few minutes’ rest on
the edge of my bed. Getting up hastily and wrapping herself in a white
shawl, she beckoned Marie, the last of the children on her feet, and
went out of the palace into the icy air to face whatever threatened. The
Naval Guard and the Konvoi Cossacks still remained on duty, although
even then they were preparing to desert. It is altogether possible that
they would have gone over to the rioters that night had it not been for
the unexpected appearance of the Empress and her daughter. From one
guard to another they passed, the stately woman and the courageous young
girl, undaunted both in the face of deadly danger, speaking words of
encouragement, and most of all of simple faith and confidence. This
alone held the men at their posts during that dreadful night and
prevented the rioters from attacking the palace. The next day
the guards disappeared. The Naval Guards, led by Grand Duke Cyril
Vladimirovitch,[4] marched with red flags to the Duma and presented
themselves to Rodzianko as joyful revolutionists. The very men who in
the previous midnight had hailed the Empress with the traditional
greeting, “_Zdravie Jelaim Vashie Imperatorskoe Velichestvo!_” Health
and long life to your Majesty! So loud had been their greeting that the
Empress, not wishing me to know that she had left the palace, sent a
servant to tell me that the Guards were waiting to meet the Emperor.

There was now in or about the palace practically no one to defend the
Imperial Family in case the mob decided to attack. Still the Empress
remained calm, saying only that she hoped no blood would have to be
shed in their defense. A telegram from the Emperor revealed that the
crisis had become known to him, for he implored the Empress to join him
with the children at headquarters. At the same hour came an astounding
message to the Empress from Rodzianko, now head of the Provisional
Government, notifying her that she and her whole family must vacate the
palace at once. Her answer to both messages was that she could not leave
because all five of the children were dangerously ill. Rodzianko’s reply
to this appeal of an anguished mother was: “When the house is on fire it
is time for everything to be thrown out.” Desperately the Empress
consulted doctors and nurses. Could the children possibly be moved?
Could Anna? What was to be done in case the Provisional Government
proved altogether pitiless?

Into this soul-racking dilemma of the mother came to the wife of the
Emperor the terrible news of his abdication. I could not be with her in
that hour of woe, nor did I even see her until the following morning. It
was my parents who broke the news to me, almost too ill and too cloudy
of mind to comprehend it. Mme. Dehn, who was with the Empress on the
evening when Grand Duke Paul arrived with the fatal tidings, has
described the scene when the broken-hearted Empress left the Grand Duke
and returned to her own room.

     “Her face was distorted with agony, her eyes were full of tears.
     She tottered rather than walked, and I rushed forward and supported
     her until she reached the writing table between the windows. She
     leaned heavily against it, and taking my hands in hers she said
     brokenly: ‘_Abdiqué!_’

     “I could hardly believe my ears. I waited for her next words. They
     were scarcely audible. At last [still speaking in French, for Mme.
     Dehn spoke no English] ‘Poor darling--alone there and suffering--My
     God! What he must have suffered!’”

In that hour of supreme agony there was not a word spoken of the loss of
a throne. Alexandra Feodorovna’s whole heart was with her husband, her
sole fears that he might be in danger and that their boy might be taken
from them. At once she began to send frantic telegrams to the Emperor
begging him to come home as soon as possible. With the refinement of
cruelty which marked the whole conduct of the Provisional Government in
those days these telegrams were returned to the Empress marked in blue
pencil: “Address of person mentioned unknown.”

Not even this insolence nor all her fears broke the sublime courage of
the Empress. When next morning she entered my sickroom and saw by my
tear-drenched face that I knew what had happened her only visible
emotion was a slight irritation that other lips than her own had brought
me the news. “They should have known that I preferred to tell you
myself,” she said. It was only when gone her rounds of the palace and
was alone in her own bedroom that she finally gave way to her grief.
“Mama cried terribly,” little Grand Duchess Marie told me. “I cried too,
but not more than I could help, for poor Mama’s sake.” Never in my life,
I am certain, shall I behold such proud fortitude as was shown all
through those days of wreck and disaster by the Empress and her
children. Not one single word of bitterness or resentment passed their
lips. “You know, Annia,” said the Empress gently, “all is finished for
our Russia. But we must not blame the people or the soldiers for what
has happened.” Too well we knew on whose shoulders the burden of
responsibility really rested.

By this time Olga and Alexei were decidedly better, but Tatiana and
Anastasie were still very ill and Marie was in the first serious stage
of the disease. The Empress in her hospital uniform moved tirelessly
from one bed to another. Perceiving that from my floor of the palace
practically every servant had fled, even my nurses and my once devoted
Jouk having yielded to the general panic, she found people to move my
bed upstairs to the old nursery of the Emperor. We were now almost alone
in the palace. My father’s resignation having been demanded and of
course given, my parents were detained in Petrograd.

Days passed and still no word came from the Emperor. The Empress’s
endurance had almost reached its breaking point when there came to the
palace a young woman, the wife of an obscure officer, who threw herself
at the feet of the Empress and begged to be allowed the dangerous task
of getting a letter through to the Emperor. Gratefully indeed did the
Empress accept the offer, and within an hour the brave woman was on her
way to Mogiloff. How she managed to reach headquarters, how she passed
the cordon of soldiers and finally succeeded in delivering to the
captive Emperor his wife’s letter we never knew, but all honor to this
heroic woman, she did it.

The palace was now full of Revolutionary soldiers, quite drunk with
their new liberty. Their heavy boots tramped through all the rooms and
corridors, and groups of dirty, unshaven men were constantly pushing
their way into the nurseries bawling out hoarsely: “Show us Alexei!” For
it was the heir who most of all aroused the interest and curiosity of
the mob. Meanwhile, behind closed doors and anxiously awaiting the
arrival of the Emperor, the Empress and her few faithful friends were at
work forestalling the coming of Kerensky by burning and destroying
letters and diaries, intimate personal records too precious to be
allowed to fall into the ruthless hands of enemies.



CHAPTER XV


In anxiety almost unbearable we waited until the morning of March 9
(Russian) the arrival of the Emperor. I was still confined to my bed and
Dr. Botkine was making me his first visit of the day when my door flew
open and Mme. Dehn, pale with excitement, rushed to my bedside
exclaiming breathlessly: “He has come!” As soon as she could command
words she described the arrival of the Emperor, not as of yore attended,
but guarded like a prisoner by armed soldiers. The Empress was with
Alexei when the motor cars drove into the palace grounds, and Mme. Dehn
told how she sprang to her feet overjoyed and ran like a schoolgirl down
the stairs and through the long corridors to meet her husband. For a
time at least the happiness of reunion blotted out the suspense of the
past and the gloomy uncertainty of the future. But afterwards, alone,
behind their own closed doors, the emotion of the betrayed and deserted
Emperor completely overcame his self-control and he sobbed like a child
on the breast of his wife. It was four o’clock in the afternoon before
she could come to me, and when she came I read in her white, drawn face
the whole story of the ordeal through which she had passed. With
prideful composure she related the events of the day. I tried to match
her in courage but I am afraid I failed. I, who in all the twelve years
of my life in the palace had but three times seen tears in the eyes of
the Emperor, was entirely overwhelmed at her recital.

“He will not break down a second time,” she said with a brave smile. “He
is walking in the garden now. Come to the window and see.” She helped me
to the window and herself pulled aside the curtain. Never, never while I
live shall I forget what we saw, we two, clinging together in shame and
sorrow for our disgraced country. Below in the garden of the palace
which had been his home for twenty years stood the man who until a few
days before had been Tsar of all the Russias. With him was his faithful
friend Prince Dolgorouky, and surrounding them were six soldiers, say
rather six hooligans, armed with rifles. With their fists and with the
butts of their guns they pushed the Emperor this way and that as though
he were some wretched vagrant they were baiting in a country road. “You
can’t go there, Gospodin Polkovnik (Mr. Colonel).” “We don’t permit you
to walk in that direction, Gospodin Polkovnik.” “Stand back when you are
commanded, Gospodin Polkovnik.” The Emperor, apparently unmoved, looked
from one of these coarse brutes to another and with great dignity turned
and walked back towards the palace. I had been a very sick woman, and I
was now hardly fit to stand on my feet. The light went out suddenly and
I fainted. But the Empress did not faint. She got me back to my bed,
fetched cold water, and when I awoke it was to feel her cool hand
bathing my head. From her calm and detached manner no one could have
guessed that the scene we had just witnessed was part also of her own
tragedy. Before leaving me she said as to a child: “If you will promise
to be very good and not cry he shall come to see you this evening.”

After dinner they came, the Emperor and Empress with our friend Lili
Dehn. The two women sat down at a table with their needlework leaving
the Emperor free to sit by my bed and talk to me privately. I have tried
to show Nicholas II as a human person, with human emotions, and I have
no desire now to represent him, in the hour of his humiliation, as other
than a man feeling keenly and acutely the bitterness of his position. I
had been unable until the day of his return to realize with any degree
of clarity the full extent of his calamity. It was to me almost
unbelievable that his enemies, who had so long plotted and schemed for
his overthrow, had at last succeeded. It was beyond reason that the
Emperor, the finest and best of the whole Romanoff family, should be
allowed to fall under the feet of his decadent, treacherous kinsmen and
subjects. But the Emperor, his eyes hard and glistening, told me that it
was indeed true. And he added: “If all Russia came to me now on their
knees I would never return.”

With tears in his voice he spoke of the men, his most trusted relations
and friends, who had turned against him and caused his downfall. He read
me telegrams from Brusiloff, Alexieff, and other of his generals, others
from members of the family, including a message from Nicholai
Nicholaievitch, in which the writers “on their knees” begged his
Imperial Majesty, for the salvation of Russia, to abdicate. In whose
favor did they wish him to abdicate? The weak and ineffectual Duma? The
great untaught masses of the people? No, to their own blind and
self-seeking oligarchy, which, under a regent of its own choosing, would
rule the boy Alexei and through him the people and the uncounted wealth
of Russia. But this at least the Emperor could and did prevent. Both his
heart and his mind forbade him to abdicate in favor of the Tsarevitch.
“My boy I will not give to them,” he said feelingly. “Let them get some
one else, Michail, if he thinks he is strong enough.”

I regret that I cannot remember every word the Emperor told me of the
scenes in his train when the deputation from the Duma came to demand his
abdication. I was trying too hard to obey the Empress’s injunction to
“be good and not cry.” But I remember his telling me how arrogant and
vain the deputies, especially Goutchkoff and Shoulgin, showed
themselves. On their departure the Emperor’s first words were addressed
to the two tall Cossacks who stood guard at his door. “It is time now
for you to tear my initials from your shoulder straps,” he told them.
The Cossacks saluted and one of them said: “Please your Imperial
Majesty, please allow us to kill them.” But the Emperor replied: “It is
too late to do that now.”

Of his mother, who hurried from Kiev, accompanied by Grand Duke
Alexander Michailovitch, to see him, he said that he was vastly
comforted to have her near him, but that the sight of the Grand Duke was
unendurable. Driving away from the train with the Empress Dowager, the
Emperor had been much moved to see the people along the whole distance
of two versts fall on their knees to bid him farewell. There was a
group of schoolgirls from the institute at Mogiloff who forced their way
past the guards and surrounded their Sovereign, begging his
handkerchief, his autograph on bits of paper, the buttons from his
uniform, anything for a last souvenir. The Emperor’s face grew sharply
lined when he spoke of those brave girls and the kneeling people. “Why
did you not appeal to them?” I asked. “Why did you not appeal to the
soldiers?” But the Emperor answered gently: “The people knew themselves
powerless, and as for appealing to the soldiers, how could I? Already I
had heard threats of murdering my family.” His wife and children, he
said, were all on earth he had left to live for now. Their happiness and
well-being were all his soul desired. As for the Empress, more than
himself the real object of malice, only over his body should any hand be
raised to injure her. Giving way once more for a brief moment to his
grief the Emperor murmured half to himself: “But there is no justice, no
justice on earth.” Then as if in apology he said: “It has shaken me
badly, as you see. For the first few days I was so little myself that I
could not even write my diary.”

As we talked it came over me for the first time in full force that all
was indeed finished for Russia. The army was disrupted, the nation
fallen. I could foresee, to some extent at least, the horrors we should
have to meet, but in a kind of desperate hope I asked the Emperor if he
did not think that the riots and strikes would now be put down. He shook
his head. “Not for two years at least,” he predicted. But what did he
think was to become of him, of the Empress and the children? He did not
know, but there was one prayer he should not be too proud to make to his
enemies, and that was that they should not send him out of Russia. “Let
me live here in my own country, as the humblest and most obscure
proprietor, tilling the land and earning the poorest living,” he
exclaimed. “Send us to any distant corner of Russia, but only let us
stay.”

This was the only time I ever saw the Emperor in the least degree
unmanned, or overcome with the bitterness of grief which I knew must
have filled his spirit. After that first day in the palace gardens he
gave his jailers no opportunity of insulting him. With Prince Dolgorouky
he walked out daily but only along near pathways to the palace doors.
The snow was heavy on the ground and the two men vigorously exercised
themselves shoveling it from paths and roadways. Often the Emperor would
look up from this strenuous work to wave a hand to those of us who were
watching from the windows. In the solitude of my sick chamber I
tormented myself with thoughts of what might be in store for the Emperor
and the beloved family whose happiness and well-being were more to him
than the most exalted throne. They were all prisoners of the Duma now,
and what dark and hapless fate was the ruthless, irresponsible Duma
preparing for them? Not a comforting question to haunt the mind of one
ill in body and soul. From my first waking moment on I lived in
anticipation of the daily visit of the Empress. She who had all at stake
still kept her wonderful courage alive. She came in tall and stately, a
smile on her gentle, melancholy face, bringing me the news of the
nurseries, messages from the children, making me work, doing everything
possible to cheer and to lighten my mind. In the evening the Emperor
usually came, wheeling his wife in her invalid’s chair, for by night her
strength had all but gone. They stayed with me for an hour and then went
on to say good night to the suite in the drawing room. Sadly diminished
in numbers was that suite, but unchanged in fealty and affection for
fallen majesty. Among those devoted friends who appeared almost like the
survivors of a shipwreck were Count Benkendorff, brother of the former
Russian ambassador to Great Britain, and his wife, who had boldly
arrived at the palace when it was first surrounded by mutinous soldiers;
two maids of honor, Baroness Buxhoevden and Countess Hendrikoff; the
faithful Miss Schneider (“Trina”), Mme. Dehn, Count Fredericks, General
Voyeikoff and the Hussar officer, General Groten. The two devoted
aides-de-camp, Lieutenant Linevitch and Count Zamirsky, who had flown to
the palace to be near the Empress after the abdication, had been forced
to leave, or they too would have remained to the end. Of the household
M. Gilliard and Mr. Gibbs, the French and English tutors of Alexei, had
elected to remain. Madeleine, and several other personal attendants,
including three nurses, also stayed. “In good times we served the
family,” said these honest souls, “never will we forsake them now.”

Not once, after the very first of our conversations, and not at any time
I believe to others in the palace did the Emperor or the Empress make
the smallest complaint of their captivity. They seemed to suffer for
Russia rather than for themselves, for they knew, and said so, that the
army, suddenly in the midst of war released from all discipline, would
soon cease to fight efficiently, or perhaps to obey orders at all. This
of course the world knows is precisely what did happen. The Emperor, I
must admit, sometimes betrayed a gruesome kind of humor over the
fantastic blunders of the self-styled statesmen who were so rapidly
making general shipwreck of their revolution. In every way they showed
their weakness and bewilderment. Whether or not they feared to trust old
officers of the Empire with the custody of the Imperial Family I cannot
be sure, but the men they sent to Tsarskoe were a constant source of
ironic mirth to the suite. Most of these men were young, raw, underbred,
and inexperienced, the best of them being junior officers promoted since
1914. One day one of the guard officers, just to show how democratic
Russia had become, swaggered up to the Emperor and offered to shake
hands with him. Unfortunately, as he afterwards told me, the Emperor was
so busy shoveling snow that he could not take advantage of the man’s
condescension.

The newly appointed commandant of the palace was a young man named Paul
Kotzebou, before the War an officer of the lancers, but for some piece
of misconduct cashiered from the service. I had long known Kotzebou and
aside from his doubtful army record I was not sorry to see him in the
palace, for I knew that if weak of character he was at least kind of
heart. Kind indeed he proved himself, for he visited my sickroom in
friendly fashion, risked arrest by consenting to smuggle letters to my
parents in Petrograd, and was the first to warn me that the Provisional
Government was contemplating my arrest. Many of the old friends and
advisers of the Emperor were already in prison, but the proposal to
arrest a woman whose sole crime had been devotion to the Empress and her
children gave us all an uncomfortable, premonitory shock. The distress
of the Empress was greater almost than her pride. The mercy she would
have scorned to ask for herself she was ready to beg for me, and she did
most earnestly implore Kotzebou to intercede in my behalf. “What
possible good will it do them to arrest one helpless woman?” she urged.
“Parting with her would be like losing one of my own children.”
Kotzebou, whatever his feelings, could only reply: “If I could,
Madame--but there is nothing I can do, nothing.”

The Emperor alone refused to believe my arrest at all probable, but the
others were badly frightened at the prospect. The sister of mercy who
had worked in my hospital and was taking care of me, almost went on her
knees to the Emperor and Empress. “Now is the time to show your real
love for Anna Alexandrovna,” she cried. “Take her into the rooms of your
own children and never let anybody touch her.” Cooler counsel came from
Count Benkendorff, who advised the Emperor and Empress not to oppose my
arrest if it were ordered. The only result of opposition, he pointed
out, would be more arrests and perhaps increased hardship for the
Empress. “I do not think they will detain her, unless it is in one of
the rooms of the Tauride,” he said, meaning that I might only be
isolated for a time in the palace where the Duma held its sessions.
Count Benkendorff was later to learn what kind of justice was being
prepared by the criminal lunatics who were at Russia’s throat.

One morning towards the 20th of March I had a hurried note from the
Empress, the contents of which were enough to make me forget all my own
troubles. Marie, who had been very ill and who now she feared was dying,
was calling constantly for me. The servant who brought the note told me
that Anastasie also was in a critical condition, lungs and ears being in
a sad state of inflammation. Oxygen alone was keeping the children
alive. Kotzebou was calling on me at the time, and as I sat up in bed
wildly demanding to be dressed, he begged me not to leave my room. “They
are only waiting until you are well enough to be arrested,” he assured
me. But though I feared arrest I feared still more letting the child I
loved die with one single wish unfulfilled, and as soon as I could be
sufficiently clothed it was Kotzebou himself who wheeled my chair
through the long corridors to the nurseries. It was the first time in
weeks that I had seen the children and our meeting was full of tears. We
wept in each other’s arms and then without wasting any time I went on
into Marie’s room. The child indeed seemed to be at the point of death,
but when she saw me the suffering in her eyes turned to something like
joy. Her weak hands fluttered on the bedclothes and with a feeble cry,
“Annia, Annia,” she began to weep. Long I sat beside her holding her hot
and wasted body in my arms, and when I left her she was asleep. Shaken
though I was with that experience, I had one more agony to bear. When my
chair was being wheeled back along the corridor I passed the open door
of Alexei’s room, and this is what I saw. Lying sprawled in a chair was
the sailor Derevanko, for many years the personal attendant of the
Tsarevitch, and on whom the family had bestowed every kindness, every
material benefit. Bitten by the mania of revolution, this man was now
displaying his gratitude for all their favors. Insolently he bawled at
the boy whom he had formerly loved and cherished, to bring him this or
that, to perform any menial service his mean lackey’s brain could think
of. Dazed and apparently only half conscious of what he was being forced
to do, the child moved about trying to obey. It was too much to bear.
Hiding my face in my hands, I begged them to take me away from the
sickening spectacle.

The next day, my last in the palace, I went again to the children, and
for a few hours at least was a little bit happy. The Emperor and Empress
had luncheon served in the nurseries, and we were all able to eat in
some comfort because both Marie and Anastasie were showing signs of
improvement. Still we were troubled because Kotzebou, as a reward for
his too kindly treatment of the captives, had that morning been removed
from the palace, and the doctors when they came brought with them
newspapers, fair samples of the new “free” press of Russia, bristling
with frightful stories, especially about me. For the first time I began
to realize, with a sick heart, what an arrest might mean, what grotesque
charges I might be called upon to face. For the first time, in these
newspapers I read the amazing tale of how I had conspired with Dr.
Badmieff to poison the Emperor and the Tsarevitch. Dr. Badmieff, that
half mad old Siberian root and herb doctor, who never in his life had
been admitted to the palace as a physician or even as a friend! It was
too absurd to resent. Even the Empress who at first had shown anger,
burst into mocking laughter. “Here, Annia,” she cried, “keep this story
for your collection.”

The next day I was arrested. I awoke in a morning of storm and howling
wind and in my soul a feeling of dread and foreboding. Immediately after
my coffee I wrote a note to the Empress asking her not to wait until
afternoon to see me. Her reply was kind and cheering, but she was busy
in the nurseries and could not leave until after the arrival of the
doctors. With luncheon came Lili Dehn, and scarcely had we finished the
meal when we were aware of great noise and confusion in the corridor
outside. An icy hand seemed to seize my heart. “They are coming,” I
whispered, and Mme. Dehn, springing from her chair cried: “Impossible.
No--no--” and panic-struck fled the room. The door flew open to admit a
frightened servant with a note from the Empress. “Kerensky is going
through our rooms. Do not be frightened. God is with us.” Hardly had the
man retired when again the door opened and another frightened servant, a
palace messenger in a feathered cap, announced in a drowned voice the
arrival of Kerensky. In a moment the room seemed to fill up with men and
walking arrogantly before them I beheld a small, clean-shaven,
theatrical person whose essentially weak face was disguised in a
Napoleonic frown. Standing over me in his characteristic attitude,
right hand thrust into the bosom of his jacket, the man boomed out: “I
am the Minister of Justice. You are to dress and go at once to
Petrograd.” I answered not a word but lay still on my pillows looking
him straight in the face. This seemed to disconcert him somewhat for he
turned to one of his officers and said nervously: “Ask the doctors if
she is fit to go. Otherwise she must be arrested and isolated in the
palace.” Count Benkendorff, who stood in the back of the room near the
door, volunteered to see the doctor, and when he returned it was with
the message that Dr. Botkine gave them permission to take me. Afterwards
I learned that the Empress reproached the doctor bitterly, saying over
and over through her tears: “How can you? How can you? You who have
children of your own.” But Dr. Botkine was by this time a victim of
craven fear, and he was incapable of refusing any request of the
Provisional Government.

They gave me time to dress warmly, and I had a moment in which to reply
briefly to a note from the Emperor and Empress, in which they enclosed
small pictures of Christ and the Virgin, signed with their Majesties’
initials, N. and A. When at last I was ready to go it suddenly surged
over me that this might be the end of my long association with these
dearly loved friends, my Sovereigns, whose intimate lives I had shared
for twelve years. Ready to fall on my knees before him if necessary I
made a final appeal to Colonel Korovitchinko, the new commandant of the
palace, begging him to let me see them for one moment, just long enough
to say good-bye. Colonel Korovitchinko, who afterwards died a cruel
death at the hands of the Bolsheviki, at first refused, but moved by my
tears he relented a little. The Emperor, he said, was outside and could
not be summoned, but he would exert his authority far enough to send me
under guard to say good-bye to the Empress. Under escort of two officers
I was taken to the apartment of Mlle. Schneider, and very soon the pale
Empress was wheeled into the room by her devoted attendant Volkov. We
had time for only one long embrace and the hurried exchange of two
rings. Then Tatiana, who came with her mother, embraced me, weeping, and
as she too begged for a last memory gift I gave her the only thing I had
to give, my wedding ring. Then the soldiers tore us apart but I saw that
the man who gave the order did it with tears in his eyes. The last I
remember was the white hand of the Empress pointing upward and her
voice: “There we are always together.” Volkov, weeping, cried out
courageously: “Anna Alexandrovna, God will surely help.”

They carried me downstairs to the motor, for I could neither walk nor
stand, even with the help of my crutches. At the door stood several
soldiers and Court servants, visibly distressed, but by this time I felt
nothing, heard nothing. I was turned to stone. When I was lifted into
the car I was startled to see there another woman, like myself swathed
in wraps and veils. It was Lili Dehn, whose arrest had not before this
day even been threatened. Dazed as I was, it was some comfort to hear
her whisper that we were to travel to Petrograd together. I recovered
myself a little, enough at least to recognize the frightened face of
the servant who closed the door of the car. Killed a few months later,
this good man had been for a long time a sailor on the Imperial yacht.
“Take care of their Majesties,” I managed to say to him. Then the motor
car shot forward, and I left the palace at Tsarskoe Selo forever. Both
Lili and I pressed our faces to the glass in a last effort to see those
beloved we were leaving behind, and through the mist and rain we could
just discern a group of white-clad figures crowded close to the nursery
windows to see us go. In a moment of time the picture was blotted out
and we saw only the wet landscape, the storm-bent trees, the rapidly
creeping twilight. In another few moments we were at the station, the
dear, familiar station of Tsarskoe, where so many, many times I had
waited to greet or to say a short farewell to the Emperor and Empress.
Ready for us was one of the small Imperial trains, now the special train
of Kerensky. Our guards hurried us into a carriage, and the train
immediately began to move. At the same time our carriage was invaded by
Kerensky and a group of soldiers. Without even a pretense of decent
politeness the new Minister of Justice began to shout at us: “Give your
family names,” and because we did not speak quickly enough the little
man became insulted. “You will learn that when _I_ ask a question you
must answer promptly.” We gave our names and Kerensky, turning
triumphantly to the soldiers, ejaculated: “Well! Are you convinced now?”
Apparently some of the men had expressed doubts as to whether they had
bagged the right criminals. Sick and half fainting, I sank back into the
cushions and closed my eyes on their departing figures. Lili bent over
me with her salts bottle and soon I was able to sit up with some show of
courage. It was the first time I had left the house since my illness and
I was still very weak.

Arrived in Petrograd, Kerensky paraded us before his officers like
barbarian captives of some Roman emperor, but this did not affect us
seriously. Our eyes were busy gazing at the changed aspect of Petrograd,
soldiers swanking around the streets proud of their slovenly appearance,
the badge of their new freedom; mobs of people running aimlessly about,
or pausing to listen to street-corner orators; and everywhere on walls
and buildings masses of dirty red flags. An old-fashioned coach belong
to the Imperial stables had been sent for us and still closely guarded
we drove to the Ministry of Justice. There we climbed a long and very
steep staircase--how I did it on my crutches I do not yet
understand--and were shown into a room on the third floor, empty even of
a wooden chair. Silently we stood and waited, and after a time men came
in carrying two sofas. On one of these Lili sat down and on the other I
lay prone. Again we waited, no one near us save the unkempt soldier who
guarded the door. The evening lengthened and finally Kerensky honored us
with another brief visit. He did not look at me at all but asked Lili if
they had built us a fire. It was an unnecessary question, for he must
have felt the icy chill of the room. A few minutes later, however, a
servant did build a fire in the tiled stove, and another brought in a
tray with eggs and tea. Left alone with the unkempt soldier, the man
suddenly amazed us by breaking into a volley of speech in which he
cursed most eloquently the new order of things. Nothing good would come
of it, nothing, was his opinion. Somewhat reassured because we had a
guard who was not at heart a Revolutionist, we lay down, but the night
brought to neither of us any anodyne of sleep and rest.



CHAPTER XVI


Morning dawned cold and gray, and so exhausted was I with sleeplessness
and the discomfort of a hard bed without linen or blankets, that Lili
was alarmed and when the tea arrived she begged the soldier who brought
it to have a doctor sent me. But Kerensky replied that the doctor was
engaged with War Minister Goutchkoff and could not be approached at
present. Within a short time I was to be removed to a hospital, and as
for Mme. Dehn, she might expect good news soon. As a matter of fact Mme.
Dehn was released from custody the next day. Feeling confident that she
would be let go, I gave her what jewels I had brought with me, asking
her to turn them over to my mother. In return Lili gave me a few
necessaries, including a pair of stockings for which later I was
extremely grateful because the prison stockings were so coarse and heavy
that they hurt my injured leg.

About three o’clock in the afternoon Colonel Peretz, who afterwards
wrote a book on the Revolution, came into the room with a group of young
boys, former cadets of the military academy, now commissioned officers
of the new army. “Say good-bye to your friend and come along,” I was
ordered, and after a quick embrace I parted with Mme. Dehn, my last link
with the past, and followed the men downstairs, where a large motor car
was waiting. We all got in, the men’s rifles considerably reducing the
carrying capacity of the seats. As we drove off the colonel began a long
and insulting monologue to which I tried not to listen. “Ah! You and
your Grichka (Gregory),” I heard him saying, “what a monument you both
deserve for helping us to bring about the Revolution.” But all that I
wanted to learn from him was my destination, and as if in answer to the
unspoken question he said: “All night we were discussing the most
appropriate lodgings for you, and we decided on the Troubetskoy Bastion
in the fortress.” At this point we passed a church and, after the
invariable custom, I made the sign of the cross. Colonel Peretz flamed
into anger at this. “Don’t dare cross yourself,” he cried with emphasis
on the last word. “Rather pray for the souls of the martyrs of the
Revolution.” Then as I made no response he exclaimed: “Why don’t you
answer when I speak to you?” I replied coldly that I had nothing
whatever to say to him, whereupon he began to revile the Emperor and
Empress in coarsest terms, ending with the words: “No doubt they are in
hysterics over what has happened to them.” Then I did speak. “If you
knew with what dignity they are enduring what has happened you would not
dare say what you have said.” After which the monologue was for a moment
or two halted.

Turning into the Liteiny, a street in which many barracks and ministries
are located, the car stopped and Colonel Peretz dispatched one of the
cadet officers on an errand into a Government building. On his return
the colonel delayed matters long enough to make a bombastic speech on
the great services to the Revolution performed by the cadets, and again
we drove on. Realizing that we were not proceeding in the direction of
the Fortress of Peter and Paul, I allowed my feminine curiosity to get
the better of my pride and I asked whither we were bound. “To the Duma
first,” was the grim answer. “To the fortress afterwards.” Arrived at
the Tauride Palace we alighted at what is known as the Ministers’
Pavilion and immediately went into the building. What a sight! Crowding
the rooms and the corridors, men and women of all ages and conditions,
prisoners of the Provisional Government! Looking about, I saw many
people of my own class, among them Mme. Soukhomlinoff who for all her
manner betrayed might have been a guest rather than a prisoner. We
exchanged cheerful greetings and she introduced the two women beside
her, Mme. Polouboiarenoff and Mme. Riman, wife of a well-known general.
Mme. Polouboiarenoff, of whom I had heard as a brilliant writer on a
conservative newspaper (murdered for this later by the Bolsheviki), was
quite self-possessed, but Mme. Riman’s face was wet with constantly
flowing tears. A young girl student, a typical Revolutionist who seemed
to be in some kind of authority, passed us in a hurry, pausing to say to
Mme. Riman: “What are you crying about? You are going to be set free
while these two”--Mme. Soukhomlinoff and myself--“are going to the
fortress.” Poor Mme. Riman was crying because her husband was already in
prison, but the revolutionary student could not be expected to
sympathize with that.

It really is easier to be calm over one’s own than over another’s fate,
as I learned when I found myself, with Mme. Soukhomlinoff, once more in
a motor car bound for that mysterious prison on the left bank of the
Neva, directly opposite the Winter Palace, the Fortress of Peter and
Paul. As we left the Tauride the girl student, who after all had some
natural feelings, asked me for my father’s telephone number that she
might notify my parents where I had been sent. “No need to bother about
that,” broke in the chivalrous Colonel Peretz. “The newspapers will have
a full report.” “All the better,” I rejoined, “for then many more will
pray for me.”

Rolling into the vast enclosure of the fortress, we stopped at the
entrance of the Troubetskoy Bastion. A group of soldiers, dirty and
wolfish of demeanor, rushed to meet us. “Now I am bringing you two very
desperate political prisoners,” shouted the colonel, as the men closed
around us. But a stout Cossack, much more human than the rest, assumed
authority saying that he was that day acting in place of the governor of
the fortress. Preceded by this man, we traversed a long series of
narrow, winding stone passages, so dark that I could see only a few feet
ahead. Suddenly I was halted, hinges creaked, and I was roughly pushed
into a pitch-dark cell the door of which was instantly bolted behind me.

No one who has not been a prisoner can possibly know the sickening
sensation which possessed me, standing there in that dark hole, afraid
to take a step forward, unable to touch with my groping hands either
walls or furniture. My heart leaped and pounded in my breast and I
clung desperately to my crutches lest I should fall into that unfathomed
darkness. A few minutes of wild terror and then as my eyes grew
accustomed to the dark I saw ahead of me a narrow iron cot towards which
I moved with infinite caution. In my progress towards the bed my feet
sank into pools of stagnant water which covered the floor, and soon I
perceived that the walls of the cell were also dripping with moisture.
The tiny window, high in the farthest wall, admitted little air, and the
whole place was foul with dampness and the odor of years. It reeked with
even worse smells as I quickly discovered, for close to the bed was an
uncovered toilet connected with archaic plumbing. The bed was hard and
lumpy and I do not think that the thin mattress had ever been cleaned or
aired. However, that mattress was not to afflict me long. Within a few
minutes my cell door was thrown open and several uniformed men entered.
At their head was a black-bearded ruffian who told me that he was
Koutzmine, representative of the Minister of Justice, and was authorized
to arrange the régime of all prisoners. At his orders the soldiers tore
from under me the ill-smelling mattress and the hard little pillow,
leaving me only a rough bed of planks. Under his orders they tore off my
rings and jerked loose a gold chain from which were suspended several
precious relics. They hurt me and I cried out in protest, whereupon the
soldiers spat at me, struck me with their fists and left, noisily
clanging the iron door behind them. Wrapping my cloak around me, I
crouched down on the bed shivering from head to foot and filled with
such an agony of loathing and disgust and desolation that I thought I
should die. Not a particle of food was brought me that day, and nothing
broke the monotony of the dragging hours save now and again when the
small grating in the door of my cell was pushed aside and a gaping
soldier looked in. Then came night, hardly darker than the day, but more
silent. Weak with hunger, spent with pain I clutched my aching head with
my hands and asked God if He had forgotten me. At that moment of extreme
misery I was startled and at the same time strangely comforted by a
sudden low but distinct rapping on the other side of the wall.
Instinctively I knew that it was Mme. Soukhomlinoff who was trying to
speak to me in the only language prisoners have. I rapped back, almost
happily, for I felt that with a friend so near I was not entirely
deserted.

I must have slept after that, for the next thing I remember was a man
entering the cell with a pot of hot water and a small piece of black
bread which he placed on an iron shelf near the bed. “As soon as your
money arrives you can have tea,” he announced briefly. Tea would have
been a priceless blessing in that cold place, but I was so thirsty that
I drank every drop of the hot water and was thankful. I suppose I ate
the black bread too, bad as it was, for I was very hungry.

How to describe the days that followed, slow-paced, monotonous, yet each
one filled with its special meed of suffering? On one of the first days
a grim woman came in and stripped me of my underclothes, substituting
coarse and unclean garments marked with the number of my cell, which was
70. No prison dress seemed to be provided, so I was allowed to keep my
own. But in the process of undressing the woman discovered a slender
gold bracelet which I had worn day and night for many years and which
was locked on my arm. She called Koutzmine and his guard of soldiers and
they, indignant that they had overlooked a single article of value,
began to force the bracelet over my hand. As the little circlet was not
intended to go over my hand their efforts caused me such pain that I
screamed in spite of myself. Touched, or perhaps merely annoyed at this,
Koutzmine suggested to the soldiers that if I would promise not to give
the bracelet to anyone I might be allowed to keep it. But his suggestion
met with no sympathy and the bracelet was finally forced over my bruised
hand.

The awful food and the still more awful solitude were daily afflictions,
and I think they were really the worst of all. Twice a day a soldier
brought in a nauseous dish, a kind of soup made of the bones and skin of
fish, none too fresh. Sometimes, if the soldier happened to be in an
especially vicious mood, he spat in the soup before giving it to me, and
more than once I found small pieces of glass among the bones. Yet so
ravenous was my hunger that I actually swallowed enough of the vile
stuff to keep myself alive. Only by holding my nose with my fingers was
I able to get a few spoonfuls down my throat. What was left I was
careful to pour into the filthy toilet, for I had been told that unless
I ate what was given me I would be left to starve. Hot water and black
bread continued to be doled out in small quantities, but there was never
any tea. No food was allowed to be given the prisoners even when it was
brought to the fortress by relatives and friends. Neither was any kind
of occupation given the wretched captives. We were not even allowed to
clean our own cells, a soldier coming in once a week to wipe up the wet
and slimy floors. When I begged the privilege of doing this myself the
soldier replied: “A prisoner who works is not a prisoner at all.” It is
true that when he has absolutely nothing to do he is worse than a
prisoner, he is a living corpse.

Actual death being too merciful for political prisoners, we were taken
out, one by one, for ten minutes every day. The exercise ground was a
small grassy court where a few shrubs and trees gave promise of green
leaves later on. No words can describe the relief, the blessed joy that
those few moments of light and air and the sight of the blue sky brought
to my heart. It seemed to me that I lived only for those moments. Of
course the walled court was well guarded by armed soldiers and never
once did their fierce eyes ever leave me. Still it was a bit of God’s
beautiful world, a breath of His sweet air, and I breathed it deep into
my soul, keeping it there for hope and comfort until the next day came.
In the center of the court was a small and dingy bath house where, on
Fridays and Saturdays, the prisoners were treated to a sort of a bath.
On those days we were not permitted to walk, but I for one did not
complain of this. Any respite from the gravelike existence of the cells
was a blessing. It was still very cold and when I lay down for the night
I never removed my clothes. I had two woolen handkerchiefs, or rather,
head kerchiefs, and one of these I tied over my head and the other I
wrapped around my shoulders for warmth. Usually I slept until about four
o’clock when the bells of a church hard by broke into my slumbers. After
that I tried to doze, but very soon came the tramp of boots on the
stones of the corridors and the crash of wood which the soldiers brought
in each day for their stoves. I always woke up shivering and my first
move was towards a corner of my cell where the stones were dry and a
little warm from the stove outside. Here I huddled and shook until the
hot water and the black bread were thrust in. I had never fully
recovered from my illness and the cold and damp brought on first a
pleurisy and afterwards a racking cough. I was so weak that sometimes in
crossing from the bed to what I called the warm corner I slipped and
fell and lay on the wet floor unable to rise. The soldier who thus found
me, if he were of the half decent sort, would pick me up and throw me on
the plank bed. Otherwise he would merely kick me.

For the first two weeks I spent in the Troubetskoy Bastion the only
attendants were men. The soldiers had the keys to the cells and the
complete freedom of the corridors. The first lot were men of the 3rd
Rifle Regiment of Petrograd, but within a few days some of them were
shifted and their places were taken by a miscellaneous force from one of
the most unruly of the mutinous reserves. Riots and fights between the
two bands became an almost daily occurrence and the nerves of the
prisoners were tortured by the yells and blows of the battle. My only
comfort, aside from the ten minutes’ respite of the exercise ground, was
in the wall-tapping between my cell and Mme. Soukhomlinoff’s. This had
developed into a regular code and we managed to carry on, by alternately
long and short taps, quite lucid conversations. Once to our fright the
Governor of the bastion, Chkoni, caught us at this forbidden game and
threatened us, if it happened again, with the dark cell, a place of
unknown horrors, as we knew, for we had listened to the groans and cries
of the former police chief Belezky while he suffered there. After the
warning of Chkoni Mme. Soukhomlinoff and I communicated with each other
only in the middle of the night when the snores of the soldiers in the
corridors guaranteed a degree of safety. Without these cautiously
tapped-out conversations I really do not know how I should have lived
and kept sane.

The cough which had been afflicting me grew worse rather than better and
the only relief that was offered me was a primitive kind of cupping
which did the cough no good but covered my chest with black and blue
bruises. Finally, at the request of the sanitary soldier who had done
the cupping, the prison doctor was sent for. This man, whose name was
Serebrianikoff, was one of the most dreadful persons I ever came in
contact with. He had a red, malicious face, his clothes and person were
revoltingly dirty, and to increase their effect he wore on his bulging
waistcoat a huge red bow, emblem of his revolutionary ardor. When he
came into my cell he literally tore the clothes from my back in a
pretended examination, then turning to the soldiers in the doorway he
shouted: “This woman is the worst of the whole lot; an absolute idiot
from a life of vice.” Slapping me on one cheek and then on the other, he
began to ask me questions which I cannot repeat here of my alleged
orgies with Rasputine, with Nicholas and “Alice” as he called the
Empress. Even the soldiers looked disgusted and I shuddered away from
him sick with repulsion. That night I was so far gone physically and
mentally that I could not answer Mme. Soukhomlinoff when she tapped on
the wall. All I could do was to cough and shiver and in an incoherent,
half mad fashion pray: “My God, my God, hast Thou forsaken me?”

The next morning the soldier who brought my hot water and bread thought
me dying and insisted in sending again for the unspeakable
Serebrianikoff, although I begged him not to. “Send a woman, I implore
you,” I whispered. But there was no woman to send, and the prison doctor
came instead. Declaring that I was merely shamming, this brute again
struck me in the face and left saying: “I’ll punish you for this.
There’ll be no exercise for you for two weeks after you think yourself
well enough to go out.” He kept his word, and for two weeks after I
ceased to be acutely ill I remained all day in my cell weeping for the
clean air and a sight of the blue sky. Little trickles of pale sunlight
were beginning to steal through my barred windows, the cold was less
intense and I knew that outside, in the world of freedom, the spring had
come.

One little bit of good news came at this time. Women wardresses had been
appointed to look after the special needs of the women prisoners. Two
attendants from a women’s prison were the first to arrive, but they were
so shocked at the conditions they found in the fortress that they
refused to stay. They were replaced by others, one a saucy young person
whose sole energies went into flirtations with the soldiers, and an
older woman with melancholy dark eyes and the best and kindest of
hearts. I cannot tell her name because if she is still alive and in
Russia she must be in the employ of the Bolsheviki. I will call her
simply the Woman. Her kindness to me I can never repay, but at least I
shall never forget it, especially since I knew that every kind act she
did was at her own personal risk. The Woman was on duty only until nine
o’clock at night and was never allowed to enter my cell alone. Yet she
often managed cleverly to follow slowly when she and the guard left the
cell, and she frequently dropped on the floor behind her little pieces
of sausage, chocolate, or bread nearly white. In the cell we dared not
talk, but when she took me to the bath house we exchanged whispered
conversations, and through her I got a little news of the exciting
events of the time. The Provisional Government was tottering and the
star of Kerensky was rising rapidly. The Imperial Family were still at
Tsarskoe Selo, prisoners but alive, and that knowledge gave me a new
impulse to live.

I must record one especially kind act my new friend did in my behalf.
Easter Sunday came, and sitting on my hard bed I ventured to sing softly
a verse or two of a well-remembered Easter hymn. On the Good Friday
preceding we had been allowed to leave our cells one by one under guard
and to confess to a good old priest, whose distress at our sorry plight
so moved him that he heard our confessions with great tears in his eyes.
Earnestly this old priest had begged Kerensky to allow him to visit
prisoners in their cells and do what he could for their comfort, but
Kerensky curtly refused.

I was thinking of him on this Easter morning. The soldiers had been
running through the corridors calling to one another, perhaps in jest,
perhaps as a matter of habit, the Russian greeting: “Kristos Voskrese,”
Christ is risen, to which the response is: “Voistino Voskrese,” He is
risen indeed. I could see that the soldiers had plates of the sugary
cheese which everybody eats at Easter and which some of the prisoners
received. Not I, because I was considered too wicked, too vile.
Nevertheless, because of the trickle of sunshine that stole through the
bars of my window, and because the old priest had really given me great
comfort, I began to sing. Instantly the soldiers outside commanded me
rudely to keep silent. It was too much. I laid my head down on the rags
that formed my pillow and began to cry miserably. Then my hand strayed
under the pillow, touching something. It was a little red Easter egg
left there by the Woman, to make me feel that even in that place I was
not entirely friendless. Never did a gift come as such a joyful
surprise. I hugged it to my heart, kissed it and thanked God.

I was not forsaken. Indeed the worst was already passed for me, for the
next day I was told that on every Friday after I was to receive a visit
from my parents, whom I had feared I was never to see again on earth.



CHAPTER XVII


Visitors in prison! Who but one who has spent days and nights of
anguished loneliness behind bolted doors can possibly imagine the joy of
such anticipation? I looked forward, almost as toward freedom itself, to
the first Friday when I should see my beloved parents. I pictured myself
running forward to embrace them, I could see my father’s kind and loving
smile, my mother’s blue eyes full of happy tears. How we would sit, hand
in hand, and talk over all that had happened since our parting! They
would bring me news, messages, perhaps even letters from those other
captives in Tsarskoe Selo. I should hear that the children were well
again and the Empress’s deepest anxieties were removed.

Alas! the harsh reality of my foolish dreams. When the day came I
limped, between armed soldiers, through the long, gray corridors to the
visitors’ room, and there at the end of a long wooden table which
divided us like an impassable gulf I saw my mother. There was no embrace
allowed, not even a touch of hands. My mother tried to smile, tried to
look at me with the love I craved, but in spite of herself her face
paled and an expression of horror congealed her features. I stood there
before her white with the pasty whiteness of prison, my uncombed,
unkempt hair hanging about my shoulders, my dress dirty and wrinkled
and an unhealed cut ploughing a bloody furrow across my forehead. To the
question she dared not ask I touched the ugly wound and told her it was
nothing, nothing. I could have told her that a soldier named Izotov, in
a fit of animal temper, had knocked me against the edge of the cell
door, and that the cut had received absolutely no attention since. Had
we been alone I should have wept the whole story out on her breast, but
we were not alone. Standing over us like inquisitors were the Procureur
of Petrograd and the terrible Chkoni, governor of the Troubetskoy
Bastion, and afterwards governor of the fortress itself. Ten minutes
only were allowed us, and at the end of eight fleeting minutes Chkoni,
watch in hand, roared out: “Two minutes left. Finish your talk.” But we
had no talk. Sobs choked our words, the few commonplace words that in
such circumstances can be spoken. We could only bid each other be brave
and trust in God’s mercy. We could but gaze and gaze at each other
through streaming tears. Then they separated us.

When the next Friday came I resolved to make myself a little more
presentable. I had no mirror but I begged the Woman to loan me a small,
cracked fragment. They had taken away all my toilet articles and every
single hairpin, but the Woman gave me two hairpins of her own and,
combing my hair with my fingers I arranged it more or less neatly. Every
day I washed and cared for the cut on my forehead and when the visiting
hour at last arrived I fancied that I looked rather more like myself.
This time the precious ten minutes were spent with my father, and
because he had been prepared in advance for the wretched object his
daughter had become our brief interview was less emotional than that of
the preceding Friday. Brave and erect my father held himself before
those brutal jailers, and my heart glowed with love and pride to see
him. We managed to exchange a few sentences and my father told me that
he had obtained permission to send me money to buy tea and a few other
comforts. He told me that he and my mother had waited three hours to see
me and because it had been ruled that they could not both be admitted on
the same day that my mother was standing close to the door of the next
room just to catch the faint sound of my voice. These words roused
Chkoni to a perfect fury. “So!” He fairly yelled. “But I’ll spoil that
game,” and rushing out he slammed the door between the two rooms. My
father flushed crimson but he spoke no word nor, of course, did I. A
single protest might have meant punishment for me, and for us all no
more visits.

I saw my father only three times, my mother a little oftener, as her
health was the better of the two. The money my father sent me did not
reach me except in very minute sums. By far the greater part of it was
kept by the jailers, and gambled away. Not satisfied with that, the men
warned my father that nothing except payment to the prison heads would
save me from death, or worse still from assault by the soldiers. My
father had long ago been deprived of his income, but he and my mother
sold some valuables and gave it to the blackmailers who wanted it only
for more gambling. Their sacrifice gave my parents a little peace of
mind, but it did not save me from three of the most horrible nights I
spent in the fortress. On each of these nights my cell was invaded by
drunken soldiers who threatened me with unspeakable things. On the first
occasion I simply groveled on the wet floor and prayed the man, in the
name of his mother and mine, to let me alone, and, drunk as he was, my
words actually penetrated his dark soul and shamed it. The next men were
less drunk but were far more bestial. At the sight of them I threw
myself against the wall and pounded frantically, screaming at the top of
my lungs. Mme. Soukhomlinoff heard and understood. She screamed too,
frightfully, and with all her might shook the heavy door of her cell.
This brought the guard and once more I was saved. The third time I was
so paralyzed with fright that I could not scream. I simply fell on my
knees, holding up my little ikon, and begged like a trapped animal. The
man hesitated a moment, spat on me contemptuously, and left. The next
day, half dead with shame and fear, I managed to tell the Woman all that
had passed. Indignantly she went to the Governor of the fortress, and
after that even I, “the worst woman in prison,” was spared the ultimate
insult.

Although we could not know it, things were gradually changing for the
better in the fortress. A little physical improvement was apparent. The
cold had lessened and in our short walks in the prison yard we could see
that lovely spring, with its fresh green leaves and springing flowers,
had come to stay. I remember one day seeing in the grass a little yellow
flower. It may have been a buttercup or a dandelion or something else
we ordinarily call weeds, but to my eyes it was an exquisite thing.
Audaciously I stooped and picked it, hiding it quickly in the bosom of
my dress. The next visiting day I showed it to my father and dropped it
on the table. On leaving the room he contrived to get hold of it and
after his death in 1918 I found it, carefully preserved among his
private papers. I never picked another flower in that prison yard,
although once I tried. But this time a guard caught me, and struck the
flower from my hand with the end of his rifle.

Things were improving under the surface, but aside from the welcome
change in the weather conditions seemed for a time no better. In the
cell adjoining that of Mme. Soukhomlinoff was my old friend General
Voyeikoff, who was tortured almost as pitilessly as myself. My heart
ached for him. In cell 69 was for some time the police detective
Manouiloff, but when he was removed to another prison the writer
Kolichko was placed in the cell. Kolichko, poor wretch, was so overcome
by his arrest and imprisonment that during the first nights he sobbed so
long and bitterly that I found it impossible to sleep. I was so unhappy
that I began to pray for death, and once I even resolved to end my life.
I had no weapon but a rusty needle which I had picked up and carefully
concealed, but I had heard somewhere that there was a spot at the base
of the brain which if punctured ever so little would cause death. Before
seeking that spot I felt that I must say adieu to my brave little friend
Mme. Soukhomlinoff, and so softly I rapped out a farewell message on the
wall. Her quick mind instantly divined my intention and without losing
any time she sent for the Woman and my rusty needle was taken away from
me.

It began to be sultry in the Troubetskoy Bastion and the air in the
cells became thick and foul. My small window, which looked out on a
narrow court and a high wall, admitted little light and no breeze at
all. I used to climb painfully up on the iron shelf which did duty for a
table and pressing my face close to the bars I breathed in all the air
possible. Instead of seeking the warm corner of my cell I now sat for
hours together with my body against the wettest and coldest stones. My
despondency increased every day, and I almost ceased to pray or to
believe that the universe held any God to whom the prayers of captives
could ascend. Yet all the time God was sending me help.

One day a soldier came to my cell and roughly bade me get up and go with
two guards for examination. Not knowing exactly what that meant, I rose
from my cot and followed the men to a room in the fortress where the
High Commission of Inquiry appointed by Kerensky was then in session.
Bewildered by the sudden transition from the bastion to a room full of
comfortable furniture, and almost blinded by the brilliant light and
sunshine, I had all I could do to answer their few inconsequential
questions. I have described this first examination in another chapter,
and I shall not repeat it here. It was so foolish that afterwards in my
hot and ill-smelling cell I actually found myself laughing, and it had
been a long time since I had laughed. Judge Roudneff, the only one of
the commission who showed himself fair-minded or even capable of just
judgment, was present at the inquiry, but I do not think he said a word.
Afterwards he was charged with full responsibility of my case, and I
appeared before him no less than fifteen times. At the close of the
first of these personal interviews I thanked Judge Roudneff warmly.
Astonished, he asked: “For what do you thank me?” And I answered: “For
the happiness of four whole hours of sitting in a room with a window,
and through it a glimpse of green trees.” He did not reply except with a
kind and sympathetic look, but I knew that his heart was touched, and
that he received a new conception of what life meant to a prisoner.

Better things still were to come. Without our being aware of it the
revolutionary mania had begun to subside a little and those men among
our guards who had once been clean and decent were now getting back to
their normal state of mind. Poor soldiers! Never let me forget that they
were not to blame for the torments they inflicted on me and other
prisoners. It was not they who invented the black calumnies that made me
seem a creature undeserving of mercy or any clemency. It was not they
who fashioned the cross on which I was crucified. The soldiers did only
what they were incited to do by men and women far above them, people who
conspired to crush me that they might crush the Empress. The soldiers I
forgive, but I cannot yet forgive those others. The fate of the Imperial
Family, the ruin of Russia, is on their souls. For what they did they
have never shown any penitence, but those rough soldiers in the fortress
repented and did what they could in atonement. One of the head guards
was a man, handsome in a rustic sort of fashion, who at first had
treated me with great insolence. One morning this man opened my door,
hesitated for a moment, and then said in a low voice: “I am very sorry
for you. Please take this,” and vanished. “This” was an apple and a
small piece of white bread. Another morning the soldier who brought my
breakfast spoke in a grumbling aside but loudly enough for me to hear:
“What idiocy to keep a poor sick woman in this place.” One night the
window in my cell door was pushed aside and in a trembling voice someone
begged me to give him my hand. Tears fell on it while the unseen friend
told me that he was a boy from Samara, and that it broke his heart to
see women caged like beasts in such holes. He must have had a good
mother, that boy. Perhaps they all had, for it became almost a habit for
men passing through my corridor to slip me bits of bread, sausage, or
sugar.

The most wonderful piece of good fortune came through the soldier in
charge of the prison library. This man visited my cell one day, and
after giving me a keen look which I could not understand he laid the
library catalogue on my cot and went out. I had little interest in the
dull books at our disposal, but when one sits hours in utter idleness he
makes occupation out of almost nothing. I opened the catalogue and
turned the leaves. To my astonishment out fell a folded paper.
Cautiously I opened it and read these words: “Dear Anushka, I am sorry
for you. If you have five rubles I can get a letter to your mother.” For
a long time after the incriminating paper had been destroyed I sat
trembling in doubt and foreboding. I had barely five rubles, and if I
gave them would they be gambled away? Was the letter a trap? Was it
merely an effort to get me into trouble? I did not know, but on a bit of
blank paper left in the catalogue I wrote with my stub of a pencil: “I
have suffered so much already that I cannot believe that you wish to do
me any more harm.” Folding the five rubles and the paper into a tiny
note, I tucked it into the catalogue and waited. After a while the
librarian returned, and this time I read in his silent gaze that he was
asking for my confidence. The next day he came back and again left the
catalogue on my bed. This time I seized it eagerly and shook its leaves.
A letter from my mother dropped out, a short letter, for she had been
given only a few minutes to write, but I read and reread it until I knew
every word by heart.

Then began a smuggled correspondence with my father and mother, they
gladly giving money to the men who risked their own liberty by carrying
the letters back and forth. The letters reached me in prison books, in
the sheets of my bed, under the tin basin which held my food, and once
even in a soldier’s sock dropped carelessly on the floor. In this sock
was concealed a note from Lili Dehn, free now and in correspondence with
the family at Tsarskoe Selo. There was a slip of paper enclosed with a
tiny white flower glued to it, and in the Empress’s handwriting: “God
keep you.” Another precious souvenir of the Empress sent me by my mother
was a little moonstone ring long ago given me at Tsarskoe. Tearing a rag
from the lining of my coat, I made a bag for this jewel, and begging a
safety pin from the Woman, I pinned it inside my dress. The poor
librarian. This was the last favor he ever did me, for falling under the
suspicion of the Governor, he was abruptly discharged. The letters,
however, had done me so much good that I was in every way better and
more cheerful. I felt in touch with the world again. I knew in a general
way what was going on, and though not all the news was pleasant it gave
me a sense of being alive and not altogether hopeless. I knew now what
tireless efforts were being made in my behalf, and I felt that in the
end something must come of them. My parents had done everything humanly
possible to move Kerensky but without any definite success. The first
appointment with him was made through his secretary Chalpern, and
although my parents were naturally exactly on time Kerensky kept them
waiting for two hours. When at last they were received my parents were
told that the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Rasputine, and Viroubova
were responsible for the Revolution and would have to suffer for it. My
parents had heard this before, but it was new to them to hear from
Kerensky that he knew that I had had a great many diamonds from the
Archbishop Pitirim and for that and other reasons nothing could be done
for me. Later he softened a little and ended the interview by promising
that my whole affair would be investigated. My parents then contrived an
interview with the minister of Justice, Pereverzeff. They made two
appointments in fact, for the first one Pereverzeff deliberately broke,
going out for the day while my parents sat waiting in an ante-room. The
next time my mother went to the Ministry she was received and was
civilly treated. Pereverzeff also promised that a fair investigation
would be made. By this time the Special Commission of Inquiry was
sitting and my mother managed to see the president, Mouravieff. She took
with her a letter from his brother to me before the abdication of the
Emperor. In this letter I was warned of plots against me and was advised
to leave the palace. I had replied to this letter, and my mother had a
copy of my reply. I had written that I would never leave the Empress. My
conscience was clean before God and man and I would remain to the end
where God had placed me. I was astonished that a soldier should advise
me to run away from a battlefield. Mouravieff who at first had been very
harsh, changed after reading the letters. He even asked my mother to
allow him to read them to the commission. They were significant, he
said. As soon as my case had been referred to Judge Roudneff he called
my parents to the Winter Palace, where he had his office, and talked
with them, asking a great many questions, for nearly four hours. In this
examination, for it was really that, my father and mother were allowed
for the first time to defend me, to make explanations of obscure
charges, to tell my life story to the man who was to judge me. No one
else gave them such an opportunity, not even the Georgian deputy
Cheidze, then very prominent in the Petrograd Soviet. Cheidze was kind
and said that he would do anything in his power to help me to get
justice, but I do not think he ever did anything. Members of the
Provisional Government, Rodzianko and Lvoff, to whom, while they were
still in power, my parents had written begging to be received, never
even replied to the letters.

One day, sitting in my cell and remembering what had been written me in
the smuggled letters, another wonderful thing happened. In the noon meal
of fish soup which I must eat or starve I found a large piece of really
decent meat. I ate it greedily, of course, and the next day I ate
another piece which had mysteriously arrived. I took the first
opportunity to ask the Woman where the food came from, and she told me
that it was a cook, a poor man whose duty it was to carry food to our
bastion. He too pitied me, she said, and she thought he might be willing
to run almost any risk for me. So almost at once I was again in
correspondence with my parents. This cook did more than carry letters,
the brave man. He brought me food, chocolates, clean clothes, linen,
stockings, and even a fresh frock. Growing bolder, he ventured regularly
to take away my soiled linen and to replace it with clean things. All
during those months in the fortress I had washed my linen and stockings
in cold water, without soap, and in the night had hung them up in the
warm corner on a hook improvised from a broken hairpin. Of course they
were never clean, nor even, when I put them on, very dry, and now they
were stiff with dirt. Can anyone imagine what it was to me to feel a
clean, soft, smooth chemise against my skin?

I am sure the cook could never have done so much for me had not the
guards closed their eyes to his activities. They were nearly all
friendly now, and used to talk with me through the window in my door.
In spring a number of pigeons flocked around the fortress and their
constant sobbing voices got on my nerves. I spoke of this to one soldier
who expressed surprise. “I was shut up here once,” he said, “under the
old Government, and I didn’t find the birds bad at all. I used to feed
them through the window.” “You had a window in your cell,” I exclaimed.
“Then it couldn’t have been as bad as this.” And he assured me that it
wasn’t as bad under the Autocracy as under the beneficent Provisional
Government and the Soviet. The prisoners had much better food and they
could exercise two hours a day in the open.

Another prisoner of the Tsar’s government, a non-commissioned officer
named Diki, who had been very harsh to me in the beginning, now showed
me kindness. Instead of robbing me, as of old, of every little
privilege, he began to allow me an extra five minutes or so in the
courtyard, he, too, saying that in the old days prisoners were better
treated. Another of the guards in the courtyards, a man whom I had
bitterly hated, and with cause, told the Woman that he wanted to speak
to me. Afterwards while walking he approached me and I looked into his
coarse face, deeply pitted with smallpox, and listened in fear at what
he might have to say. Stammeringly he told me that he had just returned
from a leave spent in his home in the Government of Saratoff. Visiting
his sister’s house, he was amazed to see, hanging under the ikon in the
corner of the room, a photograph of me. “What!” he had exclaimed. “Do
you have that shameless woman’s picture in your house?” Whereupon his
brother-in-law retorted: “Never dare to speak against her who was like
a mother to me for two years in Tsarskoe. I was in her own hospital in
the end, and it was like Heaven.” The brother-in-law had charged the
guard with all kinds of messages to me, telling him that they prayed for
me daily in his family and hoped for my release. “Forgive me for being
unjust to you,” said the poor soldier, and offered me his hand. This was
the first news I had of my hospital, and I learned with joy that the
Provisional Government had not closed it. Later I heard that the
Government had not only carried on my work but had added five new
buildings. None of my nurses or orderlies had left, though their openly
expressed faith in me might easily have secured their dismissal. Some of
the invalids had petitioned the Duma for my release, and another group,
indignant because a revolutionary newspaper declined to publish their
letter refuting the usual slanders about me, wanted to leave the
hospital long enough to blow up the office building! They were good at
heart, those misguided Russian soldiers, those poor ignorant children. I
know them, and whatever they have been forced to do in these years of
horror, I still believe them sound and good of soul. In the last days of
my imprisonment in Peter and Paul the guards did not even lock my cell
door. They used to linger and talk, and sometimes they brought paper and
pencils that I might make sketches of them to take home. I was rather
clever with a pencil in those days.



CHAPTER XVIII


The prison had changed, and except for an occasional riot or a fight
between two drinking soldiers, it was almost peaceful. For now there was
a man attached to the fortress, a man so brave and kind, and above all
so commanding that terrors fled before him--Dr. Ivan Manouchine. The
gratitude and respect with which I write his name cannot be expressed in
words. It was on the 23rd of April, the name day of the Empress, ever a
day of memories to me, that this good man came into the house of pain
where lay the prisoners of the Provisional Government. A few weeks
before this the soldiers, gradually recovering from their first
revolutionary blood lust, had begun to revolt against the needless
brutality of the prison doctor, Serebrianikoff, and had finally sent in
to the all powerful Kerensky a request for his demission. In those days
Kerensky, whose ambition to be at the head of the government was
maturing, made a special point of granting soldiers’ petitions, and he
really consented to replace Serebrianikoff with a physician of
reputation. From the point of view of the Duma Dr. Manouchine was
entirely a safe man to be appointed. He was a republican in politics,
and he conformed to the popular superstition of “dark forces”
surrounding the court. But what the Duma did not know about Dr.
Manouchine was that he had a heart of gold and a mind that was ruled
not by any political party but by principles of right and justice.

When the new prison doctor first came into my cell, accompanied by the
retiring man looking frightened and ill at ease, I was lying on my cot
in a mood of unusual rebellion. In a quiet, professional voice he asked
me how I felt, and when he examined my poor chest and saw it black and
blue and swollen from the clumsy cupping it had received, he frowned
with displeasure. He gave some quick directions for my relief and in a
gentle tone assured me that he intended to visit the bastion every day.
It was the first time in many long weeks that I had been spoken to by
the type of man we call a gentleman, and after the door closed behind
him something in my frozen heart seemed to melt like icicles in the sun.
Almost with the faith of childhood I fell on my knees and prayed, and
after that I lay down and slept for several hours.

Every day soon after the booming of the noonday gun he came and every
one among us stood up as close as possible to the cell doors, waiting to
catch the first sound of his voice as he came down the corridor. At
every door he stopped and asked the health of the prisoner. To him they
were not prisoners but patients, and he treated them with all the skill
and, above all, the courtesy he would have accorded the richest and most
powerful of his patients. He examined our food and pronounced it
entirely unsuited to our needs. He did not stop there, but in the end
succeeded in greatly improving the ration and supplementing it for the
sick with milk and eggs. How he did it in the Russia of those days I
cannot imagine. I only know that Dr. Manouchine had a will of steel,
and against that will and the staunch uprightness of his character
malice and fanaticism broke like waves against a rock. Little by little
Dr. Manouchine instituted other reforms. The prisoners now received at
least a part of the money furnished by their friends outside, and once a
week the non-commissioned officer Diki went through the prison answering
requests for such necessities as soap, tooth powder, and paper on which
petitions to the Governor of the fortress might be written. Often when a
prisoner lacked money to pay for these things the doctor supplied it out
of his own pocket.

Meanwhile my examinations under the stern but just commissioner Roudneff
were going on. Weary under the long and apparently pointless
inquisition, I asked Dr. Manouchine one day how much longer he thought
they intended to torment me. His reply was grave. “Not long, I think.
But before it is over you may have to undergo a still more trying
ordeal.” A few day later he came to my cell alone; that is, he
resolutely closed the door between us and his usual escort of soldiers,
and told me in his kindest manner that the Special Commission of Inquiry
had almost concluded that the charges against me were without
foundation. One more proof, however, was necessary, a physician’s sworn
statement that the hideous accusations of vice made by enemies of the
Emperor and Empress and their closest friends were false. Would I, for
my own sake, for the sake of the Imperial Family, submit to a medical
examination? Without at all knowing what was implied I gave an instant
but rather frightened consent to any examination he thought
necessary.... It was a terrible ordeal for a woman to live through. Most
of the questions asked me were of a nature which appalled me, and yet
were beyond my understanding. I cannot here repeat even the least of
them. I can only say that they opened up to me an abyss of wickedness
and sin which I had not dreamed existed in the human soul.... At the end
of an hour--or many hours--of trial, I lay on my bed, hands clasped over
my eyes, spent, exhausted, utterly incapable of speech. Up to the very
end Dr. Manouchine’s manner had been that of a physician, but now that
it was over it was a friend beyond anything human and sympathetic who
laid his hand on my quivering shoulder and said: “This clears you
absolutely. They will take my word for it.”

Towards the end of May, a hot and wearying season, the fortress was
visited by the head of the Provisional Government’s Commission of
Inquiry, a pompous man, yet in his cautious way, rather kindly. Pausing
before my cell, he told me that no crime had been fastened upon me and
that I might hope soon to be transferred to a better place. Hope gave me
new life momentarily, but as the days dragged on my hope gave way to
bitter unbelief. My health always since my arrest indifferent, now began
to decline and I could see that the doctor was seriously concerned for
me. He came to the prison only four times a week now, and what ages
seemed to elapse between his visits. All I had left of courage his voice
and ministrations gave me.

One hot June day I was aroused from my sick lethargy by the tramping of
heavy boots on the stones of the corridor. The heavy cell door swung
open and I saw a crowd of strange men, several of whom unceremoniously
invaded my cell and began an examination of my poor effects. Frightened,
I watched them as they disdainfully picked up and threw aside the few
rags a prisoner is allowed, but my fears were allayed when I saw in the
background the tall figure of the doctor. “Do not be afraid, Anna
Alexandrovna,” he said. “This is only a committee of revision of
prisoners.” Later I heard him say to the committee: “This woman may have
only a few days to live. If you are willing you may take on yourselves
the responsibility of her death. As a physician I refuse to do so.”

The next day he whispered to me that he was confident that I would be
taken away, but that my release might be delayed a little because of
renewed riots among the prison guards. He did not know where I was to be
taken, and I feared it would be the Women’s Prison, which the Woman had
told me was almost as bad as the Troubetskoy Bastion. But soon I was
relieved of that nightmare, for the doctor came again bringing me the
good news that I should probably be taken to the House of Detention in a
pleasant neighborhood on the other side of the river. In groups the
friendly soldiers came to say good-bye and to assure me that even should
the mutinous guards oppose my going they would see to it that I got
safely way. Days went by, sleepless nights, and still no order of
release arrived. I became almost hysterical with suspense. I gave way to
dreadful fits of weeping until even the doctor grew stern and bade me
control myself. I felt like a mouse under the teasing claws of a cat,
and control was difficult even after I learned that the doctor had
persuaded some members of the central committee of the Petrograd Soviet
to visit the fortress and to reason with the mutinous guards.

Almost the last day of June, at six in the evening, I was standing
barefooted and half dressed against the cool, wet wall of my cell
thinking of my mother who, the day before, had visited me. Her face was
brighter than usual and she had said to me: “The next time we meet it
may be in better circumstances.” At the moment my door opened and the
hated Chkoni appeared. “Well,” he said, with his usual sneer, “did you
have hysterics after seeing your mother?” “Certainly not,” I replied
coldly. “No?” he commented, “I thought you might because to-morrow or
the next day they may take you away.” I fell against the wall too
overcome to speak, too blind to see the hands of the guard pressing my
limp hand in congratulation. Tomorrow or next day! The words repeated
themselves in my brain countless times. But I was not even to wait until
to-morrow, though Chkoni evidently wished me to think so. I heard the
voice of the younger and less familiar wardress: “Dress yourself
quickly. The doctor is bringing a deputation from the Soviet.” I had
nothing to put on except my ragged shoes and a torn gray woolen jacket,
but these I rapidly seized while the wardress picked up and made a
bundle of my small belongings. On the opposite wall I heard brave Mme.
Soukhomlinoff rapping out a farewell message to which I responded as
well as I could. Then the deputation arrived, and the doctor. There was
some confused talk.... I cannot remember a word.... I felt myself
picked up and carried down the winding corridors. The great door of the
bastion rolled open and we passed out into the cool, delicious evening
air. There was a motor car into which I was lifted, another car into
which the doctor climbed, there were soldiers, some friendly, some
seemingly determined that the cars should not leave the courtyard. I
remember very little until we drove out of the gates and over the
Troizky Bridge. The wind, the brilliant twilight, the sight of water and
the blue sky, blinded me so that I had to cover my face with both hands.

Within a short time the cars stopped at the Detention House in the
Fourshkatskaia Ulitza, and I was carried into the office of the
commissioner. He was an officer, rather short in stature, but dignified
and efficient. Offering me his hand, he asked me if I would be seated
while he made out the necessary papers. I had time to see that the House
of Detention promised to be quite different from a prison. Indeed the
soldiers of this house would not even permit the entrance of the
fortress guards who had come with me. As if he divined that I was too
weak to walk upstairs the commissioner gave orders that I was to be
carried. It was into a large, light, clean room that they took me, and
at my exclamation of joy at sight of windows the soldiers laughed
heartily. But the doctor silenced them. “Go,” he said, “see that her
parents are telephoned, and send a woman to bathe and dress her.” His
own arms lifted me from the chair on which I half sat, half lay. On a
bed softer and cooler than even existed in my memory he laid me, said
good night, and gently left the room.



CHAPTER XIX


I spent a happy and peaceful month in the Detention House, the only
disturbing event being the so-called July Revolution, the first serious
attempt of Lenine’s party to seize the government. The Soviet already
transcended in power the old Provisional Government, most of whose
original members had by this time disappeared from politics. Kerensky
was premier, nominally, but only because a remnant of the Russian Army
still resisted the separate peace propaganda and remained on duty at the
front.

Persons in the Detention House were prisoners in the sense that they
were under guard and were not allowed to leave the house. The guards
were complacent, though, and visiting between the rooms was permitted. I
soon found that I was the only woman in the place, and that some of the
men there had suffered greater tortures than I. There were between
eighty and ninety officers, almost the last remnant of the garrison of
Kronstadt where in the first days of the Revolution the soldiers went
quite mad and murdered, in ways too horrible to relate, a great many
officers, and even young naval cadets against whom they could have had
no possible grudge. The officers in the Detention House were in a sad
state of body and mind. We talked together sometimes in the dining room,
and learning that they longed for the consolation of Holy Communion, I
remembered that my hospital in Tsarskoe Selo possessed a movable altar
and holy vessels. With the consent of Nadjaroff, commandant of the
Detention House, the altar and my own priest were brought from Tsarskoe
and the sacred ceremony was twice celebrated, the last time on July 29,
my birthday.

I ought to say of the commandant Nadjaroff that he was an excellent man,
kind to the prisoners, and conscientious in his work. The poor man had
one fatal weakness, gambling. So strong a hold had this vice on an
otherwise good man that when his money ran short he was not above
borrowing and even begging from the prisoners and their friends. It
seems almost too bad to record this blot on the character of a man who
was kind and courteous to me, but I am trying to give the psychology as
well as to portray the events of the Russian Revolution, and I must
emphasize the fact that it was the weakness and self-indulgence of the
people themselves that made the Revolution and its frightful aftermath
possible.

From my first day in the Detention House I began to recover my health
and my self-control. My windows were not barred, and through the open
casement I feasted my eyes on the beauty of grass and trees, on the
familiar little church of Sts. Kosma and Damian which stood almost
opposite, and, strangest of all to me, of people walking or driving
through the streets below. It took a few days for me to get used to a
normal state of life, and at first, when night grew near, I was seized
with such nervousness that they had to let a maid sleep in the room with
me. As the fresh air and sunshine began to bring color to my face and I
felt strength returning to my limbs I forgot my fears, and became
something like the woman I had been before I was caged like a beast in
the Fortress of Peter and Paul. Visitors were admitted both morning and
afternoon, and I had the happiness of talking privately with my father
and mother and with friends who still remained faithful. They brought me
clothes, toilet articles, books, flowers, writing materials, and, best
of all, news of what had happened during the months of my imprisonment.
I learned of the rapid disintegration of the army under the weak and
ineffectual Provisional Government, the tottering state of Kerensky’s
régime, and the threatening domination of the Soviets. What was in store
for Russia no one knew, happily for Russians. Of the fall of the Soviets
and the rise of Bolshevism no one yet had any premonition. The radical
element was already in control, and there was a great deal of
threatening talk of shooting the Emperor. However, the Imperial Family
was still alive and in Tsarskoe Selo, which was as much as I had dared
to hope.

Of the events of the July Revolution, the forerunner of the Bolshevist
triumph of November, 1917, I know rather less than others who were at
full liberty during that terrible week. It was about the 18th of the
month, a brilliant summer day, when I was startled by long-continued
shouting and bellowing of soldiers in a caserne not far from the house.
In great excitement the men were running in and out of the yard calling
on the _tovarishi_ to arm themselves and join the uprising. As if by
magic the streets filled with rough-looking people, singing wild songs,
waving their arms, and forming processions behind huge scarlet banners
on which I could read such inscriptions as “Down with the War!” “Down
with the Provisional Government!” An endless line of these paraders
passed and repassed, dirty, disorderly soldiers, equally dirty factory
workers, yelling like crazed animals. Once in a while a gray motor truck
would dash through the street, laden with shouting men and boys, rifles,
and machine guns. In the distance we could hear shots and the ripping
noise of the machine guns.

Of course we were all horribly frightened, especially the officers from
Kronstadt, who knew that in case of invasion not one of them would be
left alive. We were all advised to leave our rooms and take refuge in
the corridors, as at any time the rioters might begin firing through the
windows. But we were not out of danger even there because many of the
guards openly sympathized with the rioters, and the head guard was so
jubilant over the course of events that he went around boasting that he
was quite prepared to surrender the house and all its inmates at the
first demand of the Revolutionists. Some of the guards were better than
this man, and one of them, a wearer of the St. George cross, said that
in case of trouble he would try to get me to his sister’s house, where I
would be perfectly safe. For two nights nobody slept or even undressed.
In the room next to mine was lodged old General Belaieff, former War
Minister, whom imprisonment had left a sad wreck. He, like the other
officers, fully expected death, and I found myself in the novel rôle of
a cool and collected comforter. I, who

[Illustration: GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA, TATIANA, ANASTASIE, AND MARIE,
PRISONERS AT TSARSKOE SELO, 1917.]

[Illustration: ANNA VIROUBOVA.

A Photograph Taken Shortly after Her Release from the Fortress of Peter
and Paul, Petrograd.]

had lately been afraid to sleep in a room by myself, now went from one
old soldier to another urging them to keep up hope. The days passed, and
the firing came no nearer, and within a week troops summoned from the
front took possession of the city.

My examination under the High Commissioner Roudneff not being entirely
finished, he came once or twice to the Detention House bringing with him
on one occasion Korinsky, Procurator of Petrograd, a courteous
gentleman, who at parting expressed a hope that I would soon be free. A
few days later, August 5, if I remember correctly, M. Korinsky himself
telephoned that if my parents would call at his office they would be
given my warrant of release. Alas, my parents happened to be in Terioke
that day, but too impatient to wait until the morrow I telephoned my
uncle Lachkereff, who immediately hastened to the Procurator’s office
for the coveted warrant. Trembling with excitement, I stood at my window
with several of my good friends waiting the result of his errand. At six
o’clock we heard a drosky driven at great speed over the cobbles, and as
it came in sight we saw my uncle standing up and wildly waving the
papers in his hand. “Free!” he called out. “Anna Alexandrovna, you are
free!” The rest is confusion in my mind. There were laughter and sobs.
People kissed and embraced me. I was in the drosky driving through
Petrograd streets. I was in my uncle’s house. The tea table was spread.
It was like a dream.

After prison one gets used to freedom by slow degrees. It seems strange
at first to be allowed to move about freely, to go to church, to walk,
to drive, to go wherever one desires, through woods, along leafy
country roads. Not that I was entirely free to go where I liked. I could
not safely go to Tsarskoe Selo, even to my own house, which after my
arrest had been taken over by the police,, and not only ransacked for
evidence against me, but looted of every valuable. It was my faithful
old servant Berchik who gave me the details of the search. He, honest
soul, who had been forty-five years in the service of my family, was
offered ten thousand rubles if he would testify against the Empress and
myself. On his indignant refusal the police arrested him, while they
tore up the carpets and even the floors of my rooms, demanding of
Berchik the whereabouts of secret passages to the palace, the private
telegraph and telephone wires to Berlin, my hidden writing desks, and
all sorts of nonsense. Especially were they anxious to discover my wine
cellar, and when they found that I possessed none they were angry
indeed. They took possession of all the letters and papers they could
find, and at the end of the search ordered my cook to prepare them an
elaborate supper. Then they left taking with them the silverware.

If I could not visit Tsarskoe and those whom I loved and longed to see,
I could at least, and I did, hear from the Empress. Just before the
family were sent to their exile one of the maids smuggled out a letter
which reached me safely and which I quote here, suppressing only the
most intimate and affectionate passages.

     “I cannot write much,” the letter began, “my heart is too full. I
     love you, we love you, thank you, bless you, kiss the wound on your
     forehead.... I cannot find words.... I know what will be your
     anguish with this great distance between us. They do not tell us
     where we go (we shall learn only on the train), nor for how long,
     but we think it is where you were last” (Tobolsk). “Beloved, the
     misery of leaving! Everything packed up, empty rooms, such pain,
     the home of twenty-three years. Yet you have suffered far more.
     Farewell. Somehow let me know you received this. We prayed long
     before the Virgin of Znomenia, and I remembered the last time it
     was on your bed. My heart and soul are torn to go so far from home
     and from you. To be for months without news is terrible. But God is
     merciful. He won’t forsake you, and will bring us together again in
     sunny times. I fully believe it.”

With the letter the Empress sent me a box of my jewels which she had
carefully guarded, and I heard a fairly full account of how the summer
had been spent. For a time she and the Emperor had been kept apart,
being allowed to speak to each other only at table and in the presence
of guards. Revolutionary agents tried every possible means of
incriminating the Empress, whom they hated even more than the Emperor,
but finally failing in their efforts they allowed the family to be
together once more. The day after they were sent to Siberia the maid
visited me again with the story of their departure. Kerensky personally
arranged every detail, and intruded his presence for hours together on
the unhappy family. Under his orders everything was made ready for a
midnight journey but actually they did not leave the palace until six
o’clock in the morning. All night the prisoners sat in their traveling
clothes and wraps in the round hall of the palace. At five a courageous
servant brought them fresh tea, which gave them a little comfort,
especially Alexei, who stood the night badly. They drove away from the
palace with perfect serenity as if going on a holiday to Finland or the
Crimea. Even the Revolutionary newspapers, with grudging admiration, had
to admit this.

A day or two later Mr. Gibbs, Alexei’s English tutor, came to see me,
and he told me that although he was not permitted to accompany the
Imperial Family with the other tutors, M. Gilliard and M. Petroff, he
intended to follow them to Tobolsk. He took a photograph of me for the
Empress, who was anxious to see for herself if the long imprisonment had
impaired my health. As a matter of fact I was not very well just then,
as I had something very like jaundice, so I am afraid my photograph was
none too reassuring. At this time I was staying in the home of my
sister’s husband who was attached to the British Military Commission in
Petrograd. It was a cool and comfortable apartment, and I should have
been contented to stay on indefinitely. But one day my brother-in-law,
in deep embarrassment, showed me a letter from his sister, who was
expected on a visit. This lady expressed herself unwilling to live under
the same roof with a person as notorious as myself, and I, equally
unwilling to associate with her, moved back to my uncle’s hospitable
home. But even there I found no serenity. I had been acquitted of all
the crimes charged against me by the Provisional Government,[5] but now
the Government of Kerensky found new accusations to make of me. This
time I was a counter-Revolutionist, and as papers served on me in the
middle of the night of August 24 (Russian) ordered, I had to leave for
an unknown destination within twenty-four hours. As I was without money
and was really in need of a physician’s care, my relatives began at once
to petition every authority for a delay of at least twenty-four hours
more. This was finally allowed, but two soldiers were immediately placed
before my door and I was a prisoner in my uncle’s apartment. Meanwhile
my parents and friends continued to make every preparation for my
comfort in exile, and two of my hospital staff, the director and a
nurse, volunteered to go with me. The night before I left my poor
parents stayed with me, none of us going to bed. Very early on a rainy
morning two motor cars filled with police came for us. They were kind
enough to let my parents accompany me almost to the Finnish side, and
they explained that they had come so early because they feared street
demonstrations.

At the station we found a miscellaneous company of alleged
counter-Revolutionists including a few old acquaintances. Among these
was former detective Manouiloff, a tall officer named Groten, the
editor, Tanchevsky, and the curious little Siberian doctor Badmieff,
with his equally curious wife and child and a young maid named Erika
whom I came to know very well. Badmieff was the herb doctor who, it will
be remembered, was supposed to purvey the deadly poisons which I was
alleged to feed to the Tsarevitch. He was a small, round, shriveled man,
excessively old--over a hundred, they said--and in appearance resembled
a quaint carved Buddha out of an antiquarian shop. He had the smallest,
blackest eyes imaginable, set in a face yellow and wrinkled, and his
long, scraggly beard was as white as cotton. His wife, many years his
junior, and his funny little child, Aida, were as Mongolian in
appearance as himself. The maid, Erika, a girl of about eighteen, was
not uncomely with her bright eyes and short, curly hair. All the
“counter-Revolutionists” were herded together in one carriage, the one
farthest from the engine, and in charge of us was a Jewish official of
the Kerensky Government. At Terioke I parted with my father and mother,
the train moving on quickly to the Finnish town of Belieovstrov. Here we
were met by an enormous crowd of soldiers and working people, all
hostile, demanding to see the dangerous counter-Revolutionists.
Especially they demanded to see me, but I shrank back in my seat,
fearing every moment that the shower of stones against the carriage
would break the windows. But quickly the conductor’s whistle was blown
and the train moved beyond the reach of the mob.

Worse was to come. When we reached Rikimeaki we found waiting us a
larger and a still more furious crowd. Our carriage was unfastened from
the train and the mob rushed in yelling that we must all be given up and
killed. “Give us the Grand Dukes!” they shouted. “Give us Gourko!” I sat
with my face buried in the shoulder of my nursing sister fearing that my
end had come. My fears were not imaginary, for several ruffians pitched
on me shouting that they had found Gourko in women’s clothes.
Frantically the sister explained that I was not General Gourko but only
a woman ill and lame. Refusing to believe her, they demanded that I be
stripped, and I have no doubt that this would have happened had not a
motor car opportunely dashed up carrying a sailor deputation from the
Helsingfors Soviet. These men pushed their way into the carriage, and
without ceremony booted the invaders out. One man, a tall, slender youth
named Antonoff, made a speech at the top of his voice, commanding the
mob to disperse and to leave things in the hands of the Soviet. So
authoritatively did he speak that the crowd obeyed him and allowed our
carriage to be attached to another train bound for Helsingfors. Antonoff
remained with us, and in the friendliest fashion sat down beside me and
bade me to be of good cheer. He did not know why we had been sent away
from Petrograd, but the Soviet at Helsingfors, of which he was a member,
had received a telegram, he thought directly from Kerensky, saying that
we were being sent on, and when we arrived were to be placed under
arrest. Doubtless there would be explanations, and after that we would
surely be released. To my mind the thing seemed not quite so simple.
Kerensky had sent us from Petrograd, but not to be imprisoned in
Helsingfors. What he desired was that the mobs, notified of our arrival
from his office, would kill us before we ever reached Helsingfors at
all. No doubt he hoped at the same time to dispose of General Gourko and
the Grand Dukes left in Petrograd. But Gourko was too clever for
Kerensky, and made good his escape to Archangel, where he took refuge
with the British Occupational Force. As for the Grand Dukes, they were,
for some reason, at this time left undisturbed by the Revolutionists.

It was night when we reached Helsingfors and we found the station
practically deserted. The main body of the prisoners were taken away
into the darkness, but Antonoff said that I and the nurse should spend
the night in a hospital adjoining the station. We climbed several
flights of steep stairs and passed through wards crowded with
blue-gowned sick soldiers and sailors, not one of whom offered us the
slightest rudeness. A skilled Finnish nurse undressed me and put me to
bed, but unhappily not for long. Scarcely had I composed myself to sleep
when the door opened, the lights flashed up, and Antonoff, red and very
angry, entered the room. He had gone to the Soviet authorities,
confident that he could persuade them to let me remain in the hospital,
at least until word came from Petrograd of our exact status. But they
refused his request and ordered him to take me at once to the ship on
which the other prisoners were confined. There being no appeal I dressed
and limped down the long stairs to the street where a dense mob had
assembled, shouting, threatening, crowding dangerously around the motor
car. It is a horrible thing to hear a mob shrieking for one’s blood. One
feels like a cornered hare in the face of yelping hounds. With the
strength of desperation I clung to the arm of Antonoff, who for all I
knew might yield suddenly and throw me to the crowd. Unworthy thought,
for the man held me firmly, all the time demanding that the people give
room and let us reach the car. When they saw me in the car their fury
seemed to redouble. “Daughter of the Romanoffs,” they yelled, “how dare
she ride in a motor car? Let her get out and walk.” Standing up in the
car Antonoff repeated his commands that the mob disperse, and slowly at
first and then more rapidly we got away. We reached the distant water
front, and I was taken from the car to a ship. Picture my astonishment
when I found myself standing on the deck of the _Polar Star_, the light
and beautiful yacht on which I had so often sailed in Finnish waters
with the Imperial Family. With all the Imperial property the _Polar
Star_ had been confiscated by the Provisional Government, and it was but
another sign of the changing times that the yacht had later been taken
away from the Provisional Government and was now the property of the
Soviets, being the _Zentrobalt_, or headquarters of the Baltic fleet.

From the deck I was hurried past the open door of the main dining salon,
once a place of ceremony and good living, now a dingy, disordered
apartment where crowds of illiterate workmen gathered to dispose of the
rest of Russia’s ruined fleet and the future of our unhappy country.[6]
At least a hundred of these men were in the salon when I passed it
first, and during the five days I spent on the yacht their voices seemed
to go on in endless orations, ceaseless wrangling, twenty-four hours at
a stretch. It was like nothing I can describe, like an ill-disciplined
lunatic asylum. I was herded with the other “counter-Revolutionists” far
below decks in what I conjectured had been the stokers’ quarters. The
stifling little cabins were filthy, like all the rest of the yacht, and
they simply swarmed with vermin. It was so dark that night and day the
electric lights burned, and I was thankful for that because somehow the
bright light seemed to be a kind of protection against the swarm of
grimacing, obscene sailors who infested the place, amusing themselves
with discussions as to when and how we were likely to be killed. During
the whole of the first night Antonoff stood guard over us and warned the
sailors that no murder could be done without authority from the Soviet.
Over and over again they suggested that he leave the place, but he
always replied firmly that he was responsible for the prisoners and
could not go. Finally towards morning the sailors left, and afterwards
we learned that their blood lust towards us was not merely simulated.
They had gone directly from the yacht to the _Petropavlovsk_, the
flagship of the fleet, and had killed every one of the old officers left
on board.

Antonoff left us early in the morning, left us expecting to return, but
he never did return nor did we ever see or hear of him again. Such
sudden disappearances were common enough even in those early days of the
Russian Revolution, before murder became the fine art into which it has
since developed. Five days we remained on the _Polar Star_, very
miserable in our vermin-infested quarters below decks, but mercifully
allowed part of each day in the open air. They might have allowed us
longer time on deck had it not been for the hostile crowds that
constantly thronged the quays. My time was spent in the shelter of the
deckhouse near the main salon, a spot where in the old days the Empress
and I loved to sit with our books and work. Here five years before, when
the Empress Dowager visited the yacht, I had taken a photograph of her
with her arm around the shoulders of the Emperor, both smiling and
happy in the sparkling light of the fjord. Every corner of the yacht had
been exquisitely clean and white in those days. Dirty as the yacht’s
present crew appeared, I cannot say they starved their prisoners or were
cruel to them. We had soup, meat, bread, and tea, luxurious fare
compared to Peter and Paul. Our worst condition was suspense of mind as
to our ultimate fate. At every change of guard we begged news from
Petrograd, but always we received the same answer. The Kerensky
Government gave no reason or justification for our arrest. Two of the
sailors were especially friendly to me because, as they explained, they
came from Rojdestino, our family estate near Moscow. “If we had known
that you were going to be brought here,” they said, “we might have done
something. But now it is too late.” That night I found in my cabin a
tiny note, ill-spelled and badly written, warning me that all of us were
about to be transferred to the Fortress of Sveaborg in the Bay of
Helsingfors. “We are so sorry,” the note concluded. Although it was
unsigned, I knew the note must have been sent in kindness by one of the
men from my old home. But at the prospect of another imprisonment my
heart turned sick with dread.

Next evening came Ostrovsky, head of the Helsingfors Okhrana,
accompanied by several members of the main committee of the Soviet.
Ostrovsky was a very young man, scarcely eighteen I should judge, but he
had fierce eyes and all the assurance of a born leader. Turning to my
nurse, to Mme. Badmieff, Erika the maid, and her little Mongolian charge
Aida, he said roughly that they were free but that all the rest would
be taken at once to the fortress. In a sudden panic of alarm I threw
myself into the arms of my nursing sister and begged her to accompany
me. But she too was fear-stricken and drew back while all the men
laughed heartlessly. “What’s the difference?” asked Ostrovsky brutally.
“You’re all going to be shot anyhow.” At which the dauntless Erika,
putting Aida into her mother’s arms, came over to me and tucking her
hand under my arms said: “I’m not afraid. I’m going wherever the doctor
goes and I’ll stand by you both.” I gave the trembling nurse a small box
containing all the trinkets I had brought with me, gave her messages to
my father and mother, and followed my fellow unfortunates to the deck,
down a slippery gangplank to waiting motor boats on which we traveled
the half hour’s journey from the yacht to the fortress.



CHAPTER XX


Sveaborg before the War was one of three principal naval stations of the
Russian Empire, the other two being Kronstadt and Reval. Sveaborg
occupies a number of small islands in the Bay of Helsingfors. The bay
itself, shaped like a rather narrow half moon, is so enclosed by these
wooded islands that in winter the salt water freezes solidly. In summer
the islands are green and lovely and a few of them, not under military
control, are used by the Finns as pleasure resorts. Even in the darkness
and in the unfortuitous circumstances of our arrival I could see that
the main island might be a very attractive place. Up a steep hill we
panted, past a white church surrounded with trees, and at last reached
the place of our confinement, a long, dingy, one-storied stronghold. A
young officer and several very dirty soldiers took our records, and
Erika and I were pushed into a small cell with two wooden bunks covered
with dust and alas, nothing else. The place smelled as only old prisons
do smell, and the only air came in through a small window high in one of
the walls. Wrapping ourselves in our coats, we lay down on the hard
planks and tried to sleep. In the early dawn we got up, our backs aching
and our throats choked with dust, but the irrepressible Erika laughed so
heartily and sneezed so comically that I found it impossible to lament
our surroundings. The place was a dreadful hole just the same, no
proper toilet facilities at hand, and of course no opportunity of
washing, to say nothing of bathing. We had to pay for our food at the
rate of about ten rubles a day, at that time no small amount of money.
The food was not very bad except that Stepan, the commissary, used to
wipe our plates with a disgustingly dirty towel which he wore around his
neck, the same towel being used in a laudable attempt to wipe the dust
from our bunks.

Climbing on the bunks, we had a view through the window of a new
building going up, the workmen being women as well as men. At the same
time we got a glimpse of the detective Manouiloff who, ever pessimistic,
held up three fingers as an expression of his belief that we had only
that many days to live. We, however, ventured the guess that we would
not remain at Sveaborg more than a month. It was a mere hazard but it
turned out a fortunate one. We remained just about a month. It was a
queer life we lived during that month, surrounded by tipsy and
irresponsible men whose officers seemed to fear them too much to insist
upon discipline. The officers, especially one fine young man, did
everything they dared to make us comfortable. After the first ten days
our plank beds were furnished with green leather cushions which might
have made sleep a comfort if they had not persisted in slipping from
under us about as soon as we dozed off. Somewhat later, a week perhaps
before our liberation, these cushions were replaced by real mattresses
stuffed with seaweed, wonderfully luxurious by comparison with the bare
boards. The prisoners were exercised every day in the open under
Sveaborg guards and the gaze of a crowd of Finnish Bolshevists. These
people seemed at first immensely diverted by the pomposity of the
Siberian doctor Badmieff who, in his long white robe, tall cap, and
white gloves was certainly a curious spectacle. Soon they tired of him
and turned their stolid, expressionless eyes on the other prisoners with
what intentions we could only conjecture. Badmieff continued to be a
center of interest in the prison. Erika, his faithful disciple, demanded
the privilege of attending him, and this was granted. Every day he sat
cross-legged like the Buddha he so much resembled, dictating endless
medical treatises to Erika. In the evenings he used to put his lamp on
the floor at the foot of his bunk, strew around it flowers and leaves
brought from outside, burn some kind of ill-smelling herbs for incense,
and generally create what I assumed to be the occult atmosphere of his
beloved Thibet. Erika, scantily clad, always attended these séances and
gradually they appeared to hypnotize the sailors, who thought highly of
the doctor’s professional powers. Indeed towards the end I often heard
them swearing that whoever left the fortress, they would at least keep
their highly esteemed _tovarish_ Badmieff and his Siberian-Thibetan
lore.

In sad contrast to the condition of Dr. Badmieff was that of the poor
editor, Glinka Janchevsky, who being without money was treated with the
utmost contempt. Housed in a wretched cell covered with obscene
drawings, the miserable man spent most of his time lying on his wooden
bed wrapped up, head and all, in his overcoat. He used to creep to our
cell door with a glass of hot water in his hand begging for a pinch of
tea and, if we had it, a little sugar. Every day he used to ask
pathetically: “When do you think we shall be let go?” Like all
journalists, he was famished for news, and whenever I got hold of a
stray newspaper I used to read it to him from the first column to the
last.

The vacillating conduct of the Bolshevist sailors toward the prisoners
of Kerensky I can only ascribe to the increasingly bitter conflict going
on between the weak Provisional Government and the Bolsheviki. The
sailors hated us because we were “bourgeois,” but they spared us because
Kerensky desired our destruction. The officers good-naturedly brought me
flowers from outside, an occasional newspaper, and even letters from
people in Helsingfors who knew my history and pitied my fate. Sometimes
I was even invited to tea with the officers, and twice I was taken out
of prison, ostensibly for examination, but really to attend services at
the little white church on the island. The guards were rough and kind by
turns, sometimes uttering horrible threats against all the prisoners,
sometimes bringing me a handful of the wild flowers they knew I loved to
have near me. Discipline was lax, and we never knew from one day to
another what might befall. For example, the padlock to my cell got lost
and for several nights the door was left unlocked. One can imagine how I
slept! On one of these unguarded nights the cell was invaded by a group
of drunken and lustful men. Erika and I fought them, screaming at the
top of our lungs, until a few sober and better-minded sailors came to
the rescue. A day or two later, when a rumor spread that we were all to
be hanged, I among the first, I for one felt less terror than relief.
Anything, even hanging, seemed better than this lunatic prison where
the guards drank, played cards, and wrangled all night, and where the
men’s attitude towards Erika and myself, the only women, was by turns
dangerously savage and dangerously friendly.

Besides the Kerensky prisoners the fortress sheltered eight or nine
prisoners charged with crimes ranging from theft to murder. Some of
these whom we encountered in the exercise yard looked like very decent
men, shining perhaps by contrast with the rowdy Revolutionists I had
seen in the course of two imprisonments. For these unfortunates and for
the guards we bought cigarettes, thus establishing more cordial
relations. Nobody knew or could guess what was going to happen to us.
One day appeared the president of the Helsingfors Soviet, a black-eyed
Jew named Sheiman, who assured us that we were to be sent back to
Petrograd, and that we might as well have our things ready by nine
o’clock that night. Nothing happened that night, nor did we, for some
reason, expect anything. The next day Sheiman came again with his
bodyguard of soldiers and sailors, and told us that his Soviet refused
for a time to release us. It appeared that telegrams had arrived from
Kerensky and from Cheidze, the Georgian leader in the Petrograd Soviet,
urgently demanding our return. The Helsingfors Soviet might have obliged
Cheidze, but they would not honor any demand of Kerensky’s, so there we
were. The Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet sent over
several deputies, Kaplan, a small, black-bearded man, who smilingly told
us that there was no possible hope for us; Sokoloff, the famous, or
rather infamous, author in the first instance of Order No. 1 which was
principally responsible for the break-up of the army; and Joffe, the
little Jew, who, a few years later, became influential enough to be
included among the delegates to the Genoa Conference. After their visit,
I don’t know why, prison discipline became still further relaxed. We had
visitors and the attention of physicians if we needed it. We were
informed that henceforth we would not be regarded as prisoners at all,
but only as persons temporarily detained. Two hours a day after this we
were allowed in the open air, and I became very friendly with the
Finnish women carpenters at work on the new building on our island.
These good souls brought me bottles of delicious milk, and one day the
building foreman, a Moscow Russian, invited me to his house to tea, and
here I, a poor prisoner, was treated with such deference that I was
actually embarrassed. Not one of the family would eat with me or even
sit down in my presence.

At this time Erika and I were given a more commodious cell furnished
with the seaweed mattresses of which I have spoken. But to our horror we
found the walls covered with the most frightful scrawls and pictures.
The sailor guards, however, brought water and sponges and with many
apologies washed off the disgusting records as well as they could. I was
thankful for this a few days later when all unexpectedly I received a
visit from my dear mother. It had been some days after our parting at
the frontier before she and my father learned that I was in prison.
Immediately they had gone to Helsingfors to appeal to General
Stachovitch, the Governor of Finland. But he advised them to avoid
trouble for themselves, perhaps for me also, by going quietly back to
Petrograd. My parents gave him money for me, which I never received, and
despite the Governor’s advice they stayed on in Helsingfors in faint
hope of seeing me. Dr. Manouchine, my mother told me, had returned from
a long visit in the Caucasus and was doing what he could to get me
released. My mother also gave me news of the last struggle to maintain
the army, the conflict between Korniloff and Kerensky, ending, as
everyone knows, in the death of Korniloff. These two were about equally
hated by the Sveaborg sailors who would gladly have murdered them both.
They had begun to speak with unbounded admiration of Lenine and Trotzky,
especially of Lenine, who they declared was the coming saviour of
Russia.

Bolshevism was in the air, and for a moment it assumed a really
benevolent aspect. I remember a deputation of Kronstadt Bolshevists who
came to Sveaborg to inspect us and to review our entire case. Some of
these men were very civil to me, asking many questions about the
Imperial Family and the life of the Court. At parting one said to me
naïvely: “You are quite different from what I thought you’d be, and I
shall tell the comrades so.” The very next day another deputation came
and, characteristic of the confused state of the public mind, these men
were as brutal as the others had been kind. They stormed down the prison
corridors roaring: “Where is Viroubova? Show us Viroubova!” I cowered in
my cell, but when the guard came and admonished me, for my own safety,
to show myself to the men I gathered courage to speak to them. Totally
unprepared to see the terrible Viroubova merely a crippled woman in a
shabby frock, the men suddenly quieted down and made civil response to
my words. “We didn’t know that you were ill,” said one of the men as
they prepared to move on.

Although we did not know it at the time, our fate really hung on the
outcome of a Congress of Soviets which was then being held in Petrograd,
and to which both Sheiman and Ostrovsky were delegates. Sheiman returned
to Helsingfors and visiting my cell told me that both Trotzky and
Lounacharsky were insistent on the release of Kerensky’s prisoners. That
evening, he said, would be held a secret session of the executives of
the Helsingfors Soviet at which he would urge the recommendation of
Trotzky and Lounacharsky. If the executives agreed the question would
then be referred to the entire Soviet, made up principally of sailors of
the old Baltic fleet. That evening I was invited to tea in the officers’
quarters, and while sitting there the telephone rang. “It is for you,”
said the officer who answered the call. I picked up the receiver and
heard Sheiman’s voice saying briefly: “The executive has voted
unanimously for the release of the prisoners.”

There was little sleep for me that night, but tired as I was by morning,
I greeted happily the unkempt cook and his messy breakfast plate. All
day I waited with the dumb patience only prisoners know, and at early
evening I was rewarded by the appearance of Sheiman and Ostrovsky. “Put
on your coat and follow me,” said Sheiman. “I have resolved to take you,
on my own responsibility, to the hospital.” To my nursing sister, who
had spent the afternoon with me, he gave orders to go to Helsingfors and
wait for further directions. At the prison gate Sheiman signed the
necessary papers, and hurrying me past two gaping Bolshevist soldiers,
he led the way down a bypath to the water. Boarding a small motor launch
manned by a single sailor, we started off at high speed for Helsingfors.
There was one bad moment when we approached a low bridge occupied by a
strong guard, but at Sheiman’s directions, uttered in a short whisper, I
lay down flat in the launch and we passed unchallenged. The first stars
were shining in the clear autumn sky as we reached the military quay of
the town. We ran in under the lee of a huge warship and stepped ashore.
There was a motor car waiting and the chauffeur, who evidently knew his
business, started his engine without a word or even a turn of his head.

Sheiman spoke only one sentence. “Tovarish Nicholai, drive to--” naming
a street and number. At once we were off, my head fairly swimming at the
sight of electric lights, shaded streets, and people walking up and
down. Turning into a quiet street we left the car, all three of us
shaking hands with the discreet driver. Bidding Ostrovsky find my nurse
and my small luggage, Sheiman conducted me to the door of the hospital
where a nice clean Finnish nurse took me in charge and put me to bed in
one of the freshest, airiest, most comfortable rooms I have ever
occupied. “Take good care of this lady,” were the last words of the
President of the Helsingfors Soviet, “and let no one intrude on her.”
His words and the assured smile of the nurse were good soporifics and I
fell almost instantly into a deep sleep.

Two days later, September 30 (Russian), Sheiman came to see me with the
news that Trotzky had ordered all the Kerensky prisoners back to
Petrograd, and that he, Sheiman, had personally seen to it that my nurse
and my aunt, who was at that time in Helsingfors, were to accompany me.
Sheiman himself, and also Ostrovsky, who was unfortunately very drunk,
went with us in the train which left Helsingfors that same night about
half past ten. It was an unpleasant journey, the prisoners being in a
state of wild excitement, and many of the red-badged officers more or
less tipsy. With my aunt and the nurse I sat in a corner of a dirty
compartment praying for the day to come. At nine in the morning we
reached Petrograd, and Sheiman, still solicitous of my welfare, escorted
the three of us to the Smolny Institute, once an aristocratic school for
girls, now the headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet. Here I had the
happiness once more to embrace my mother, who, with relatives of other
prisoners, waited our arrival. Many Soviet authorities were in the
place, among others Kameneff, a small red-bearded man, and his wife, a
sister of the renowned Trotzky. Both of the Kameneffs were extremely
kind to us, seeing that my companions and I had tea and food, and
expressing the hope that I should soon be out of trouble. Kameneff
telephoned Kerensky’s headquarters asking leave to send us home, but as
it was a holiday nobody answered the call. “Well, go home anyhow,” said
Kameneff, leaving the telephone, but Sokolov stopped us long enough to
make us understand that the prisoners all had to appear the next day
before the High Commission in the Winter Palace. I never saw the
Kameneffs again even to thank them for their kindness, but I read in the
Kerensky newspapers that I was on terms of intimacy with them and was
therefore a Bolshevist. It was even stated that I was a close friend of
the afterwards notorious woman commissar Kolantai, whom I have never
seen, and that Trotzky was a familiar visitor in my house.

Thus ended my second term of imprisonment. First I was arrested as a
German spy and intrigant, next as a counter-Revolutionary. Now I was
accused of being a Bolshevist and the name of Trotzky instead of
Rasputine was linked with mine. Hardly knowing what next was in store
for me, I reported at once to the High Commission. Here I was told that
their inquiries concerning me were finished, and that I had better see
the Minister of the Interior. At this ministry I was informed that I was
in no immediate danger but that I would remain under police
surveillance. I asked why, but got no satisfactory answer. Later I
learned that the tottering Provisional Government wanted to send me and
all the “counter-Revolutionists” to Archangel, but this move Dr.
Manouchine, who was still very influential, was determined to prevent.

From my uncle’s house, where I had first taken refuge, I moved to a
discreet lodging in the heart of the city and from this place I never
once in daylight ventured out. This was in late October, 1917, and the
Bolshevist revolution had begun in deadly earnest. Day after day I sat
listening to the sound of rifle shots and the putter of machine guns,
the pounding of armored cars over the stone pavements, and the tramp,
tramp, tramp of soldiers. Russia was getting ready for the long promised
constitutional convention which turned out to be a Communist _coup
d’état_. Once in a while the husband of my landlady, a naval man, came
to my lodgings, and it was he who gave me news of the arrest of the
Provisional Government, the siege of the Winter Palace, and the
ignominious collapse of Kerensky while women soldiers fought and died to
hide his flight! The scenes in the streets, as they were described to
me, were appalling, and soon it was decided that my retreat was too near
the center of hostilities to be at all safe. About the end of October I
was taken by night to a distant quarter of the town to the tiny
apartment of an old woman, formerly a masseuse in my hospital. Here came
our old servant Berchik, keen to protect me from danger, and here we
stayed for a month, when my mother found me a still safer lodging on the
sixth floor of a house in the Fourtchkatskaia, a cozy little apartment
whose windows gave a pleasant view of roofs and church steeples. There
for eight months I lived like a recluse, once in a great while venturing
to go to church, well guarded by Berchik and the nurse. The Bolshevik
Government seemed successfully established, and its policy of blood and
terror and extermination was well under way. Yet in my hidden retreat it
seemed to me that, for a time at least, I was forgotten, and my troubles
were all over.



CHAPTER XXI


Paradoxical though it may appear, the last months of 1917 and the winter
of 1918, spent in a hidden lodging in turbulent Petrograd, were more
peaceful than any period I had known since the Revolution began. I knew
that the city and the country were in the hands of fanatic Bolshevists
and that under their ruthless theory of government no human life was at
all secure. Food and fuel were scarce and dear, and there was no doubt
that things were destined to grow worse long before they could, in any
imaginable circumstances, grow better. The wreck of the army was
complete, and while the war still waged in western Europe we, who had
had so much to do with defiance of German militarism, were completely
out of the final struggle. The peace of my soul was partly born of
ignorance, I suppose, the ignorance of events shared by everyone not
immediately in contact with the world catastrophe. I was free, I lived
in a comfortable apartment, my dear father and mother came daily to see
me, and two of my faithful old servants lived with me and were ready to
protect me from all enemies.

Also, because the mind cannot fully realize the worst, I believed that
the Russian chaos was a temporary manifestation. I thought I saw signs
of a reaction in favor of the exiled Emperor. In this I was certainly
encouraged by two of the oldest and most prominent Revolutionists known
to the outside world, Bourtseff, a leader among the old Social
Revolutionaries, and the novelist Gorky. It was in December, 1917, if I
remember correctly, that I learned that Gorky was anxious to meet me,
and as I preferred to keep my small corner of safety as free from
visitors as possible, I made an appointment with the novelist in his own
home, a modest apartment on the Petrograd side of the Neva, not far from
the fortress. Gorky, whose gaunt features are familiar to all readers,
is said to be a sufferer from tuberculosis, but as he has lived many
years since the first rumors of this disease were circulated, there may
be some reason to doubt his affliction. That he is a sick man none can
doubt, for his high cheek bones seem almost to pierce his colorless skin
and his darkly luminous eyes are deeply sunken in his head. For two
hours of this first interview I sat in conversation with Gorky, strange
creature, who at times seems to be heart and soul a Bolshevist and at
other times openly expresses his loathing and disgust of their insane
and destructive policies. To me Gorky was gentle and sympathetic, and
what he said about the Emperor and Empress filled my heart with
encouragement and hope. They were, he declared, the poor scapegoats of
the Revolution, martyrs to the fanaticism of the time. He had examined
with care the private apartments of the palace and he saw clearly that
these unhappy ones were not even what are called aristocrats, but merely
a bourgeois family devoted to each other and to their children, as well
as to their ideals of righteous living. He expressed himself as bitterly
disappointed in the Revolution and in the character of the Russian
proletariat. Earnestly he advised me to live as quietly as possible,
never reminding the Bolshevist authorities or any strangers of my
existence. My duty, he told me, was to live and to devote myself to
writing the true story of the lives of the Emperor and Empress. “You owe
this to Russia,” he said, “for what you can write may help to bring
peace between the Emperor and the people.”

Twice afterwards I saw and talked with Gorky, showing him a few pages of
my reminiscences. He urged me to go on writing, suppressing nothing of
the truth, and he even offered to help me with my work. But writing in
Russia was at that time too dangerous a trade to be followed with any
degree of confidence, and it was not until I was safely beyond the
frontiers that I dared begin writing freely and at length. I wish to
say, however, that it was principally due to Gorky’s encouragement and
to the encouragement of an American literary friend, Rheta Childe Dorr,
that I ventured to attempt authorship, or rather that I undertook to
present to the world, as they really were, my Sovereigns and my best
beloved friends. My casual acquaintanceship with Gorky was naturally
seized upon by certain foreign journalists as evidence that I had gone
over to the Bolsheviki, and much abuse and scorn were hurled against me.
How little those writers knew of Gorky and his half-hearted support of
the Lenine policies! He held an important office under the Communists,
it is true, and his wife, a former actress, was in the commissariat of
theatricals and entertainments. But no man in Bolshevist Russia has ever
been permitted more freedom of thought and speech than Gorky. He has
done things which would have brought almost any other man to torture
and death. I know, for example, that he sheltered under his roof at
least one of the Romanoffs, and that the man was finally assisted by him
across the Finnish frontier. Gorky interested himself also in the fate
of several of the Grand Dukes, Nicholai Michailovitch, Paul and George,
who were arrested and later shot to death in Peter and Paul. Gorky did
everything in his power to save these men, in whom personally he had no
interest whatever. He simply believed their murder to be unjustified,
and it is said that he actually induced Lenine to sign an order for
their release and deportation, but the order was signed too late, and
the men were brutally executed.

At Christmas, 1917, I had a great happiness, nothing less than letters
and a parcel of food from the exiles in Tobolsk. There were two parcels
in fact, one containing flour, sugar, macaroni, and sausage, wonderful
luxuries, and the other a pair of stockings knit by the Empress’s own
hands, a warm scarf, and some pretty Christmas cards illuminated in her
well-remembered style. I made myself a tiny Christmas tree decorated
with bits of tinsel and holly berries and hung with these precious
tokens of affection and remembrance. Nor was this the only Christmas joy
vouchsafed me after a year of sorrow and suffering. Under the escort of
my good old servant Berchik I ventured to attend mass in the big church
near the Nicholai station, a church built to commemorate the three
hundredth anniversary of the Romanoff succession. After the service an
old monk approached me and invited me to accompany him into the
_réfectoire_ of his monastery. I followed him, a little unwillingly,
for one never knew what might happen. Entering I saw, to my
astonishment, about two hundred factory women who almost filled the bare
and lofty room. The old monk introduced me to the women, and to my
bewilderment their leader came forward bowing, and holding in her
outstretched hands a clean white towel on which reposed a silver ikon.
It was an image of Our Lady of Unexpected Joy, and the kind woman told
me that she and her fellow workers felt that after all that I had
unjustly suffered in the fortress I ought to have from those who
sympathized with me an expression of confidence and good-will. She added
that were I again in trouble I might feel myself free to take refuge in
the lodgings of any one of them. Overcome with emotion, I could utter
only a few stammering words of thanks. I kissed the good woman heartily,
and all who could approached and embraced me. Knowing that I longed for
more tangible expressions of gratitude, the good old monk pressed into
my hands a number of sacred pictures and these I gave away, as long as
they lasted, to my new friends. No words can tell how deeply I felt the
kindness of these working women who, out of their scanty wages, bought a
silver ikon to give to a woman of whom they knew nothing except that she
had, as they believed, been persecuted for others’ sake.

I needed the assurance that in the cruel world around me there were
those who wished me well, for in the first months of the new year came
one of the bitterest sorrows of my life, the death of my deeply loved
and revered father. He died very suddenly, and without any pain, on
January 25, 1918, leaving the world bereft of one of the kindest, most
gifted, and sympathetic men of his generation in Russia. I have
described my father as a musician and a composer, as well as a lifelong
friend and functionary of the Imperial Family. His years of service as
keeper of the privy purse might have made him a rich man, but so utterly
honest was he that he accepted nothing except his moderate salary and he
died leaving almost nothing, nothing but an unfading memory and the deep
affection of my friends, including scores of poor students whose musical
education and advancement he had furthered. At his funeral his own
compositions were sung by volunteer choirs of his musician friends, and
these followed his coffin in long procession the length of the Nevski
Prospekt to the cemetery of the Alexandra Nevskaia Lavra, a monastic
burial place where many of our greatest lie in everlasting repose. My
mother came to live with me in my obscure lodgings, and together we
faced our desolate future.

One thing alone lightened the darkness of those days. This was a
correspondence daringly undertaken with my beloved friends in Siberia.
Even now, and at this distance from Russia I cannot divulge the names of
those brave and devoted ones who smuggled the letters and parcels to and
from the house in Tobolsk, and got them to me and to the small group of
faithful men and women in Petrograd. The two chiefly concerned, a man
and a woman, of course lived in constant peril of discovery and death.
Yet they gladly risked their lives that their Sovereigns might have the
happiness of private communication with their friends. At this time
their Majesties were permitted to write and receive a few letters, but
every line was read by their jailers, and their list of correspondents
was rigidly censored. Even in the letters smuggled out from Tobolsk the
utmost precautions had to be observed, and the reader can see with what
veiled and discreet phrases the sentences are couched.

I give these letters exactly as they were written, suppressing only
certain messages of affection too intimate to make public. Most of the
letters were written by the Empress, but one at least came from the
Emperor, and a number are from the children. To me these letters are
infinitely precious, not only as personal messages, but as proofs of the
dauntless courage and deep religious faith of these martyrs of the
Russian Revolution. Their patriotism and their love of country never
faltered for a single moment, nor did they ever utter a complaint or a
reproach against those who had so heartlessly betrayed them. It seems to
me impossible that anyone, reading these letters, intended only for my
own eyes, can continue to misjudge the lives and the characters of
Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. What they reveal is
their secret selves, unknown except to those who knew them best and
knowing them loved them as they deserved to be loved.

The first communication to reach me was a brief message from the
Empress, dated October 14, 1917, a short time after the news of my
liberation from the fortress reached her in Siberia.

     My darling: We are thinking constantly of you and of all the
     suffering you have had to endure. God help you in the future. How
     are your weak heart and your poor legs? We hope to go to Communion
     as usual if we are to be allowed. Lessons have begun again with
     Mr. Gibbs also. So glad, at last. We are all well. It is
     beautifully sunny. I sit behind this wall in the yard and work.
     Greetings to the doctors, the priest, and the nurses in your
     hospital. I kiss you and pray God to keep you.

A week later the Empress wrote me a long letter in which she ventures a
few details of life in Tobolsk.

October 21, 1917.

     My darling: I was inexpressibly glad to get news of you, and I kiss
     you fondly for all your loving thoughts of me. There are no real
     barriers between souls who really understand each other, but still
     it is natural for hearts to crave expressions of love. I wrote to
     you on the 14th, and now will try to send this to the same address,
     but I don’t know how long you will remain. I wonder if you got my
     letter. I had hoped so much that you would see Zina and find
     comfort in her friendship. The expression in the eyes in the
     photograph which was brought me[7] has impressed me deeply, and I
     wept freely as I looked at it. Ah, God! Still He is merciful and
     will never forget His own. Great will be their reward in Heaven.
     The more we suffer here the fairer it will be on that other shore
     where so many dear ones await us. How are our Friend’s[8] dear
     children, how well does the boy learn, and where do they live?

     Dear little Owl, I kiss you tenderly. You are in all our hearts. We
     pray for you and often talk of you. In God’s hands lie all things.
     From this great distance it is a difficult thing to help and
     comfort a loved one who is suffering. We hope tomorrow to go to
     Holy Communion, but neither today nor yesterday were we allowed to
     go to church. We have had services at home, last night prayers for
     the dead, tonight confession and evening prayer. You are ever with
     us, a kindred soul. How many things I long to say and to ask of
     you. It is strange to be in this house and to sleep in the dark
     bedroom.[9] I have heard nothing from Lili D. for some time. We are
     all well. I have been suffering from neuralgia in the head but now
     Dr. Kostritzky has come to treat me. We have spoken often of you.

     They say that life in the Crimea is dreadful now. Still Olga A. is
     happy with her little Tichon whom she is nursing herself. They have
     no servants so she and N. A. look after everything. Dobiasgin, we
     hear, has died of cancer. The needlework you sent me was the only
     token we have received from any of our friends. Where is poor
     Catherine? We suffer so for all, and we pray for all of you. That
     is all we can do. The weather is bad these last few days, and I
     never venture out because my heart is not behaving very well. I get
     a great deal of consolation reading the Bible. I often read it to
     the children, and I am sure that you also read it. Write soon
     again. We all kiss and bless you. May God sustain and keep you. My
     heart is full, but words are feeble things.

Yours,      A.

     The jacket warms and comforts me. I am surrounded by your dear
     presents, the blue dressing gown, red slippers, silver tray and
     spoon, the stick, etc. The ikon I wear. I do not remember the
     people you are living with now. Did you see the regimental priest
     from Peterhof? Ask the prayers of O. Hovari for us. God be with
     you. Love to your parents. Madeleine and Anna are still in
     Petrograd.

Card from Alexei, November 24, 1917.

     I remember you often and am very sad. I remember your little house.
     We cut wood in the daytime for our baths. The days pass very
     quickly. Greetings to all.

On the same day the Empress wrote me a short letter in English.

     Yesterday I received your letter dated November 6, and I thank you
     for it from my heart. It was such a joy to hear from you and to
     think how merciful is God to have given you this compensation. Your
     life in town must be more than unpleasant, confined in stuffy
     rooms, steep stairs to climb, no lovely walks possible, horrors all
     around you. Poor child! You know that in heart and soul I am near
     you, sharing all your pain and sorrow and praying for you
     fervently. Every day I read in the book you gave me seven years
     ago, “Day by Day,” and like it very much. There are lovely passages
     in it.

     The weather is very changeable, frost, sunshine, then darkness and
     thawings. Desperately dull for those who enjoy long walks and are
     deprived of them. Lessons continue as usual. Mother and daughters
     work and knit a great deal, making Christmas presents. How time
     flies! In two weeks more it will be eight months since I saw you
     last. And you, my little one, so far away in loneliness and sorrow.
     But you know where to seek consolation and strength, and you know
     that God will never forsake you. His love is over all.

     On the whole we are all well, since I do not count chills and
     colds. Alexei’s knee and arm swell from time to time, but happily
     without any pain. My heart has not been behaving very well. I read
     much, and live in the past, which is so full of rich memories. I
     have full trust in a brighter future. He will never forsake those
     who love and trust in His infinite mercy, and when we least expect
     it He will send help, and will save our unhappy country. Patience,
     faith and truth.

     How did you like the two little colored cards? I have not heard
     from Lili Dehn for three months. It is hard to be cut off from all
     one’s dear friends. I am so glad that your old servant and Nastia
     are with you, but where are the maids, Zina and Mainia? So Father
     Makari has left us. But he is really nearer than he was before.

     Our thoughts will be very close together next month. You remember
     our last journey and what followed. After this anniversary it seems
     to me that God will show mercy. Kiss Praskovia and the children for
     me. The maid Liza and the girls have not come yet. All of us send
     tenderest love, blessings and kisses. God bless you, dearest
     friend. Keep a brave heart.

            *       *       *       *       *

     P. S. I should like to send you a little food, some macaroni for
     instance.

Up to this time, nearly the end of the year 1917, the Imperial Family in
exile were treated with a certain degree of consideration. They had
plenty of food and a limited freedom. In the next letter I received from
the Empress, dated December 8, she speaks with gratitude of the fact
that some of her favorite books were permitted to be retained by her, as
a little later she overflows with gratitude to one of the Bolshevist
Commissars who sent her a few familiar pictures and trinkets from the
old home in Tsarskoe Selo. Little by little, however, privileges were
taken from the family, and their status became that of criminal
prisoners. I leave this to be shown in the letters which follow. On
December 8, 1917, the Empress wrote me, in Russian, a letter which shows
how poignantly she and the Emperor felt the desperate situation in
Russia.

     My darling: In thoughts and prayers we are always together. Still
     it is hard not to see each other. My heart is so full, there is so
     much I would like to know, so many thoughts I should like to share
     with you. But we hope the time will come when we shall see each
     other, and all the old friends who now are scattered in different
     parts of the world.

     I am sorry you have had a misunderstanding with one of your best
     friends. That should never happen. This is no time to judge one’s
     friends, every one of us being on such an unnatural strain.

     We here live far from everybody and life is quiet, but we read of
     all the horrors that are going on. But I shall not speak of them.
     You live in their very center, and that is enough for you to bear.
     Petty troubles surround us. The maids have been in Tobolsk four
     days and yet they are not allowed to come to our house, although it
     was promised that they should. How pitiful this everlasting
     suspicion and fear. I suppose it will be the same with Isa.[10]
     Nobody is now allowed to approach us, but I hope they will soon see
     how stupid and brutal and unfair it is to keep them (the maids)
     waiting.

     It is very cold--24 degrees of frost. We shiver in the rooms, and
     there is always a strong draught from the windows. Your pretty
     jacket is so useful. We all have chilblains on our fingers. (You
     remember how you suffered from them in your cold little house?) I
     am writing this while resting before dinner. Little Jimmy lies near
     me while his mistress plays the piano. On the 6th Alexei, Marie,
     and Gilik (M. Gilliard) acted a little play for us. The others are
     committing to memory scenes from French plays. Excellent
     distraction, and good for the memory. The evenings we spend
     together. He reads aloud to us, and I embroider. I am very busy all
     day preparing Christmas presents; painting ribbons for book
     markers, and cards as of old. I also have lessons with the
     children, as the priest is no longer permitted to come. But I like
     these lessons very much. So many things come back to my mind. I am
     reading with pleasure the works of Archbishop Wissky. I did not
     have them formerly. Lately also I have read Tichon Zadonsky. In
     spite of everything I was able to bring some of my favorite books
     with me. Do you read the Bible I gave you? Do you know that there
     is now a much more complete edition? I have given one to the
     children, and I have managed to get a large one for myself. There
     are some beautiful passages in the Proverbs of Solomon. The Psalms
     also give me peace. Dear, we understand each other. I thank you for
     everything, and in memory I live over again our happy past.

     One of our former wounded men, Pr. Eristoff, is in hospital again.
     I don’t know the reason. If possible give hearty greetings to him
     from us all. Give sincere thanks and greetings to Madame S. and her
     husband. God bless and comfort him.

     Where are Serge (Mme. Viroubova’s brother) and his wife? I received
     a touching letter from Zina. I know the past is all done with, but
     I thank God for all that we have received, and I live in the memory
     that cannot be taken from me. Still I worry often for my dearly
     loved, far distant, foolish little friend. I am glad that you have
     resumed your maiden name. Give greetings to Emma F., the English
     Red Cross nurse, and to your dear parents.

     On the 6th we had service at home, not being allowed to go to
     church on account of some kind of a disturbance. I have not been
     out in the fresh air for four weeks. I can’t go out in such bitter
     weather because of my heart. Nevertheless church draws me almost
     irresistibly.

     I showed your photographs to Valia and Gilik. I did not want to
     show them to the ladies, your face is too dear and precious to me.
     Nastinka is too distant. She is very sweet, but she does not seem
     near to me. All my dear ones are far away. But I am surrounded by
     their photographs and gifts--jackets, dressing gowns, slippers,
     silver dish, spoons, and ikons. How I would like to send you
     something, but I fear it would get lost. I kiss you tenderly, love,
     and bless you. We all kiss you. He was touched by your letter of
     congratulation. We pray for you, and we think of you, not always
     without tears.

Yours.



The next day the Empress wrote again.

     This is the feast day of the Virgin of Unexpected Joy. I always
     read the day’s service, and I know that you, dear, do the same. It
     is the anniversary of our last journey together, to Saratoff. Do
     you remember how lovely it was? The old holy woman is dead now, but
     I keep her ikon always near me.... Yesterday it was nine months
     since we were taken into captivity, and more than four months since
     we came here. Which of the English nurses was it who wrote to me? I
     am surprised to hear that Nini Voyeikoff and her family did not
     receive the ikons I sent them before leaving. Give kind regards to
     your faithful old servant and Nastia. This year I cannot give them
     anything for their Christmas tree. How sad. My dear, you are
     splendid. Christ be with you. Give my thanks to Fathers John and
     Dosifei for their remembrance. I am writing this morning in bed.
     Jimmy is sleeping nearly under my nose and interfering with my
     writing. Ortipo lies on my feet and keeps them warm.

     Fancy that the kind Kommissar Makaroff sent me my pictures two
     months ago, St. Simeon Nesterofts, the little Annunciation from the
     bedroom, four small prints from my mauve room, five pastels of
     Kaulbach, four enlarged snapshots from Livadia; Tatiania and me,
     Alexei as sentry, Alexander III, Nicholas I, and also a small
     carpet from my bedroom.

     My wicker lounge chair too is standing in my bedroom now. Among the
     other cushions is the one filled with rose leaves given me by the
     Tartar women. It has been with me all the way. At the last moment
     of the night at Tsarskoe I took it with me, slept on it on the
     train and on the boat, and the lovely smell refreshed me. Have you
     had any news of Gaham (Chief of the Karaim)? Write to him and give
     him my regards. One of our former wounded, Sirobojarski, has
     visited him. There are 22 degrees of frost today, but bright
     sunshine. Do you remember the sister of mercy K. M. Bitner? She is
     giving the children lessons. What luck! The days fly. It is
     Saturday again, and we shall have evening service at nine. A corner
     of the drawing room has been arranged with our ikons and lamps. It
     is homelike--but not church. I got so used to going almost daily
     for three years to the church of Znamenia before going on to the
     hospitals at Tsarskoe.

     I advise you to write to M. Gilliard. (Now I have refilled my
     fountain pen.) Would you like some macaroni and coffee? I hope soon
     to send you some. It is so difficult for me here to take the
     vegetables out of the soup without eating any of it.[11] It is easy
     for me to fast and to do without fresh air but I sleep badly. Yet I
     hardly feel any of the ills of the flesh. My heart is better, as I
     live such a quiet life, almost without exercise. I have been very
     thin but it is less noticeable now, although my gowns are like
     sacks. I am quite gray too.

     The spirits of the whole family are good. God is very near us, we
     feel His support, and are often amazed that we can endure events
     and separations which once might have killed us. Although we suffer
     horribly still there is peace in our souls. I suffer most for
     Russia, and I suffer for you too, but I know that ultimately all
     will be for the best. Only I don’t understand anything any longer.
     Everyone seems to have gone mad. I think of you daily and love you
     dearly. You are splendid and I know how wonderfully you have grown.
     Do you remember the picture by Nesteroffs, Christ’s Bride? Does
     the convent still attract you in spite of your new friend? God will
     direct everything. I want to believe that I shall see your
     buildings (my hospital) in the style of a convent. Where are the
     sisters of mercy Mary and Tatiana? What has become of Princess
     Chakoffskaia, and has she married her friend? Old Madame Orloff has
     written me that her grandson John was killed in the War, and that
     his fiancée killed herself from grief. Now they are buried beside
     his father.

     My regards to my dear Lancers, to Jakoleff, Father John, and
     others. Pray for them all. I am sure that God will have mercy on
     our Russia. Has she not atoned for her awful sins?

     My love, burn my letters. It is better. I have kept nothing of the
     dear past. We all kiss you tenderly and bless you. God is great and
     will not forsake those encircled by His love. Dear child, I shall
     be thinking of you especially during Christmas. I hope that we will
     meet again, but where and how is in His hands. We must leave it all
     to Him who knows all better than we.

During that December I had the happiness of receiving letters from the
Emperor, Alexei, and the Grand Duchesses Tatiana, Olga, and Anastasie.
The Emperor wrote acknowledging a note of mine written on his name day.

Tobolsk, 10 December, 1917.

     Thank you so much for your kind wishes on my name day. Our thoughts
     and prayers are _always_ with you, poor suffering creature. Her
     Majesty reads to us all your lines. Horrid to think all you had to
     go through. We are all right here. It is quite quiet. Pity you are
     not with us. Kisses and blessings without end from your loving
     friend, N.

     Give my best love to your parents.

[Illustration: LETTER FROM NICHOLAS II TO MME. VEROUBOVA. TOBOLSK,
1917.]

[Illustration: LETTERS FROM ALEXEI, TATIANA, AND MARIE, SMUGGLED FROM
TOBOLSK IN 1917.]

The children’s letters were devoured because they gave so many details
of the family life in Tobolsk. On December 9 Tatiana wrote:

     My darling: I often think and pray for you, and we are always
     remembering and speaking of you. It is hard that we cannot see each
     other, but God will surely help us, and we will meet again in
     better times. We wear the frocks your kind friends sent us, and
     your little gifts are always with us, reminding us of you. We live
     quietly and peacefully. The days pass quickly. In the morning we
     have lessons, walk from eleven to twelve before the house in a
     place surrounded for us by a high board fence. We lunch together
     downstairs, sometimes Mamma and Alexei with us, but generally they
     lunch upstairs alone in Papa’s study. In the afternoon we go out
     again for half an hour if it is not too cold. Tea upstairs, and
     then we read or write. Sometimes Papa reads aloud, and so goes by
     every day. On Saturdays we have evening service in the big hall at
     nine o’clock. Until that hour the priest has to serve in the
     church. On Sundays, when we are allowed, we go to a near-by church
     at eight o’clock in the morning. We go on foot through a garden,
     the soldiers who came here with us standing all around. They serve
     mass for us separately, and then have a mass for everybody. On
     holidays, alas, we have to have small service at home. We had to
     have home service on the 6th (St. Nicholas’ day), and it was sad on
     such a big holiday not to be in church, but one can’t have
     everything one wants, can one? I hope you at least can go to
     church. How are your heart and your poor legs? Do you see the
     doctor of your hospital? You remember how we used to tease you.
     Greetings to your old servants. Where are your brother and his
     wife? Have they got a baby? God bless you, my darling beloved. All
     our letters (permitted letters) go through the Kommissar. I am glad
     that the parents of Eristoff are kind to you. Him I remember well,
     but I never saw the parents. Isa has not come yet. Has she been to
     see you? I kiss you tenderly and love you.

Your T.



     My darling dear Annia, How happy I was to hear from you. Thank you
     for the letter and the things. I wrote to you yesterday. It is so
     strange to be staying in the house where you stayed. Remember that
     we are sending this parcel secretly, so don’t mention it. It is the
     only time probably that we can do it. Yesterday’s letter I sent
     through the Kommissar. I am always thinking of you, my darling. We
     speak much of you among ourselves and also to Gilik, Valia, Prince
     Dolgorouky, and Mr. Gibbs. I wear your bracelet and never take it
     off, the one you gave me on January 12, my name day. You remember
     that cozy evening by the fireside? How nice it was. Did you ever
     see Groten and Linevitch?[12] Well, good-bye, my darling Annia. I
     kiss you tenderly and love you.

Your T.



From the Grand Duke Alexei, December 10, 1917.

     My darling, I hope you got my postcard. Thank you very, very much
     for the little mushroom. Your perfumes remind us so much of you.
     Every day I pray God we shall live together again. God bless you.


RIGHT
Yours, A.



From the Grand Duchess Olga on the same date.

     My darling, what joy it was to see your dear handwriting, and all
     the little things. Thanks awfully for all. Your perfumes reminded
     us so of you, your cabin on board, etc. It was very sad. I remember
     you often, kiss and love you. We four live in the corner blue
     room, arranged all quite cozily. Opposite to us in the little room
     is Papa’s dressing room and Alexei’s, then comes his room with
     Nagori. The brown room is Papa’s and Mamma’s bedroom. Then the
     sitting room, big hall, and beyond Papa’s study. When there are big
     frosts it is very cold, and draughts blow from all the windows. We
     were today in church. Well, I wish you a peaceful and sunny
     Christmas. God bless you, darling. I kiss you over and over again.

Ever your own Olga.



From the Grand Duchess Anastasie.

     My darling and dear: Thank you tenderly for your little gift. It
     was so nice to have it, reminding me especially of you. We remember
     and speak of you often, and in our prayers we are always together.
     The little dog you gave is always with us and is very nice. We have
     arranged our rooms comfortably and all four live together. We often
     sit in the windows looking at the people passing, and this gives us
     distraction.... We have acted little plays for amusement. We walk
     in the garden behind high planks.... God bless you.

AN.



From the Empress.

     My own precious child: It seems strange writing in English after
     nine weary months. We are doing a risky thing sending this parcel,
     but we profit through ---- who is still on the outside. Only promise
     to burn all we write as it could do you endless harm if they
     discovered that you were still in contact with us. Therefore don’t
     judge those who are afraid to visit you, just leave time for people
     to quiet down. You cannot imagine the joy of getting your sweet
     letters. I have read and reread them over and over to myself and to
     the others. We all share the anguish, and the misery, and the joy
     to know that you are free at last. I won’t speak of what you have
     gone through. Forget it, with the old name you have thrown away.
     Now live again.

     One has so much to say that one ends by saying nothing. I am
     unaccustomed to writing anything of consequence, just short letters
     or cards, nothing of consequence. Your perfume quite overcame us.
     It went the round of our tea table, and we all saw you quite
     clearly before us. I have no “white rose” to send you, and could
     only scent the shawl with vervaine. Thanks for your own mauve
     bottle, the lovely blue silk jacket, and the excellent pastilles.
     The children and Father were so touched with the things you sent,
     which we remember so well, and packed up at Tsarskoe. We have none
     of such things with us, so alas, we have nothing to send you. I
     hope you got the food through ---- and Mme. ----. I have sent you at
     least five painted cards, always to be recognized by my signature.
     I have always to be imagining new things!

     Yes, God is wonderful and has sent you (as always) in great sorrow,
     a new friend. I bless him for all that he has done for you, and I
     cannot refrain from sending him an image, as to all who are kind to
     you. Excuse this bad writing, but my pen is bad, and my fingers are
     stiff from cold. We had the blessing of going to church at eight
     o’clock this morning. They don’t always allow us to go. The maids
     are not yet let in as they have no papers, so the odious commandant
     doesn’t admit them. The soldiers think we already have too many
     people with us. Well, thanks to all this we can still write to you.
     Something good always comes out of everything.

     Many things are very hard ... our hearts are ready to burst at
     times. Happily there is nothing in this place that reminds us of
     you. This is better than it was at home where every corner was full
     of you. Ah, child, I am proud of you. Hard lessons, hard school,
     but you have passed your examinations so well. Thanks, child, for
     all you have said for us, for standing up for us, and for having
     borne all for our own and for Russia’s sake. God alone can
     recompense you, for if He has let you see horrors He has permitted
     you to gaze a little into yonder world. Our souls are nearer now
     than before. I feel especially near you when I am reading the
     Bible. The children also are always finding texts suiting you. I am
     so contented with their souls. I hope God will bless my lessons
     with Baby. The ground is rich, but is the seed ripe enough? I do
     try my utmost, for all my life lies in this.

     Dear, I carry you always with me. I never am separated from your
     ring, but at night I wear it on my bracelet as it is so loose on my
     finger. After we received our Friend’s cross we got also this cross
     to bear. God knows it is painful being cut off from the lives of
     those dear to us, after being accustomed for years to share every
     thought. But my child has grown self-dependent with time. In your
     love we are always together. I wish we were so in fact, but God
     knows best. One learns to forget personal desires. God is merciful
     and will never forsake His children who trust Him.

     I do hope this letter and parcel will reach you safely, only you
     had better write and tell ---- that you get everything safely.
     Nobody here must dream that we evade them, otherwise it would
     injure the kind commandant and they might remove him.

     I keep myself occupied ceaselessly. Lessons begin at nine (in bed).
     Up at noon for religious lessons with Tatiana, Marie, Anastasie,
     and Alexei. I have a German lesson three times a week with Tatiana
     and once with Marie, besides reading with Tatiana. Also I sew,
     embroider, and paint, with spectacles on because my eyes have
     become too weak to do without them. I read “good books” a great
     deal, love the Bible, and from time to time read novels. I am so
     sad because they are allowed no walks except before the house and
     behind a high fence. But at least they have fresh air, and we are
     grateful for anything. He is simply marvelous. Such meekness while
     all the time suffering intensely for the country. A real marvel.
     The others are all good and brave and uncomplaining, and Alexei is
     an angel. He and I dine _à deux_ and generally lunch so, but
     sometimes downstairs with the others.

     They don’t allow the priest to come to us for lessons, and even
     during services officers, commandant and Kommissar, stand near by
     to prevent any conversation between us. Strangely enough Germogene
     is Bishop here, but at present he is in Moscow. We have had no news
     from my old home or from England. All are well, we hear, in the
     Crimea, but the Empress Dowager has grown old and very sad and
     tearful. As for me my heart is better as I lead such a quiet life.
     I feel utter trust and faith that all will be well, that this is
     the worst, and that soon the sun will be shining brightly. But oh,
     the victims, and the innocent blood yet to be shed! We fear that
     Baby’s other little friend from Mogiloff who was at M. has been
     killed, as his name was included among cadets killed at Moscow. Oh,
     God, save Russia! That is the cry of one’s soul, morning, noon and
     night. Only not that shameless peace.[13]

     I hope you got yesterday’s letter through Mme. ----’s son-in-law.
     How nice that you have him in charge of your affairs. Today my mind
     is full of Novgorod and the awful 17th.[14] Russia must suffer for
     that murder too. Dear, I am glad you see me in your dreams. I have
     seen you only twice, vaguely, but some day we shall be together
     again. When? I do not ask. He alone knows. How can one ask more? We
     simply give thanks for every day safely ended. I hope nobody will
     ever see these letters, as the smallest thing makes them react upon
     us with severity. That is to say we get no church services outside
     or in. The suite and the maids may leave the house only if guarded
     by soldiers, so of course they avoid going. Some of the soldiers
     are kind, others horrid.

     Forgive this mess, but I am in a hurry and the table is crowded
     with painting materials. So glad you liked my old blue book. I have
     not a line of yours--all the past is a dream. One keeps only tears
     and grateful memories. One by one all earthly things slip away,
     houses and possessions ruined, friends vanished. One lives from day
     to day. But God is in all, and nature never changes. I can see all
     around me churches (long to go to them), and hills, the lovely
     world. Wolkoff wheels me in my chair to church across the street
     from the public garden. Some of the people bow and bless us, but
     others don’t dare. All our letters and parcels are examined, but
     this one today is contraband. Father and Alexei are sad to think
     they have nothing to send you, and I can only clasp my weary child
     in my arms and hold her there as of old. I feel old, oh, so old,
     but I am still the mother of this country, and I suffer its pains
     as my own child’s pains, and I love it in spite of all its sins and
     horrors. No one can tear a child from its mother’s heart, and
     neither can you tear away one’s country, although Russia’s black
     ingratitude to the Emperor breaks my heart. Not that it is the
     _whole_ country, though. God have mercy and save Russia.

     Little friend, Christmas without me--up in the sixth story! My
     beloved child, long ago I took you to hold in my heart and never to
     be separated. In my heart is love and forgiveness for everything,
     though at times I am not as patient as I ought to be. I get angry
     when people are dishonest, or when they unnecessarily hurt and
     offend those I love. Father, on the other hand, bears everything.
     He wrote to you of his own accord. I did not ask him. Please thank
     everybody who wrote to us in English. But the less _they_ know we
     correspond the better, otherwise they may stop all letters.

Ever your own, A.



The increasing poverty and hardships which surrounded the exiles, to say
nothing of the lonely desolation of their lives, could not be kept out
of the Empress’s letters, although she tried to write cheerfully. I
could read, in the growing discursiveness of her contraband letters, the
disturbed and abnormal condition of her usual keen and concise mind. On
December 15, 1917, she wrote:

     Dearest little one: Again I am writing to you, and you must
     thank ---- and reply carefully. My maids are not yet allowed to come
     to me, although they have been here eleven days. I don’t know how
     it will come out. Isa (Baroness Buxhoevden, lady in waiting) is ill
     again. I hear that she will be allowed in when she arrives, as she
     has a _permis_, but I doubt it. I understand your wounded feelings
     when she did not go to see you, but does she know your address? She
     is timid, and her conscience in regard to you is not quite clear.
     She remembers perhaps my words to her last Autumn that there might
     come a time when she too would be taken from me and not allowed to
     return. She lives in the Gorochovaia with a niece. Zizi Narishkine
     (a former lady in waiting) lives in the Sergievskja, 54.

     I hope you will receive the things we sent for Christmas. Anna and
     Wolkoff helped me to send the parcels, the others I sent
     through ----, so I make use of the opportunity to write to you. Be
     sure to write when you receive them. I make a note in my book
     whenever I write. I have drawn some postcards. Did you receive
     them? One of these days I shall send you some flour.

     It is bright sunshine and everything glitters with hoar frost.
     There are such moonlight nights, it must be ideal on the hills. But
     my poor unfortunates can only pace up and down the narrow yard. How
     I long to take Communion. We took it last on October 22, but now
     it is so awkward, one has to ask permission before doing the least
     thing. I am reading Solomon and the writings of St. Seraph, every
     time finding something new. How glad I am that none of your things
     got lost, the albums I left with mine in the trunk. It is dreary
     without them, but still better so, for it would hurt to look at
     them and remember. Some thoughts one is obliged to drive away, they
     are too poignant, too fresh in one’s memory. All things for us are
     in the past, and what the future holds I cannot guess, but God
     knows, and I have given everything into His keeping. Pray for us
     and for those we love, and especially for Russia when you are at
     the shrine of the “All-Hearing Virgin.” I love her beautiful face.
     I have asked Chemoduroff to take out a prayer (slip of paper with
     names of you all) on Sunday.

     Where is your poor old Grandmamma? I often think of her in her
     loneliness, and of your stories after you had been to see her. Who
     will wish you a happy Christmas on the telephone? Where is Serge
     and his wife? Where is Alexander Pavlovitch? Did you know that
     Linewitch had married, and Groten also, straight from the Fortress?
     Have you seen Mania Rebinder? This Summer they were still at
     Pavlovskoie, but since we left we have heard nothing of them. Where
     are Bishops Isidor and Melchisedek? Is it true that Protopopoff has
     creeping paralysis? Poor old man, I understand that he has not been
     able to write anything yet, his experiences being too near. Strange
     are our lives, are they not? One could write volumes.

     Zinaida Tolstoaia and her husband have been in Odessa for some
     time. They write frequently, dear people. Rita Hitrovo is staying
     with them, but she scarcely writes at all. They are expecting Lili
     Dehn soon, but I have heard nothing from her for four months. One
     of our wounded, Sedloff, is also in Odessa. Do you know anything of
     Malama?[15] Did Eristoff give you Tatiana’s letter? Baida Apraxin
     and the whole family except the husband are in Yalta. He is in
     Moscow at the church conference. Professor Serge Petrovitch is also
     in Moscow. Petroff was, and Konrad is, in Tsarskoe. There too is
     Marie Rudiger Belaieff. Constadious, our old general, is dead. I
     try to give you news of all, though you probably know more than I
     do.

     The children wear the brooches that Mme. Soukhomlinoff sent them.
     Mine I hung over a frame. Do you ever see old Mme. Orloff? Her
     grandson John was killed, and her Alexei is far away. It is sad for
     the poor old woman.

     I am knitting stockings for the small one (Alexei). He asked for a
     pair as all his are in holes. Mine are warm and thick like the ones
     I gave the wounded, do you remember? I make everything now.
     Father’s trousers are torn and darned, the girls’ under-linen in
     rags. Dreadful, is it not? I have grown quite gray. Anastasie, to
     her despair, is now very fat, as Marie was, round and fat to the
     waist, with short legs. I do hope she will grow. Olga and Tatiana
     are both thin, but their hair grows beautifully so that they can go
     without scarfs. Fancy that the papers say that Prince Volodia
     Troubetskoy has joined Kaledin with all his men. Splendid! I am
     sure that N. D.[16] will take part also now that he is serving in
     Odessa. I find myself writing in English, I don’t know why. Be sure
     to burn all these letters as at any time your house may be searched
     again.



CHAPTER XXII


Through the winter and spring of 1918 I continued to receive letters and
parcels, mostly contraband, from my friends in Siberia. I wish I dared
to tell how and through whom these precious messages reached me, for it
all belongs in the story of Revolutionary Russia. It illustrates the
truth, often demonstrated, that tyranny and oppression can never kill
the spirit of freedom in human beings. There are always a minority of
people who hold their lives cheap by comparison with liberty, and in
such people lives deathlessly the inspiration of fidelity to those they
love, no matter how relentlessly the loved ones are persecuted. Poor as
I was, poor as was the small group of friends who worked with me to
communicate with the Imperial Family, we managed to get to them the
necessities they lacked. Dangerous and difficult as travel was in those
days, every traveler being almost certain to be searched several times
along the way, there were three, two officers and a young girl, who at
the risk of imprisonment and death by the most unspeakable tortures,
calmly and fearlessly acted as emmissaries back and forth between
Petrograd and remote Tobolsk. They had friends along the way, of course,
but how they managed, through months of constant peril, to carry on
their work is one of those mysteries which, to my mind, are not wholly
earthly.

On January 9, 1918, I received the following Christmas letter from the
Empress.

     Thank you, darling, for all your letters which were a great joy to
     me and to us all. On Christmas Eve I received the letter and the
     perfume, then more scent by little ----. I regret not having seen
     her. Did you receive the parcels sent through the several friends,
     flour, coffee, tea, and lapscha (a kind of macaroni)? The letters
     and the snapshots sent through ----, did you get them? I am worried
     as I hear that all parcels containing food are opened. I begin
     today to number my letters, and you must keep account of them. Your
     cards, the small silver dish, and Lili’s tiny silver bell I have
     not yet been able to receive.

     We all congratulate you on your name day. May God bless, comfort,
     strengthen you, and give you joy. Believe, dear, that God will yet
     save our beloved country. He will not be unforgiving. Think of the
     Old Testament and the sufferings of the Children of Israel for
     their sins. And now it is we who have forgotten God, and that is
     why they[17] cannot bring any happiness. How I prayed on the 6th
     that God would send the spirit of good judgment and the fear of the
     Lord. Everyone apparently have lost their heads. The reign of
     terror is not yet over, and it is the sufferings of the innocent
     which nearly kills us. What do people live on now that everything
     is taken from them, their homes, their incomes, their money? We
     must have sinned terribly for our Father in Heaven to punish so
     frightfully. But I firmly and unfalteringly believe that in the end
     He will save us. The strange thing about the Russian character is
     that it can so suddenly change to evil, cruelty, and unreason, and
     can as suddenly change back again. This is in fact simply want of
     character. Russians are in reality big, ignorant children. However
     it is well known that during long wars all bad passions flame up.
     What is happening is awful, the murders, the persecutions, the
     imprisonments, but all of it must be suffered if we are to be
     cleansed, new born.

     Forgive me, darling, that I write to you so sadly. I often wear
     your jackets, the blue and the mauve, as it is fearfully cold in
     the house. Outside the frosts are not often severe, and sometimes I
     go out and even sit on the balcony. The children are just
     recovering from scarletina, except Anastasie, who did not catch it.
     The elder ones began the new year by being in bed, Marie, of
     course, having a temperature of 39.5. Their hair is growing well.
     Lessons have begun again. Yesterday I gave three. Today I am free,
     and am therefore writing. On the 2nd of January I thought of you
     and sent a candle to be set before the Holy Seraphim. I have asked
     that prayers may be said in the cathedral where the relics lie, for
     all our dear ones. You remember the old pilgrim who came to
     Tsarskoe Selo. Fancy that he has been here. He wandered in with his
     big staff, and sent me a prosvera (holy bread).

     I have begun your books. The style is quite different from the
     others. I have got myself some good books, too, but have not much
     time for reading. I embroider, knit, draw, and give lessons, but my
     eyes are getting weaker so that I can no longer work without
     glasses. You will see me quite an old woman! Did you know that the
     marine officer Nicolai Demenkoff has appendicitis? He is in Odessa.
     One of our wounded, Oroborjarsky, was operated on there a month
     ago. He is so sad and homesick, so far away. I correspond with his
     mother, a gentle, good, and really Christian soul. Lili Dehn went
     to see her.

     I trust you received the painted cards that I put in the parcel of
     provisions. Not all were successful. If you receive my letters just
     write, thanks for No. I, etc. My three maids and Isa are still not
     allowed to come to us, and they are very much distressed, just
     sitting idle. But ---- is of better use on the outside. Little one,
     where are your brother Serge and his wife? I know nothing of them.
     Your poor sister Alya, I hope she is not too sad; she has friends,
     but her husband, has he not become too sad away from her? How are
     the sweet children? Miss Ida is with her still, I hope. Did you
     know that sister Grekova is to be married soon to Baron Taube? How
     glad I am that you have seen A. P. Did he not seem strange out of
     uniform, and what did he say about his brother? Ah, all is past,
     and will never return. We must begin a new life and forget self. I
     must finish, my dear little soul. Christ be with you. Greetings to
     all. I kiss your mother. I congratulate you again. I want quickly
     to finish the small painting, and get it to you. I fear you are
     again passing through fearful days. Reports filter through of
     murders of officers in Sevastopol. Rodionoff and his brother are
     there.

Your own, A.



On the 16th of January the Empress wrote me a letter in Old Slavonic
style to congratulate me on my name day. In this she addresses me as
“Sister Seraphine.” I should explain that my hospital in Tsarskoe Selo
bore the name of that saint, because it was on her day that I suffered
the terrible railway accident which left me lamed for life, but which
gave me, in damages, the funds for founding the hospital.

Dearly beloved Sister Seraphine:

     From a full heart I wish you well on your name day! God send you
     many blessings, good health, fortitude, meekness, strength to bear
     all punishments and sorrows sent by God, and gladness of soul. May
     the sun lighten the path you tread through life, warm all by your
     love, and let your light shine forth these sad, gloomy days. Do not
     despair, suffering sister,

[Illustration: ONE OF THE EMPRESS’S LAST LETTERS, WRITTEN IN OLD
SLAVONIC TO MME. VIROUBOVA IN 1918.]

[Illustration: SMUGGLED LETTER FROM THE EMPRESS TO MME. VIROUBOVA
WRITTEN IN OLD SLAVONIC ON BIRCH-BARK AFTER PAPER GAVE OUT.]

     God will hear your prayers, all in good time. Also we pray for
     thee, sister chosen of the Lord. We have thee in fond remembrance.
     Your little corner is far away from us. All who love thee in this
     place send greetings. Do not misjudge the bad writing of thy
     sister. She is illiterate, an ailing lay sister. I am learning the
     writing of prayers, but weakness of sight prevents my striving. I
     read the works of Bishop Gr. Nissky, but he writes too much of the
     creation of the world. From our sister Zinaida I have received
     news, so much good will in every word, breathing peace of the soul.

     The family known to thee are in good health, the children have
     suffered from the usual ills of the young, but are now restored to
     health. The youngest ill, but in good spirits however, and without
     suffering. The Lord has blessed the weather, beautiful and soft.
     Thy sister walks out and enjoys the sun, but when there is more
     frost she hides in her cell, takes a stocking, puts on her
     spectacles, and knits. Sister Sophia,[18] not long since arrived,
     has not been granted admittance, those in authority having refused
     it. She has found hospitality at the priest’s with her old woman.
     The other sisters are all in different places. Dearly loved sister,
     art thou not weary reading this letter? All the others have gone to
     dinner. I remain on guard by the sick Anastasia. In the cells next
     ours is sister Catherina[19] giving a lesson. We are embroidering
     for church, Sisters Tatiana and Maria with great zeal. Our father
     Nicholas gathers us around him in the evenings, and reads to us
     while we pass the time with needlework. With his meekness and good
     health he does not disdain to saw and chop wood for our needs,
     cleans the roads, too, with the children. Our mother Alexandra
     greets thee, sister, and sends her motherly blessings and hopes,
     sister, that thou livest in the Spirit of Christ. Life is hard but
     the spirit is strong. Dear sister Seraphine, may God keep thee. I
     beg for your prayers. Christ be with thee.

The Sinful sister FEODORA.

     Prayers!


22 of January.

     So unexpectedly I received the letter of the 1st and the card of
     the 10th. I hasten to reply. Tenderly we thank through you
     Karochinsky. Really it is touching that even now we are not
     forgotten. God grant that his estates should be spared. God bless
     him. I am sending you some food but I do not know if it will ever
     reach you. Often we think of you. I wrote to you on the 16th
     through the hospital, on the 17th a card by Mr. Gibbs, and on the
     9th two letters by ----. There! I have dropped my favorite pen and
     broken it. How provoking! It is fearfully cold, 29 degrees, 7 in
     the bathroom, and blowing in from everywhere. Such a wind, but they
     are all out. We hope to see the officer Tamarov if only from a
     distance. So glad you received everything. I hope you wear the gray
     shawl, and that it smells of vervaine, a well-remembered scent.
     Kind Zinoschka found it in Odessa, and sent it to me.

     I am so surprised you have made the acquaintance of Gorky. He was
     awful formerly. Disgusting and immoral books and plays he wrote.
     Can it be the same man? How he fought against father and Russia
     when he lived in Italy. Be careful, my love. I am so glad you can
     go to church. To us it is forbidden, so service is at home, and a
     new priest serves. How glad I am that all is well with Serge. With
     Tina it will be difficult, but God will help her. It is true what
     they say about Marie Rebinder’s husband? She wrote me, through Isa,
     that they are still in Petrograd, and that they threatened to kill
     him. It is difficult to understand people now. Sometimes they are
     with the Bolshevists outwardly, but in their hearts they are
     against them.

     The cross we hung over the children’s beds during their illness but
     during church service it lies on the table. Bishop Gerogene serves
     special prayers daily for father and mother--he is quite on their
     side, which is strange. I must hurry as one waits to take this
     letter. I am sending you a prayer I wrote on a piece of birchbark
     we cut. I can’t draw much as my eyes are so bad, also my fingers
     are quite stiff from cold. Such a wind, and it blows so in the
     rooms. I am sending you a little image of the Holy Virgin. Thanks
     for the lovely prayer. I wear often the jackets you gave me. I send
     you all my soul-prayers and love. I believe firmly so I am quite
     calm. We are all your own and kiss you tenderly.

On the same day Grand Duchess Olga wrote a brief note.

     Dearest, we were so glad to hear from you. How cold it is these
     days, and what a strong wind. We have just come back from a walk.
     On our window it is written--“Anna darling----” I wonder who wrote
     it. God bless you, dear. Be well.

Your OLGA.

     Give my love to all who remember me.

Two other notes from Olga followed in February and just before Easter.

     Darling, with all my loving heart I am with you these hard days for
     you. God help and comfort you, my darling. On Mamma’s table stands
     the mauve bottle you sent her and which reminds us so much of you.
     There is much sun, but great frosts also and winds, and very cold
     in the rooms, especially in our corner room, where we live as
     before. All are well, and we walk much in the yard. There are many
     churches around here, so we are always hearing bells ringing. God
     bless you, darling. How sad your brother and sister are not with
     you.

Your own OLGA.

     We all congratulate you tenderly with the coming Easter, and wish
     you to spend it as peacefully as anyone can now. I always think of
     you when they sing during mass the prayer we used to sing together
     on the yacht. I kiss you.

OLGA.



The other children also wrote me at this time. Grand Duchess Tatiana
wrote two short but characteristic notes, the first one on my name day,
January 12. In all these letters it will be seen how confidently the
family looked forward to a future of freedom and happiness. This
constant optimism in the midst of ever-increasing surveillance and
cruelty is my excuse for including notes of slight general interest.

Tatiana wrote first:

     “You remember the cozy evenings by the fireside? How nice it was.
     Did you again see Groten and Linevitch? (the faithful
     aides-de-camp). Well, good-bye, my darling Annia. God bless you.
     Good-bye--till when?

Your T.



Also--

     My beloved darling. How happy we are to get news from you. I hope
     you got my letters. I think often of you and pray God to keep you
     from all harm and help you. I am glad you know the Eristoffs now.
     We get such good letters from Zina, she writes so well. There are
     many sadnesses in these days. God be with you. It is very cold.
     Papa wears his Cossack uniform and we remember how much you liked
     it. I kiss you tenderly, and love you, and congratulate you on your
     dear name day.

T.



From the Grand Duchess Marie Nicolaevna.

     Good morning, my darling! What a long time since I have written to
     you, and how glad I was to get your little letter. It is very sad
     we don’t see each other, but God will arrange for us to meet, and
     what joy it will be then. We live in the house where you have been.
     Do you remember the rooms? They are quite comfortable when a little
     arranged. We walk out twice every day. Some of the people here are
     kind. Every day I remember you, and love you very much. Mr. Gibbs
     gave us photographs he made of you--it was so nice to have them.
     Your perfumes remind us so much of you. I wish you every blessing
     from God, and kiss you tenderly. Don’t be sad. Love to all yours.

Your loving MARIE.



     My darling beloved, how are you? We are all well, walk much in the
     yard, and have a little hill down which we can slide. There is much
     frost these days so Mama sits at home. You will probably get this
     in February, so I congratulate you on your name day. God help you
     in future and bless you. We always remember and speak of you. May
     God guard all your ways. Don’t be sad, dear. All will be well, and
     we shall be together again. I kiss you tenderly.

MARIE.



Alexei wrote that same month of January, 1918:

     My darling Annia. We are so glad to have news from you, and to hear
     that you got all our things. Today there are 29 degrees of frost, a
     strong wind, and sunshine. We walked, and I went on skees in the
     yard. Yesterday I acted with Tatiana and Gilik a French piece. We
     are now preparing another piece. We have a few good soldiers with
     whom I play games in their rooms. Kolia Deravenko comes to me on
     holidays. Nagorini, the sailor, sleeps with me. As servants we have
     Wolkoff, Sednoff, Troup, and Chemoduroff. It is time to go to
     lunch. I kiss and embrace you. God bless you.

ALEXEI.



The remaining letters from the Empress, dating from the end of January
to the last days of April, 1918, are uncomplaining, yet are full of
suffering and the prescience of tragic events to come. I do not believe
that the Empress ever lost faith in the ultimate happiness of her
beloved family, but her keen mind fully comprehended the terrible march
of events in the torn Empire, and she knew that trials and still greater
trials had to be faced by the Emperor and herself. Her courage in the
face of this certain conviction is beyond any praise of mine.

On the 23rd of January she wrote:

     My precious child: There is a possibility of writing to you now
     as ---- leaves here on the 26th. I only hope no one robs him on the
     way. He takes you two pounds of macaroni, three pounds of rice, and
     a little ham. It is so well ---- does not live with us. I have
     knitted stockings, and have knitted you a pair. They are men’s size
     but they will do under valenki and when it is cold in the rooms.
     Here we have 29 degrees of frost, and 6 in the big room. It is
     blowing terribly. I was keenly touched by the money you sent, but
     do not send any more as for the present we have all we need. There
     have been days when we did not know what to do. I wonder what you
     are living on. The little money you had I put in the box with your
     jewels. (My fingers are so stiff I can hardly hold my pen.) I am
     glad your rooms are so comfortable and so light, but it must be
     difficult for you to climb the long staircase. How are your poor
     back and legs?

     I know nothing about Lili Dehn, and from my two sisters and my
     brother I have heard nothing for a year. Only one letter from my
     sister Elizabeth (Grand Duchess Serge) last summer. Olga
     Alexandrovna[20] writes long letters to the children all about her
     boy whom she adores and nurses herself. The grandmamma I think is
     getting very old, and is very sad.

     Tudles has four in her room. They say that Marie P.[21] lives well
     in Kisslowdsk, both her sons are with her and she receives all the
     _beau monde_ from Petrograd. Merika[22] lives there also and is
     expecting a baby. Marianna Ratkova has bought a house there, and
     receives on Thursdays. Mr. Gibbs asks often about you, also Tudles,
     and my big Niouta Demidoff. The little doggy lies on my knees and
     warms them. It is mortally cold, but in Petrograd there is probably
     worse darkness, hunger, and cold. God help you all to bear it
     patiently. The worse here the better in yonder world.

     It hurts to think how much bloodshed will have to be before better
     days come.... Darling, I send you all my love, and am so sad I can
     send you little else. I embroider for the church when my eyes allow
     me, otherwise I knit, but soon I shall have no more wool. We can’t
     get any here--too dear, and very bad. I have had a letter from
     Shoura Petrovskaia, who is taking care of her brother’s children.
     She sews boots and sells them. In October the children got a letter
     from their old nurse in England--the first one from there. What rot
     they publish about Tatiana in the newspapers! Do you see your new
     friend and saviour often? How is he? Love to your kind parents. I
     would love to write you certain things of interest, but just now
     there are many things one can’t put in a letter. The little one has
     put on a sweater, and the girls wear valenki in their rooms. I know
     how sad you would feel....

     The kind servant Sednoff has just brought me a cup of cocoa to warm
     me up. How do you pray with the rosary, and what prayers do you say
     on every tenth? I generally say Our Father and to the Holy Virgin,
     but should one say the same prayer to the end? I looked for it in
     the books but did not get any information. I long so to go to
     church but they allow us that only on great holidays (feasts). So
     we hope to go on the 2nd of February, and on the 3rd I shall order
     prayers at the relics for you. How is poor old Soukhomlinoff? Where
     is Sacha? I suppose one may completely trust the little officer you
     sent. I asked him to make the acquaintance of the priest who served
     us before, a most devoted and energetic man, a real fighting
     priest--more than spiritual perhaps--yet with a charming face, and
     a constantly sweet smile, very thin, long gray beard, and clever
     eyes. His feeling for us is known all over the country now by the
     good ones, therefore they took him away from us, but perhaps better
     so, as he can do more now. The Bishop is quite for father and
     mother, and so is the Patriarch in Moscow, and it seems most of the
     clergy. Only you must be careful what sort of people come to you. I
     am so anxious about your seeing Gorky. Be prudent, and don’t have
     any serious conversations with him. People will try to get around
     you as before. I don’t mean real friends, honest-meaning people,
     but others who for personal reasons will use you as their shield.
     Then you will have the brutes after you again.

     I am racking my brains what to send you, as one can get nothing
     here at all. Our Christmas presents were all the work of our own
     hands, and now I must give my eyes a rest.... How pleased I was
     that Princess Eristoff has spoken so kindly of us. Give her and
     also her son our love. Where does he serve now? The people here are
     very friendly--lots of Kirghise. When I sit in the window they bow
     to me, if the soldiers are not looking.

     What dreadful news about the robbing of the sacristy in the Winter
     Palace. There were so many precious relics and many of our own
     ikons. They say it has been the same in the church of Gatchina. Did
     you know that the portraits of my parents and of father have been
     utterly destroyed? Also my Russian Court dresses and all the others
     as well? But the destruction of the churches is the worst of all.
     They say it was the soldiers from the hospital in the Winter Palace
     who did it.... We hear that the soldiers in Smolny have seized all
     available food, and are quite indifferent to the prospect of the
     people starving. Why was money sent to us rather than having been
     given to the poor? True, there were for us some very difficult
     times when we could not pay any bills, and when for four months the
     servants had to go without any wages. The soldiers here were not
     paid, so they simply took our money to keep them quiet. All this is
     petty, but it makes great trouble for the commandant. The
     Hofmarshall Chancelerie is still in existence, but when they
     abolish it I really don’t know what we shall do. Well, God will
     help, and we still have what we need.

     I think often of Livadia and what may be happening there. They say
     that many former political prisoners are stationed there. Where is
     our dear yacht, the _Standert_? I am afraid to inquire about it. My
     God! How I suffered when I heard that you were imprisoned on the
     _Polar Star_. I cannot think of the yacht. It hurts too much.

     It is said that our Kommissar is about to be removed, and we are so
     rejoiced. His assistant will leave with him. They are both terrible
     men, Siberian convicts formerly. The Kommissar was in prison for
     fifteen years. The soldiers have decided to send them away, but
     thank God they have left us our commandant. The soldiers manage
     absolutely everything here.

     I am lying down, as it is six o’clock. There is a fire burning but
     it barely warms the room. Soon the little one will be coming in for
     a lesson. I am teaching the children the Divine Service. May God
     help me to teach it to them so that it will remain with them
     through their whole lives, and develop their souls. It is a big
     responsibility.... It is such a blessing to live all together, and
     be so near to one another. Still you must know what I have to
     endure, having no news from my brother, nor any idea of what lies
     in the future. My poor brother also knows nothing of us. If I
     thought my own little old home and the family would have to suffer
     what we have--it is awful! Then it might begin also in England.
     However you remember that our Friend said that no harm would come
     to my old home.[23] I try to suppress all these thoughts that my
     soul may not be overwhelmed with despair. I trust all my dear ones
     to the Holy Virgin. May she shield them from all evil. I still have
     much to thank God for; you are well, and I can write to you; I am
     not separated from our own darlings. Thank God we are still in
     Russia (this is the chief thing), and we are near the relics of the
     Metropolitan John, and we have peace. Good-bye, my little daughter.

Old friends continued to be very dear to the exiled Empress, and she
kept up her interest in all their affairs. Of my sister-in-law who had
her first child while her husband was fighting on the Rumanian front the
Empress wrote:

     How much better it would have been if Tina could have gone to
     Odessa to have her baby, not far from Serge, and where kind
     Zinotchka could have looked after her and arranged everything. But
     now that the Rumanians have taken Kichineff Serge has probably
     left, and they are together again. Sharing hardships will cause
     their love to increase and strengthen. How is Alyas’s (my sister)
     health? Was it Mariana’s former husband, Derfelden, who was killed
     in the south? Her mother and family live in Boris’s house.

     I sometimes see Isa in the street (_i.e._ from the window). The
     sister of mercy Tatiana Andrievna is now in Petrograd taking care
     of her sister. Later she will return to Moscow. She seems rather
     nervous. Give our greetings to our confessor, father Afanasi,
     father Alexander, and my poor old Zio. I don’t know anything about
     my second servant Kondratieff. What has become of our chauffeurs
     and the coachman Konkoff? Is old General Schwedoff still alive?

     Holy Virgin, keep my daughter from all danger, bless and console
     her!

5th of February, 1918.

     My own darling little one, How terribly sad I am for you about the
     death of your dear father, and that I could not be with you to help
     and console you in your great sorrow. You know that I am with you
     in my prayers. May Christ and the Holy Virgin comfort you, and wipe
     the tears from your eyes. May God receive his soul in peace.
     Tomorrow morning I will ask Anoushka to go and order service for
     him for forty days near the relics. Alas we can pray only at home.
     In him we both lost a true friend of many years. Father and the
     children suffer with you, tenderly kiss you, and know all that your
     sensitive heart feels.

     As your telegram went by post I don’t know what day God took him to
     himself. Is it possible it was the same day you wrote to me? I am
     so glad you saw him daily, but how did it happen, your poor father?
     For himself one must thank God--so many hardships to live
     through--no home, and everything so bad. I remember how it was
     foretold to us (by Rasputine) that he would die when Serge married.
     And you two women are all alone now. I wonder if your
     brother-in-law was there to help you, or your kind uncle. I shall
     try to write to his address a long letter, and also to your mother.
     Tell her I kiss her tenderly, and how much we have always loved her
     and honored your father. He was a rare man.... Don’t cry. He is
     happy now, rests and prays for you at the Throne of God.

     I am glad that you received my two letters. Now you will get two
     more. What your little messenger will tell you about your dear ones
     is for yourself alone. What horrors go on at Yalta and
     Massandra--My God! Where is the salvation for us all and for the
     poor officers? All the churches being ruined--nothing held sacred
     any more--it will finish in some terrible earthquake, or something
     like it as the chastisement of God. May He have mercy on our
     beloved country. How I pray for Russia....

     They say that the Japanese are in Tomsk and keep good order there.
     I hope you got our little parcel. As we have no sugar I shall send
     you a little honey which you can eat during Lent. We live still by
     the old style, but probably shall have to change. Only I don’t know
     how it will be then with Lent and all the services (festivals and
     fasts). The people may be very angry if two weeks are thrown out.
     That is why it was never done before....

     The sun shines and even warms us in the day times. I feel that God
     will not forsake but will save us, though all is so dark and tears
     are flowing everywhere.... My little one, don’t suffer too much.
     All this had to be. Only My God, how sorry I am for the innocent
     ones killed everywhere. I can’t write any more. Ask your mother to
     forgive the mistakes I shall make in writing to her in Russian, and
     that I cannot express myself as warmly as I would like to.
     Good-bye, my darling. I am sending you letters from father and the
     children.

2nd of March, 1918.

     Darling child: Thanks for all from father, mother and the children.
     How you spoil us all by your dear letters and gifts. I was very
     anxious going so long without news from you, especially as rumors
     came that you were gone. Alas, I can’t write you as I could wish
     for fear that this may fall into other hands. We have not yet
     received all that you have sent (contraband). It comes to us little
     by little. Dear child, do be careful of the people who come to see
     you. The way is so slippery, and it is so easy to fall. Sometimes a
     road is cleared through the snow on which one’s true friends are to
     walk--and then the road becomes still more slippery!

     We are all right, and I am now a real mistress of a household,
     going over accounts with M. Gilliard. New work and very practical.
     The weather is sunny--they are even sunburned, and even when the
     frost comes back it is warmer in the sun. I have sat twice on the
     balcony and sometimes sit in the yard. My heart has been much
     better, but for a week I have had great pains in it again. I worry
     so much. My God! How Russia suffers. You know that I love it even
     more than you do, miserable country, demolished from within, and by
     the Germans from without. Since the Revolution they have conquered
     a great deal of it without even a battle.... If they created order
     now in Russia how dreadful would be the country’s debasement--to
     have to be grateful to the enemy. They must never dare to attempt
     any conversations with father or mother.

     We hope to go to Communion next week, if they allow us to go to
     church. We have not been since the 6th of January. I shall pray to
     the rosary you have written. Kiss your poor mother. I am glad you
     took some of your things from the hospital. Best love to poor G.
     Soukhomlinoff. What terrible times you are all living through. On
     the whole we are better off than you.... Soon spring is coming to
     rejoice our hearts. The way of the cross first--then joy and
     gladness. It will soon be a year since we parted, but what is time?
     Life here is nothing--eternity is everything, and what we are doing
     is preparing our souls for the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus nothing,
     after all, is terrible, and if they do take everything from us they
     cannot take our souls.... Have patience, and these days of
     suffering will end, we shall forget all the anguish and thank God.
     God help those who see only the bad, and don’t try to understand
     that all this will pass. It cannot be otherwise. I cannot write all
     that fills my soul, but you, my little martyr, understand it better
     than I. You are farther on than I.... We live here on earth but we
     are already half gone to the next world. We see with different
     eyes, and that makes it often difficult to associate with people
     who call themselves, and really are religious.... My greatest sin
     is my irritability. The endless stupidity of my maid, for
     instance--she can’t help being stupid, she is so often untruthful,
     or else she begins to sermonize like a preacher and then I
     burst--you know how hot-tempered I am. It is not difficult to bear
     great trials, but these little buzzing mosquitoes are so trying. I
     want to be a better woman, and I try. For long periods I am really
     patient, and then breaks out again my bad temper. We are to have a
     new confessor, the second in these seven months. I beg your
     forgiveness, too, darling. Day after tomorrow is the Sunday before
     Lent when one asks forgiveness for all one’s faults. Forgive the
     past, and pray for me. Yesterday we had prayers for the dead, and
     we did not forget your father. A few days ago was the twenty-sixth
     anniversary of my father’s death. I long to warm and to comfort
     others--but alas, I do not feel drawn to those around me here. I am
     cold towards them, and this, too, is wrong of me.

The cowardly yielding of the Bolshevist government to the triumphant
Germans was a source of constant suffering to the Empress. In subsequent
letters written me that spring she speaks almost indifferently of the
cold and privations suffered in the house in Tobolsk, but she becomes
passionate when she writes of the German invasion.

     What a nightmare it is that it is Germans who are saving Russia
     (from Communism) and are restoring order. What could be more
     humiliating for us? With one hand the Germans give, and with the
     other they take away. Already they have seized an enormous
     territory. God help and save this unhappy country. Probably He
     wills us to endure all these insults, but that we must take them
     from the Germans almost kills me. During a war one can understand
     these things happening, but not during a revolution. Now Batoum has
     been taken--our country is disintegrating into bits. I cannot think
     calmly about it. Such hideous pain in heart and soul. Yet I am sure
     God will not leave it like this. He will send wisdom and save
     Russia I am sure.

It will always be to me an immense gratification that in the midst of
her great pain and sorrow for Russia’s piteous plight our small group of
friends in Petrograd, and those brave souls who dared to risk their
lives as message bearers, were able to get to the forlorn family in
desolate Siberia at least the necessities of life of which a cruel and
inefficient government deprived them. The Empress who all her life had
but to command what she wanted for herself and her children was
grateful, pathetically grateful, for the simple garments, the cheap
little luxuries, even the materials for needlework we were able to
convey to them. She thanks me almost effusively for the jackets and
sweaters we sent her and the girls in their cold rooms. The wool was so
soft and nice, but the linen, she feared, was almost too fine. This was
early in March, but spring was already creeping across the steppes.

     The weather is so fine that I have been sitting out on the balcony
     writing music for the Lenten prayers, as we have no printed notes.
     We had to sing this morning without any preparation, but it
     went--well, not too badly. God helped. After service we tried to
     sing some new prayers with the new deacon, and I hope it will go
     better tonight.[24]

     On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings we were allowed to go to
     the eight o’clock morning service in church--imagine the joy and
     comfort! The other days we five women will sing during the home
     service. It reminds me of Livadia and Oreanda. This week we shall
     spend the evenings alone with the children, as we want to read
     together. I know of nothing new. My heart is troubled but my soul
     remains tranquil as I feel God always near. Yet what are they
     deciding on in Moscow? God help us.

     “Peace and yet the Germans continue to advance farther and farther
     in,” wrote the Empress on March 13 (Russian). “When will it all
     finish? When God allows. How I love my country, with all its
     faults. It grows dearer and dearer to me, and I thank God daily
     that He allowed us to remain here and did not send us farther away.
     Believe in the people, darling. The nation is strong, and young,
     and as soft as wax. Just now it is in bad hands, and darkness and
     anarchy reigns. But the King of Glory will come and will save,
     strengthen, and give wisdom to the people who are now deceived.”

For some reason the Empress seemed to feel that the Lenten season of
1918 was destined to end in an Easter resurrection of the torn and
distracted country. At least so her letters indicate. In a mood of
fitful kindness and mercy the Bolshevist soldiers in authority in
Tobolsk allowed their captives to go rather often to church and to
Communion during this season, and the Empress was very happy in
consequence. Her letters were full of prayers for the country, in which
the whole family joined, and they appeared to look forward to Easter as
the day when God would give some token that the sins of the Russian
people, for which they were suffering, were forgiven. Yet never once did
she speak of regaining power or the throne. All that was over and
forgotten. Neither the Emperor nor the Empress ever indicated in any
syllable that they expected to be returned to their former eminence. In
fact they never spoke of what might actually happen to the Russian
Empire, but they believed that God would hold it together and restore
its people to wisdom and strength. For themselves they seemed to look
forward to nothing better than an obscure existence with other Russian
people. How uncomplainingly they accepted the hard terms of their lives,
how grateful they were for the love of distant friends whom they might
never see again, is shown in all the last letters I received from the
Empress during March, 1918. After receiving one of our parcels of
clothing she wrote me:

     We are endlessly touched by all your love and thoughtfulness. Thank
     everybody for us, please, but really it is too bad to spoil us so,
     for you are among so many difficulties and we have not many
     privations, I assure you. We have enough to eat, and in many
     respects are rich compared with you. The children put on yesterday
     your lovely blouses. The hats also are very useful, as we have none
     of this sort. The pink jacket is far too pretty for an old woman
     like me, but the hat is all right for my gray hair. What a lot of
     things! The books I have already begun to read, and for all the
     rest such tender thanks. He was so pleased by the military suit,
     vest, and trousers you sent him, and all the lovely things. From
     whom came the ancient image? I love it.

     Our last gifts to you, including the Easter eggs, will get off
     today. I can’t get much here except a little flour. Just now we are
     completely shut off from the south, but we did get, a short time
     ago, letters from Odessa. What they have gone through there is
     quite terrible. Lili is alone in the country with her grandmother
     and our godchild, surrounded by the enemy. The big Princess
     Bariatinsky and Mme. Tolstoy were in prison in Yalta, the former
     merely because she took the part of the Tartars. Babia Apraxine
     with her mother and children live upstairs in their house, the
     lower floor being occupied by soldiers. Grand Duchess Xenia with
     her husband, children, and mother are living in Dülburg. Olga
     Alexandrovna (the Emperor’s sister) lives in Haraks in a small
     house because if she had remained in Aitodor she would have had to
     pay for the house. What the Germans are doing! Keeping order in the
     towns but taking everything. All the wheat is in their hands, and
     it is said that they take seed-corn, coal, former Russian
     soldiers--everything. The Germans are now in Bierki and in
     Charkoff, Poltava Government. Batoum is in the hands of the Turks.

     Sunbeam (Alexei) has been ill in bed for the past week. I don’t
     know whether coughing brought on the attack, or whether he picked
     up something heavy, but he had an awful internal hemorrhage and
     suffered fearfully. He is better now, but sleeps badly and the
     pains, though less severe, have not entirely ceased. He is
     frightfully thin and yellow, reminding me of Spala. Do you
     remember? But yesterday he began to eat a little, and Dr. Derevanko
     is satisfied with his progress. The child has to lie on his back
     without moving, and he gets so tired. I sit all day beside him,
     holding his aching legs, and I have grown almost as thin as he. It
     is certain now that we shall celebrate Easter at home because it
     will be better for him if we have a service together. I try to
     hope that this attack will pass more quickly than usual. It must,
     since all Winter he was so well.

     I have not been outside the house for a week. I am no longer
     permitted to sit on the balcony, and I avoid going downstairs. I am
     sorry that your heart is bad again, but I can understand it. Be
     sure and let me know well in advance if you move again. Everyone,
     we hear, has been sent away from Tsarskoe. Poor Tsarskoe, who will
     take care of the rooms now? What do they mean when they speak of an
     “état de siège” there?...

Darling “Sister Seraphine”:

     I want to talk to you again, knowing how anxious you will be for
     Sunbeam. The blood recedes quickly--that is why today he again had
     very severe pains. Yesterday for the first time he smiled and
     talked with us, even played cards, and slept two hours during the
     day. He is frightfully thin, with enormous eyes, just as at Spala.
     He likes to be read to, eats little--no appetite at all in fact. I
     am with him the whole day, Tatiana or Mr. Gilliard relieving me at
     intervals. Mr. Gilliard reads to him tirelessly, or warms his legs
     with the Fohn apparatus. Today it is snowing again but the snow
     melts rapidly, and it is very muddy. I have not been out for a week
     and a half, as I am so tired that I don’t dare to risk the stairs.
     So I sit with Alexei.... A great number of new troops have come
     from everywhere. A new Kommissar has arrived from Moscow, a man
     named Jakovleff, and today we shall have to make his acquaintance.
     It gets very hot in this town in Summer, is frightfully dusty, and
     at times very humid. We are begging to be transferred for the hot
     months to some convent. I know that you too are longing for fresh
     air, and I trust that by God’s mercy it may become possible for us
     all.

     They are always hinting to us that we shall have to travel either
     very far away, or to the center (of Siberia), but we hope that
     this will not happen, as it would be dreadful at this season. How
     nice it would be if your brother could settle himself in Odessa. We
     are quite cut off from the south, never hear from anybody. The
     little officer will tell you--he saw me apart from the others.[25]
     I am so afraid that false rumors will reach your ears--people lie
     so frantically. Probably the little one’s illness was reported as
     something different, as an excuse for our not being moved.[26]
     Well, all is God’s will. The deeper you look the more you
     understand that this is so. All sorrows are sent us to free us from
     our sins or as a test of our faith, an example to others. It
     requires good food to make plants grow strong and beautiful, and
     the gardener walking through his garden wants to be pleased with
     his flowers. If they do not grow properly he takes his pruning
     knife and cuts, waiting for the sunshine to coax them into growth
     again. I should like to be a painter, and make a picture of this
     beautiful garden and all that grows in it. I remember English
     gardens, and at Livadia you saw an illustrated book I had of them,
     so you will understand.

     Just now eleven men have passed on horseback, good faces, mere
     boys--this I have not seen the like of for a long time. They are
     the guard of the new Kommissar. Sometimes we see men with the most
     awful faces. I would not include them in my garden picture. The
     only place for them would be outside where the merciful sunshine
     could reach them and make them clean from all the dirt and evil
     with which they are covered.

     God bless you, darling child. Our prayers and blessings surround
     you. I was so pleased with the little mauve Easter egg, and all the
     rest. But I wish I could send you back the money I know you need
     for yourself. May the Holy Virgin guard you from all danger. Kiss
     your dear mother for me. Greetings to your old servant, the
     doctors, and Fathers John and Dosifei. I have seen the new
     Kommissar, and he really hasn’t a bad face. Today is Sacha’s (Count
     Voronzeff, aide-de-camp) birthday.

March 21.

     Darling child, we thank you for all your gifts, the little eggs,
     the cards, and the chocolate for the little one. Thank your mother
     for the books. Father was delighted with the cigarettes, which he
     found so good, and also with the sweets. Snow has fallen again,
     although the sunshine is bright. The little one’s leg is gradually
     getting better, he suffers less, and had a really good sleep last
     night. Today we are expecting to be searched--very agreeable! I
     don’t know how it will be later about sending letters. I only hope
     it will be possible, and I pray for help. The atmosphere around us
     is fairly electrified. We feel that a storm is approaching, but we
     know that God is merciful, and will care for us. Things are growing
     very anguishing. Today we shall have a small service at home, for
     which we are thankful, but it is hard, nevertheless, not to be
     allowed to go to church. You understand how that is, my little
     martyr.

     I shall not send this, as ordinarily, through ----, as she too is
     going to be searched. It was so nice of you to send her a dress. I
     add my thanks to hers. Today is the twenty-fourth anniversary of
     our engagement. How sad it is to remember that we had to burn all
     our letters, yours too, and others as dear.[27] But what was to be
     done? One must not attach one’s soul to earthly things, but words
     written by beloved hands penetrate the very heart, become a part of
     life itself.

     I wish I had something sweet to send you, but I haven’t anything.
     Why did you not keep that chocolate for yourself? You need it more
     than the children do. We are allowed one and a half pounds of
     sugar every month, but more is always given us by kind-hearted
     people here. I never touch sugar during Lent, but that does not
     seem to be a deprivation now. I was so sorry to hear that my poor
     lancer Ossorgine had been killed, and so many others besides. What
     a lot of misery and useless sacrifice! But they are all happier now
     in the other world. Though we know that the storm is coming nearer
     and nearer, our souls are at peace. Whatever happens will be
     through God’s will. Thank God, at least, the little one is better.

     May I send the money back to you? 1 am sure you will need it if you
     have to move again. God guard you. I bless and kiss you, and carry
     you always in my heart. Keep well and brave. Greetings to all from
     your ever loving,

A.


[Illustration: THE EX-EMPEROR AND ALEXEI FEEDING TURKEYS IN THE BARNYARD,
TOBOLSK, SIBERIA, 1918 Photograph by Olga.]

This letter, written near the end of March, 1918, was the last I ever
received written by her Majesty’s own hand. A little later in the spring
of that year she and the Emperor were hurriedly removed to
Ekaterinaburg--the last place from which the world has received tidings
of them. The children and most of the suite were left behind in Tobolsk,
the poor little Alexei still ill and suffering, and cruelly deprived of
the solace of his mother’s love and devotion. In May I received a brief
letter from Grand Duchess Olga who with difficulty managed to get me
news of her parents and the family.

     Darling, I take the first opportunity to write you the latest news
     we have had from ours in Ekaterinaburg. They wrote on the 23rd of
     April that the journey over the rough roads was terrible, but that
     in spite of great weariness they are well. They live in three rooms
     and eat the same food as the soldiers. The little one is better but
     is still in bed. As soon as he is well enough to be moved we shall
     join them. We have had letters from Zina but none from Lili. Have
     Alya and your brother written? The weather has become milder, the
     ice is out of the river Irtish, but nothing is green yet. Darling,
     you must know how dreadful it all is. We kiss and embrace you. God
     bless you.

OLGA.



[Illustration: THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE EMPRESS AND HER
DAUGHTERS, OLGA AND TATIANA, 1918]

After this short letter from Olga came a card from Ekaterinaburg written
by one of the Empress’s maids at her dictation. It contained a few
loving words, and the news that they were recovering from the fatigue of
their terrible journey. They were living in two rooms--probably,
although this is not stated, under great privations. She hoped, but
could not tell yet, that our correspondence could be continued. It never
was. I had a card a little later from Mr. Gibbs saying that he and M.
Gilliard had brought the children from Tobolsk to Ekaterinaburg and that
the family was again united. The card was written from the train where
he and M. Gilliard were living, not having been allowed to join the
family in their stockaded house. Mr. Gibbs had an intuition that both of
these devoted tutors were soon to be sent out of the country and such
proved to be the case. This was my last news of my Empress and of my
Sovereigns, best of all earthly friends.

In July short paragraphs appeared in the Bolshevist newspapers saying
that by order of the Soviet at Ekaterinaburg the Emperor had been shot
but that the Empress and the children had been removed to a place of
safety. The announcement horrified me, yet left me without any exact
conviction of its truth. Soviet newspapers published what they were
ordered to publish without any regard whatever to facts. Thus when a
little later it was announced that the whole family had been
murdered--executed, as they phrased it--imagine “executing” five
perfectly innocent children!--I could not make myself believe it. Yet
little by little the public began to believe it, and it is certain that
Nicholas II and his family have disappeared behind one of the world’s
greatest and most tragic mysteries. With them disappeared all of the
suite and the servants who were permitted to accompany them to the house
in Ekaterinaburg. My reason tells me that it is probable that they were
all foully murdered, that they are dead and beyond the sorrows of this
life forever. But reason is not always amenable. There are many of us in
Russia and in exile who, knowing the vastness of the enormous empire,
the remoteness of its communications with the outside world, know well
the possibilities of imprisonment in monasteries, in mines, in deep
forests from which no news can penetrate. We hope. That is all I can
say. It is said, although I have no firsthand information on the
subject, that the Empress Dowager has never believed that either of her
sons was killed. The Soviet newspapers published accounts of the
“execution” of Grand Duke Michail, and strong evidence has been
presented that he was murdered in Siberia with others of the family,
including the Grand Duchess Serge. These same newspapers, however,
officially stated that Grand Duke Michail had been assisted to escape by
English officers.

The most fantastic contradictions concerning all these alleged murders
have from time to time cropped up. When I was in prison in the autumn of
1919 a fellow prisoner of the Chekha, the wife of an aide-de-camp of
Grand Duke Michail, told me positively that she had received a letter
from the Emperor’s brother, safe and well in England.

Perhaps the strangest incident of the kind happened to me when I was
hiding from the Chekha after my last imprisonment and my narrow escape
from a Kronstadt firing squad. A woman unknown to me approached me and
calling me by my name, which of course I did not acknowledge, showed me
a photograph of a woman in nun’s robes standing between two men, priests
or monks. “This,” she said mysteriously and in a whisper, “is one you
know well. She sent it to you by my hands and asks you to write her a
message that you are well, and also to give your address that she may
write you a letter.”

I looked long at the photograph--a poor print--and I could not deny to
myself that there was something of a likeness in the face, and
especially in the long, delicate hands. But the Empress had always been
slender, and after her ill health became almost emaciated. This woman
was stout. I might, had I had the slightest assurance of safety, have
taken the risk of writing my name and address for this stranger. But no
one in Russia takes such risks. The net of the Chekha is too far flung.

I have one word more to say about these letters of the Empress Alexandra
Feodorovna. I have translated them as faithfully and as literally as
possible, leaving out absolutely nothing except a few messages of
affection and some religious expressions which seem to me too intimate
to make public, and which might appear exaggerated to western readers. I
have included letters which may be thought trivial in subject, but I
have done it purposely because I yearned to present the Empress as she
was, simple, self-sacrificing, a devoted wife, mother, and friend, an
intense patriot, deeply and consistently religious. She had her human
faults and failings, as she freely admits. Some of these traits can be
described, as the French express it, as “the faults of her quality.”
Thus her great love for her husband, which never ceased to be romantic
and youthful, caused her at times cruel heart pangs. Because this has
nothing to do with her life or her story I should not allude to the one
cloud that ever came between us--jealousy. I should leave that painful,
fleeting episode alone, knowing that she would wish it forgotten, except
that in certain letters which have been published she herself has spoken
of it so bitterly that were I to omit mention of it entirely I might be
accused of suppressing facts.

I have, I think, spoken frankly of the preference of the Emperor for my
society at times, in long walks, in tennis, in conversation. In the
early part of 1914 the Empress was ill, very low-spirited, and full of
morbid reflections. She was much alone, as the Emperor was occupied many
hours every day, and the children were busy with their lessons. In the
Emperor’s leisure moments he developed a more than ordinary desire for
my companionship, perhaps only because I was an entirely healthy, normal
woman, heart and soul devoted to the family, and one from whom it was
never necessary to keep anything secret. We were much together in those
days, and before either of us realized it the Empress became mortally
jealous and suspicious of every movement of her husband and of myself.
In letters written during this period, especially from the Crimea during
the spring of 1914, the Empress said some very unkind and cruel things
of me, or at least I should consider them cruel if they had not been
rooted in illness, and in physical and mental misery. Of course the
Court knew of the estrangement between us, and I regret to say that
there were many who delighted in it and did what they could to make it
permanent. My only real friends were Count Fredericks, Minister of the
Court, and his two daughters, who stood by me loyally and kept me in
courage.

That this illusion of jealousy was entirely dissipated, that the Empress
finally realized that my love and devotion for her precluded any
possibility of the things she feared, her letters to me from Siberia
amply demonstrate. Our friendship became more deeply cemented than
before, and nothing but death can ever sever the bond between us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Other letters written by the Empress to her husband between 1914 and
1916 have within this past year found publication by a Russian firm in
Berlin. Some of them have been reproduced in the London _Times_, and I
have no doubt that they will also be published in America. These letters
reveal the character of the Empress exactly as I knew her. It is balm to
my bruised heart to read in the London _Times_ that whatever has been
said of her betrayal, or attempted betrayal of Russia during the war,
must be abandoned as a legend without the least foundation. So must also
be discarded accusations against her of any but spiritual relations with
Rasputine. That she believed in him as a man sent of God is true, but
that his influence on her, and through her on the Emperor’s policies,
had any political importance I must steadfastly deny. Both the Empress
and Rasputine liked Protopopoff and trusted him. But that had nothing to
do with his ministerial tenure. The Empress, and I think also Rasputine,
disliked and distrusted Grand Duke Nicholas. But that had nothing to do
with his demission. In these affairs the Emperor made his own decisions,
as I have stated. The strongest proof of what I have written will be
found in the letters of the Empress, those she wrote to the Emperor, to
her relations in Germany and England, and those included in this volume.
Nothing contradictory, nothing inconsistent has ever been discovered,
despite the efforts of the Empress’s bitter enemies, the Provisional
Government and the Bolshevists. Before all the world, before the
historians of the future, Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia,
stands absolved.



CHAPTER XXIII


Towards the close of the summer of 1918 life in Russia became almost
indescribably chaotic and miserable. Most of the shops were closed, and
only the few who could pay fantastic prices were able to buy food. There
was a little bread, a very little butter, some meat, and a few farm
products. Tea and coffee had completely disappeared, dried leaves taking
their places, but even these substitutes were frightfully dear and very
difficult to find. The trouble was that the Bolshevist authorities
forbade the peasants to bring any food into Petrograd, and soldiers were
kept on guard at the railway stations to confiscate any stocks that
tried to run the blockade. Frequently the market stalls were raided, and
what food was there was seized, and the merchants arrested. Food
smuggling went on on a fairly large scale, and if one had money he could
at least avoid starvation. Most people of our class lived by selling,
one by one, jewels, furs, pictures, art objects, an enterprising class
of Jewish dealers having sprung up as by magic to take advantage of the
opportunity. There was also a new kind of merchant class, people of the
intelligentsia, who knew the value of lace, furs, old china and
embroideries, who dealt with us with more courtesy and rather less
avarice than the Jews.

My mother and I fell into dire poverty. A home we had, and even a few
valuable jewels, but we clung to everything we had as shipwrecked
sailors to their life belts. We could not look far ahead, and we viewed
complete bankruptcy with fear and dread. I recall one bitter day in that
summer sitting down on a park bench weary and desolate as any pauper,
for I had not in my pocket money enough to go home in a tram. I do not
remember how I got home, but I remember that in that dark hour a former
banker whom we had long known called at our lodgings and told us that he
had a little money which he was about to smuggle to the Imperial Family
in Siberia. He wanted us to accept twenty thousand rubles of this for
our immediate needs, and gladly we did accept it. Very soon afterwards
the banker suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, and his fate remains
to this day a profound mystery. I do not even know if he succeeded in
getting the money to Siberia. However, with the hope he inspired in me I
began to think of possible resources which I might turn to account. My
hospital in Tsarskoe Selo had been closed by the Bolsheviki, but its
expensive equipment of furniture, instruments, horses and carriages
still remained, and I employed a lawyer to go over the books and to
estimate what money I could realize from a sale of the whole property.
To my dismay I learned that the place with everything in it had been
seized by my director and head nurse who, under the Bolshevist policy of
confiscation, claimed all, ostensibly as state property but really as
their own, for they had become ardent Bolshevists. I made a personal
appeal to these old employees of mine to let me have at least one cow
for my mother who, being very frail, needed milk. They simply laughed
at me. My lawyer took steps to protect my rights, and the result of this
rash action was that the former director denounced me to the Chekha as a
counter-Revolutionist, and in the middle of an October night our home
was invaded by armed men who arrested me and my nursing sister, and
looted our rooms of everything that caught their fancy. Among other
things they took was a letter from the Emperor to my father explaining
the conditions which led him to assume supreme command of the army. This
letter, treasured by me, seemed to them somehow very incriminating.

Driven ahead of the soldiers, I went downstairs and climbed into a motor
truck which conveyed us to the headquarters of the Chekha in Gorohvaia
Street. After my name had been taken by a slovenly official I followed
the guard to one of two large rooms which formed the women’s ward of the
prison. There must have been close to two hundred women crowded in these
rooms. They slept sometimes three to a narrow bed, they lay on the
tables and even on the bare floor. The air of the place was, of course,
utterly foul, for many of the women were of the class that never washes.
Some were of gentle birth and breeding, accused of no particular
offense, but held, according to Bolshevist custom, as hostages and
possible witnesses for others who were under examination or who were
wanted and could not be found. In the early morning all the prisoners
got up from their narrow beds or the hard floor and made their way under
soldier escort to a toilet where they washed their faces and hands. As
I sat miserably on the edge of my bed a woman came up to me introducing
herself as Mlle. Shoulgine, the oldest inhabitant of the place, and
therefore a kind of a monitor. It was her business, she said, to see
that each prisoner received food and to handle any letters or petitions
the women might desire to send out. I told her that I desired to send a
petition to the head of the Chekha, or to whatever committee was in
charge of the prison, asking the nature of the charges against me, and
begging for an early trial. This petition was duly dispatched, and very
soon after a very large man, a Jew, came to see me and promised that my
affair would be promptly investigated. The soldiers on guard spoke to me
kindly and offered, if I had money, to carry letters back and forth from
my home. I gave them money and was comforted to hear from my mother that
Dr. Manouchine was once more working for my release. Although not a
Bolshevist, the doctor’s skill was greatly respected by the Communists,
who had appointed him head physician of the old Detention House. There
was a student doctor attached to our prison, and merely because he was a
friend of Dr. Manouchine and knew that I was also, he was courteous and
attentive to me. So potent is the influence of a truly great character.

The five days I spent in that filthy, crowded cell will never leave my
memory. Every moment was a nightmare. Twice a day they served us with
bowls of so-called soup, hot water with a little grease and a few wilted
vegetables. This with small pieces of sour black bread was all the food
vouchsafed us. Some of the prisoners got additional food from outside,
and usually these fortunate ones divided what they had with the others.
There was one beautiful woman of the half-world who daily received from
some source ample food, and like most of the women of her class she was
generous. I was told that she had been arrested because she had hidden
and helped her lover, a White officer, to escape, and that she felt
proud to be suffering for his sake. Perhaps it was from friends of his
that she received the food, yet women of her kind, God knows, very
seldom meet with gratitude even from those who owe it most.

Although I was accused of no crime and had no idea what accusations
could be brought against me, I lived as all the others lived, in a state
of constant anxiety and fear. All day and all night we heard the sound
of motors and of motor horns, we saw prisoners brought in, and from our
windows we could see great quantities of loot which the Bolshevist
soldiers had collected, silver, pictures, rich wearing apparel,
everything that appealed to them as valuable. In the courtyard we could
see the men fighting like wolves over their spoils. It was like living
in a pirates’ den rather than a prison, and yet we were often enough
reminded that we were prisoners. One day all the women in my room were
roughly ordered into a larger room literally heaped with archives of the
Imperial Government. With soldiers standing over us we set to work like
charwomen to sort the papers and tie them up in neat bundles. Very often
in the night when we were sleeping exhausted in our cell rooms the
electric lights would suddenly be turned on, guards would call out
names, and half a dozen frightened women would get up, gather their rags
about them, and go out. Some returned, some disappeared. No one knew
whose turn would come next or what her fate would be.

The name of my nursing sister was called before mine, and within a short
time she returned smiling to say that she was to be sent home at once
and that I should soon follow. Two hours later soldiers appeared at the
grating and one called out my surname: “Tanieva, to Viborg Prison.” I
had spirit enough to demand the papers consigning me to this dread
women’s prison, but the soldiers merely pushed me back with the butts of
their guns and bade me lose no time in obeying orders. I still had a
little money with which I paid for a cab instead of walking the long
distance to the prison, and I begged the soldiers to stop on the way and
let me see my mother. For this privilege I offered all the money
remaining in my purse, which the soldiers took, also bargaining for the
ring I wore on my hand. This I declined to give so they philosophically
said: “Oh, well, why not?” And stopped the cab at the door of my
mother’s lodgings. Of course my poor mother was overjoyed to see me,
even for a moment, and so was old Berchik, now almost at the end of his
life. Both assured me that everything was being done in my behalf and
that at the Viborg prison I would be in less danger of death than at the
Chekha headquarters. I might even hope to be admitted to the prison
hospital.

A little heartened in spite of myself I went on to Viborg, which lies in
a far quarter of the town on what is known as the Viborg side of the
Neva. A rather pretty Bolshevist girl was in charge of the receiving
office, and when I pleaded ill health and asked to be sent to the
hospital she promised to see what could be done. Viborg prison was one
of many which during the first frenzied days of the Revolution were
thrown open, the prisoners released, and the wardresses murdered. I do
not know how other women were induced to take their places, but I do
know that the women in whose charge I was placed were so kind and
considerate that had any attempt been made against them the prisoners
themselves would have fought in their defense. The wardress who locked
me in my cell stopped to say a comforting word, and because she saw that
I was shivering with cold as well as nervousness, she brought me bread
and a little hot soup.

After some hours I had another visitor, Princess Kakouatoff, accused of
being the ringleader of an anti-Bolshevist plot, who had been six months
in Viborg and was regarded as a “trusty.” Among other privileges she had
the right to telephone friends of new prisoners, and at my request she
telephoned messages to friends who could be of use to my mother if not
to me. The princess brought me a little portion of fish which I ate
hungrily, and I think she was also instrumental in finally getting me
into the prison hospital. This was after I had fainted on the floor of
my cell, and everyone in authority, including the prison doctor, knew
that I was in no condition to endure the noisy confusion of the huge
cell house. The hospital was a little cleaner than the rest of the
prison, but it was a pretty dreadful place just the same. For nurses we
had good-conduct prisoners, women of low type who stole food and
everything else they could lay hands on. They stripped me of my clothes,
substituting the prison chemise and blue dressing gown, and took away
all my hairpins. I was given a bed in a room with six other women, one
of them a particularly awful syphilis case, and two others, very dirty,
who spent most of their time going over each other’s heads for vermin. I
stayed in this ghastly place a very short time, a woman doctor and a
prisoner of my own class, Baroness Rosen, succeeding in getting me
transferred to a better ward. Nevertheless the whole prison hospital was
horrible. The trusties in charge of the wards were in the habit of
eating the meat out of the prisoners’ bowls, and fighting for food among
prisoners throughout the institution was a daily occurrence. I can
describe Viborg prison and most of its inmates in one word--beastly.
Many of the women were syphilitic, most were verminous, some were half
mad. One who slept near me had murdered her husband and burned his body.
Nearly all sang the most obscene songs and held unrepeatable
conversations. Mostly they were so depraved that the doctor in his
rounds showed that he was afraid of them. Yet there were among them a
few women who, like myself, had led sheltered and religious lives, and
who were only now learning that such abandoned specimens of womanhood
existed on the earth. There was no attempt at reforming the women. Once
there had been a church attached to the prison, but this the Bolsheviki
had closed, substituting a cinema to which on special occasions some of
the prisoners were admitted. Not many political prisoners had this
privilege because they were treated much more rigorously than common
criminals. It was the common criminals also, the thieves, murderers,
prostitutes, who were released in advance of “counter-Revolutionists,”
those accused, however vaguely, of political activities.

All the prisons of Petrograd by this time were so crowded with so-called
political prisoners that even the women’s prison was obliged to receive
an overflow of sick men prisoners. This wholesale imprisonment of
anti-Bolshevists naturally led to the shooting of thousands of citizens,
shooting being simpler than feeding and housing, and in addition an
economy of effort on the part of those charged with the mockery of
trials. Later the Chekha dispensed with this mockery, but in those days
prisoners were given the pretense of a hearing. I can testify to their
futility, because I went through more than half a dozen trials and in no
case was I accused of any crime, tried for any definite offense, or
given anything like a fair hearing. On September 10, 1918, word was
brought to the Viborg prison that on the next morning I was to be taken
away not to return. This seemed to be a death sentence, and all that
night I lay awake thinking of my poor mother and wondering what would
become of her alone in the midst of the Bolshevist inferno. Silently and
long I prayed for her and for the peaceful release of my own tried soul.

Very early in the morning I was summoned, my own clothes were given me,
and I was led to the receiving office of the prison. Here two soldiers
waited, and I was taken out between them and marched to the headquarters
of the Chekha. In a small, dirty room I underwent an examination by two
Jewish Communists, one of whom, Vladimirov--nearly all Jewish Communists
assume Russian names--being prominent in the councils of the Communist
central committee. For fully an hour these men did everything they could
to terrorize me. They accused me of being a spy, of plotting against the
Chekha, of being a dangerous counter-Revolutionist. They told me that I
was to be shot at once and that they intended to shoot all the
intellectuals and the “Bourju,” leaving the proletariat in full
possession of Russia. They continued this bluster until from sheer
weariness they stopped, then one of the men leaned his elbows on the
table and with a smile that was meant to be ingratiating said
confidentially: “I tell you what. You relate the _true_ story of
Rasputine and perhaps we won’t have you shot, at least not today.” I
assured the man that I knew no more about Rasputine than they did,
perhaps not as much, since I had no access to police records and they
had. Then they wanted to know all about the Czar and the life of the
Court. As well as I could I satisfied their curiosity, which was that of
ignorant children, and at the end of an exhausting interrogation they
actually sent me, not to a wall and a firing squad, but back to the
filthy cell in the Viborg prison. I dropped on my dirty bed, swallowed a
little food brought me by a sympathetic fellow prisoner, and resigned
myself for what next might happen to me. What happened was astonishing.
A soldier came to the door and called out: “Tanieva, with your things
to go home.”

Within a short time I stood trembling and weak on the pavement in front
of the prison. I could not have walked to my lodgings, in fact I felt
incapable of walking at all, but a strange woman observing me and my
piteous condition approached, put her arm around me, and helped me into
a drosky. I had a little money, perhaps fifty rubles, and I gave it all
to the ischvostik to drive me home. Here I found an amazing state of
affairs, the general immorality and demoralization into which Bolshevism
was driving the people having penetrated our own place. Everyone was
turning thief, and my nursing sister, who had been with me since 1905,
whom my mother had treated like a daughter, had become inoculated with
the virus of evil. The woman had not only appropriated almost all the
clothes I possessed, but had stolen all the trinkets and bits of jewelry
she could lay hands on. She had even taken the carpets from the floors
and stored them in her room. Not daring to attempt to regain any of this
property I asked the nurse to please take what she wanted and leave the
apartment. “Not at all,” she replied. “This place suits me very well and
as long as I choose I shall remain.” She had embraced Bolshevism, not I
am sure from principle, but as the safest policy, and in time she became
rich in jewels, finery, and miscellaneous loot. It was months before we
finally induced her to leave, and after her departure I have reason to
believe that she did everything she could to keep me in trouble with the
Bolshevists.

By this time the Communist régime was fully organized. The whole town
was divided into districts, each one under command of a group of
soldiers who had full license to search--and rob--houses, and to make
arrests. Every night the search went on. At seven o’clock all electric
lights were turned off, and when, two or three hours later, they
suddenly flashed up again, every soul in the district was seized with
fear, knowing that this was the signal for the invasion. Often women
were included in the searching parties, terrible women dressed in silks
and strung with jewelry, stolen of course from the hated “Bourju.” Seven
times our home was raided, once on the authority of an anonymous letter
charging that we were in possession of firearms. Once more I was dragged
off to an interminable examination, this time before the staff of the
Red Army in a house in Gogol Street. The close connection between the
Chekha and the Red Army was apparent because in the two hours during
which I sat in the ante-chamber waiting examination a Lettish official
of the Chekha passed freely in and out of the committee room,
occasionally throwing me a reassuring word. My case would be settled
favorably, he said, and it was, for the committee after bullying me for
a length of time, dropped the subject of concealed firearms, assumed the
snobbish and half cringing air with which I was becoming familiar to the
point of nausea, and began asking questions about the Imperial
household. They produced a large album of photographs and made me go
through it and identify each picture. Finally the head inquisitor told
me magnanimously that I could go home, cleared by the highest
authority, but that soldiers would go with me and make sure that there
were no revolvers or pistols in the house. The search was made anew, and
then the men left, obviously disappointed that practically nothing worth
stealing had come to light.

Two things of importance were happening in those days. The White Army
was approaching Petrograd, and in all the streets soldiers were drilling
in anticipation of a battle. Airplanes whirred overhead, and once in so
often a shell screamed over the housetops. We prayed for the coming of
the White Army, and at the same time dreaded the massacres we knew would
precede its entry into the town. The second thing that marked this date
was the Communist system of public feeding, free food being furnished by
cards distributed according to the status of the individual. The
Bolshevist authorities and the soldiers of course had the most food and
the best. Next came the proletariat, so-called, and last of all the
“Bourju” was provided for. These of the lowest strata in society got
hardly anything at all and would have starved, most of them, had it not
been for the food smuggling which constantly went on, the peasants from
out of town boldly bringing in bulky parcels, and taking back in return
for their food, not Bolshevist money, which they disdained, but
everything they could accumulate in the way of furniture or dress
materials. They even accepted window curtains and table linen, anything,
in fact, that could be fashioned into clothing. These same peasants
before the Revolution had been expert spinners and weavers, but now they
scorned such plebeian occupations because it was easier to barter
grains, milk, vegetables, and other produce for the last possessions of
the townspeople.

We went on living, somehow, parting with clothing and furniture, burning
boxes and even chairs for fuel, walking miles for stray bits of wood,
praying for the success of the White forces, praying for protection
against what must happen before that success could be achieved. My
mother all these days was very ill with dysentery, which was rife in
Petrograd, and I had that additional suffering, for I knew that it would
take little to bring her frail life to an end.



CHAPTER XXIV


On September 22 (October 6, New Style) I went in the evening to a
lecture in a church. At that time every non-Bolshevist spent as many
hours every day as possible in the churches, praying or listening to
words of hope and comfort from the priests. The church was, in fact, the
only home of peace and rest in the whole of the distracted country. That
particular night in church I met some old friends who invited me to go
home with them rather than walk the long and dreary, even the dangerous
way back to my lodgings. I stayed with my friends that night, and the
next morning early I went to mass in the little church where Father John
of Kronstadt lies buried. I reached home about midday, and found the
place in the possession of soldiers, two of whom had waited the entire
night to arrest me, this time as a hostage, the White Army being
reported within a few miles of Petrograd. My sick mother prepared me a
little food, made a parcel of my scanty linen, and once more we bade
each other the despairing farewell of two who knew that they might never
meet again on earth. I was quickly conveyed to the headquarters of the
Chekha where I was greeted with the exultant welcome: “Aha! Here we have
the bird who has dared to stay out a whole night.”

Thrust into the old filthy, ill-smelling cell room I found a spot near a
dirty window from which I could get a far glimpse of the golden dome of
St. Isaac’s Cathedral. During my whole term in this place I kept my eyes
and my whole mind on that golden dome, trying to forget the hell that
whirled around me. The woman in charge of the room was a Finnish girl
who had committed the crime of trying to run away to Finland. She was a
stenographer and clerk, and the Chekha used her by night as an office
assistant. Whether by nature or by association she had become as hard
and as ruthless as her captors, and her imprisonment had many
mitigations. It was her pleasant duty to make out the lists of those
who, twice a week, were taken to Kronstadt to be shot, and her reports
on the subject which she confided regularly to her chosen comrade, a
Georgian dancer named Menabde, were enough to sicken even those of us
who had become accustomed to wholesale slaughter of unoffending human
beings. We heard little else except death and threats of death in this
place. There was an official named Boze in the prison, and often we
heard him screeching through the telephone to his wife that he would be
late to dinner that night because he had a load of “game” to get off to
Kronstadt. Under such conditions pity and sympathy become strangely
dulled. On occasions when I was sent to the kitchens for hot water I
used to get glimpses of the “game,” huddled wretchedly in their seats or
restlessly pacing their cells--waiting. Often when I returned with the
water I found the seats and the cells empty, and although my heart sank
and my senses swam, I never felt the screaming horror a normal person
would have felt. This dulling of the emotions, I suppose, is nature’s
way of keeping the mind from giving way entirely. Of course nature took
away all human dignity and self-respect, this, too, in mercy. Any
prisoner who went to the kitchens was greeted with jeers and foul abuse
from the cooks who threw us handfuls of potato parings and withered
cabbage leaves, quite as one would throw bones to dogs. Like dogs we
eagerly snatched at these leavings, because the prisoners’ regular
rations were nothing half as palatable, being mostly wormy dried fish
and a disgusting substitute for bread.

One day I was called up for examination, and this time a real surprise
awaited me. My judge was an Esthonian named Otto, not altogether a
brutal man, as it turned out. As I approached his desk he regarded me
grimly and without a word handed me a letter, unsigned, and reading
about as follows: “To the Lady in Waiting, Anna Viroubova. You are the
only one who can save us from this terrible Bolshevik administration, as
you are at the head of a great organization fully equipped with guns and
ammunition.” Sternly the Esthonian judge commanded me to tell him the
truth about the organization of which I was the head. Of course I told
him that the whole thing was an invention, and he astonished me by
saying that although the letter had been posted to my address he had
very much doubted its verity. Then he asked, almost gently: “Are you
very hungry?” Taken off my guard as much by the kindness as by the
prospect of food, I fell against the desk murmuring only half aloud:
“Hungry? Yes, oh, yes.” Whereupon he opened a drawer of his desk and
handed me a large piece of fresh, sweet bread. “Go now,” he said, “and
I will discuss your case with my colleague Vikman. In the evening we
will see you again.”

At eleven that night I was again summoned, this time before the two men.
The Esthonian, still kind and courteous, gave me a glass of steaming
tea, which did much to lend me courage. Both he and Vikman then put me
through a searching examination especially about my relations, real and
assumed, with the Imperial Family and with persons of the Court. At
three in the morning they released me, more dead than alive with
fatigue, Otto telling me heartily that he thought I would be set free
within a few days. Vikman, however, declared that my case would have to
be referred to Moscow and that I need not expect an early release. I
went back to my evil cage expecting nothing. I knew, that the threat of
the White Army advance filled with terror the whole Bolshevist
population, and that in case of actual battle no life outside the slim
Communist ranks would be worth the smallest scrap of their worthless
paper money.

Very shortly after my return to the cell room I began to hear my name
whispered from one wretched woman to another, and I accepted this
without much emotion as a prelude to a boat journey to Kronstadt. Early
on a certain morning a soldier approached the door and bawled out:
“Tanieva, you to Moscow.” I happened to be exceedingly ill that day, but
mechanically I picked up my little handkerchief containing my few
possessions, including a Bible, and followed the escort of two soldiers
down the steep steps, as I believed, to my death. Perhaps they had
orders to take me to Kronstadt, I cannot be sure of that, but I do know
that the route we followed did not lead to the Moscow station. We had
walked but a short distance when one of the soldiers said to the other:
“What’s the good of two of us bothering with one lame woman? I’ll take
care of her and you can go along. It will soon be over anyway.” Nothing
loath the other soldier, glad to get out of anything resembling work,
took himself off while I, in charge of one armed man, mounted the
crowded tram and rode on toward an unknown destination. At a certain
point we had to change trams, and here occurred an incident so
extraordinary that I almost hesitate to strain the credulity of a
non-Russian reader by relating it. The second tram had been delayed for
some reason, and a considerable crowd of passengers was waiting for it
on the street corner. My soldier stood at my side waiting with the rest,
but soon he became impatient. Ordering me not to move an inch in his
absence, he ran down the street a short distance to see if the tram were
in sight. As soon as he turned his back, people in the crowd began to
speak to me. A girl in whom I recognized a former acquaintance asked me
where I was going, and when I told her she took a bracelet I gave her
and promised to carry it, with news of my fate, to my poor mother. An
officer of the old army came up to me saying: “Are you not Anna
Alexandrovna?” And when I said yes, he too asked me where I was being
taken. “Kronstadt, I think,” I answered, but he said: “Who knows?” and
pressed into my hands a roll of bills saying that they might be of use
to me.

Other people surrounded me, mostly strangers, but two of them women
whom I had often seen at mass in the small church of Father John. They
said: “Why should you be shot? The soldier has not come back. Run while
the chance is yours. Father John will surely help you.” Encouraged by
their sympathy, yet hardly knowing what I was doing, I limped off on my
crutch much faster than I could have believed possible, the whole
street-corner crowd spreading out to shield my flight. I limped and
stumbled down Michel Street as far as the Nevski Prospekt weeping and
praying all the time: “God save me! God save me!” until I reached the
old shopping arcade known as the Gostiny Dvor. Here I caught sight of my
soldier running in frantic pursuit of his escaped prisoner. It seemed
all over with me then but I crouched in a corner of the deserted
building and miraculously the soldier ran on without seeing me. As soon
as I thought it at all safe I crept out of the old arcade and turned
into the Zagorodny Prospekt, where I found a solitary cab. “Take me
quickly,” I cried to the ischvostik. “My mother is dying.” The man
replied indifferently that he had a fare waiting, but I thrust into his
hands the entire roll of bills given me by the friendly officer, at the
same time climbing into the drosky.

Said the ischvostik, “Where shall I drive you?” I gasped out the address
of a friend in the suburbs of the city, and the man lashed his
half-starved animal into a walk. After what seemed to me many hours we
reached the place, I rang the doorbell and fell across the threshold in
a dead faint.

My friend and her husband courageously took me in, fed, warmed me, and
put me to bed. They even dared to send word to my mother that I was for
the moment safe from pursuit, but they warned her not to come near the
house as soldiers would certainly be watching her every movement. As a
matter of fact my mother was visited by Red soldiers, arrested in her
bed, and closely guarded for three weeks. Our maid also was arrested, as
was everyone who came to the house. The old Berchick who had spent
almost his entire lifetime in the service of our family was taken ill
during this period and died. For five days his body lay uncoffined in
the house, the Bolshevist authorities refusing him a burial permit. It
was for my mother an interval of utter despair, since in addition to the
death of Berchick she lived in constant fear of my rearrest. In the
opinion of the Bolshevist soldiers, however, I had escaped to the White
Army, and photographs of me were posted conspicuously in all the railway
stations.

The kind friends who had taken me in dared not for their lives keep me
long, and wishing them nothing of harm I set out on a dark night without
a kopeck in my pockets and with no certain idea where I could find a
bed. I had in mind a religious hostel, a place where a few students, men
and women, lived under the chaperonage of an old nun. There I went,
begging them for Christ’s sake to take me in, and there I was hidden for
five perilous days. A girl student volunteered to go to see my mother,
and go she did, but when hours passed, a day passed, and she did not
return, a panic of fear seized all of us, and rather than expose these
kind people to risk of imprisonment and death I voluntarily left the
place. What else could I do?

How shall I describe the horrors of the next few months? Like a hunted
animal I crept from one shelter to another, always leaving when it
seemed at all possible that my protectors might be punished for their
charity. Four nights I spent in the cell of an old nun whom I knew, but
pitying her fears I put on the black head kerchief of a peasant woman
and started in a cab, on borrowed money, for the house of a friend near
the Alexandra Lavra on the outskirts of the town. All unknown to me a
decree had that day been issued that no one could ride in a cab without
written permission from the authorities. Consequently before we had
traveled half the journey the cab was stopped by two women police,
fierce creatures armed with rifles, who called out to the ischvostik:
“Halt! We arrest you and your passenger.” Hastily I crammed all the
money I had into the ischvostik’s hand and begged the women to let me go
as I had just been discharged from hospital and knew nothing of the new
rule. Oddly enough they let us drive on, but very soon the ischvostik,
sick with terror, stopped his horse and told me that he would take me no
further. I got out and staggered on through the muddy snow, for it was
now late in the autumn of 1919. A former officer whom I had once known
well met and recognizing me asked if he might not accompany me to my
destination. “No, no,” I cried. “It would be madness for you to be seen
with me. I cannot explain, only go, go, as fast as you can.” I staggered
on, dripping with rain until I reached my friend’s house. To my now
customary greeting: “I am running away. Will you hide me?” she replied:
“Come in. I have two others.” Thus did brave Russians in those days risk
their lives to save those of others. Under her protection I lived ten
days, and in her house I met a woman, a servant in one of the Communist
kitchens, who having access to food and supplies, afterwards more than
once saved me from starvation.

From one such kindly haven to another I fled in the dead of night. Once
I was received in the home of an English woman who out of her scanty
stores gave me warm stockings, gloves, and a sweater. Another day or two
I spent in the rooms of a dressmaker whose husband was an unwilling
soldier in the Red Army. Once I ventured back to the student hostel,
where they welcomed me and fed me well, one of their number having just
returned from the country with a stock of smuggled food. Here I had news
from my dear mother from the girl who had gone to her on my behalf, and
had, after ten days’ detention by the Chekha, got back to the hostel.
Some members of the Chekha, she informed me, looked forward to shooting
me instantly when I was caught, but others said that it was certain that
I was with the White Army and would never be caught.

From the hostel I sought a paid lodging with the family of a former
member of the orchestra of the Imperial Theater. These people, however,
were very mercenary and would receive me only on advance payment of a
large sum of money. Almost everything my mother and I had owned had been
sold long before, but I retained a pendant of aquamarines and diamonds,
a wedding present from the Empress, safely hidden in the house of a
friend. This I had sold for fifty thousand rubles, giving half the money
to the musician’s wife in return for a few days’ shelter in a wretchedly
dirty, unheated room. Here I had to cut my hair short to get rid of
vermin, and feeling unable to endure the hole I left it. Yet finding my
next lodgings even worse, I returned, and here in the midst of
discomfort and bitter cold, I had the joy of meeting my mother and also
my aunt Lashkeroff, who brought me the welcome news that they thought
they had at last found me a permanently safe retreat. It was miles from
where I was staying, and I had to walk every step of the way, but when I
arrived I found my hostess a lovely woman belonging to the Salvation
Army. Gladly would I have stayed with her indefinitely but that was
impossible as I had no passport and the police began to haunt the
neighborhood. She did not abandon me for all that, but got me a new
shelter in the home of a good priest and his wife. From here I was
handed on from one to another of the priest’s parishioners to whom he
confided the story of my harried career. Once an Esthonian woman told me
that her sister had found a Finnish woman who, for a good price, was
willing to take fugitives over the frontier, and she strongly advised me
to attempt the flight. Some instinct forbade, and it turned out a good
instinct, for the Finnish woman, after taking the money, had abandoned
the Esthonian’s poor sister in the midst of a wood, from which she had
to return, empty of purse and in deadly peril of arrest.

Cutting the story of my fugitive existence short, I finally found
something like a permanent abode in the tiny and happily obscure
woodland cottage of a working engineer, who kindly offered to take me in
to his bachelor quarters a mile or two outside of Petrograd. Here I
became once more the happy possessor of a passport, true not in my own
name but perfectly legal otherwise. In Russia when a girl marries she
gives up her passport to the priest, receiving a new one in the name of
her husband. My kind old priest gave one of these maiden passports to
the engineer, at the same time reporting to the Commissar of his
neighborhood that such a passport had been lost. This was to prevent any
possible trouble or inquiry. The Commissar obligingly gave the priest a
duplicate, signed and sealed by Bolshevist authority. Now again I was a
human being, for no one in Russia can be said to have any identity
unless he is in possession of a passport. Mine described me as a
teacher, and as such I was henceforth entitled to the Communist rations.
For the time being I was less a teacher than an unskilled household
servant, for naturally I wanted to do everything possible to repay the
good engineer for affording me a safe shelter. I knew nothing whatever
of cooking or housework, yet I attempted to do both. The engineer
himself was absent all day, but when he returned at night he carried in
wood enough to last twenty-four hours, and also water which had to be
brought from a great distance. Food, of course, was very scarce. My
mother and the friendly priest brought all they could, but even so I
would often have suffered had it not been for my old acquaintance, the
woman who worked in the Communist kitchen. And here I have to tell
another incident which may seem impossible to some readers. One day I
was sitting in the little house in the wood, feeling as secure as an
escaped prisoner can feel, when I heard a sudden loud knocking at the
door. There was no possible place where I could hide, but I sat
absolutely still in my chair, hardly breathing for fear of disclosing
the fact that the house was not empty. Again came the knocking at the
door, this time louder and more peremptory than before. Realizing that
it was useless to resist, I arose and with a prayer on my lips, I went
to the door and opened it. No one was there. Nothing was in sight save
the wintry trees and the frozen path that led to the highway. But yes!
There almost at the end of the path stood the shivering figure of a
little girl, the daughter of the woman in the Communist kitchen.

“Oh!” she cried, seeing me in the doorway. “I have been looking
everywhere for your house and I could not find it.”

“But you knocked,” I said.

“No, I didn’t,” declared the child. “I haven’t been near the house. I
just this minute turned into the pathway to get out of the wind. I’m so
glad I’ve found you. Mother has sent you something.”

Who knocked at my door twice? The wind? It never did before or
afterwards. If you believe in Providence, as I do, you may agree with me
that God did not intend me at that time to starve in the depths of a
desolate forest. If you prefer another explanation seek it.

In January, 1920, my kind friend the engineer told me reluctantly that
he was about to marry and that the tiny room I occupied would have to
be given up. I had not the remotest idea where I was to go. Above all
things I desired to embrace a religious life, but in those perilous days
no convent in Petrograd dared receive me. The convents were constantly
being raided, and the younger nuns were frequently taken out and forced
to work on the streets. No religious house could shelter a fugitive even
though she possessed a false passport. Again I became a vagrant,
spending a night here, a day there, sleeping in any refuge that opened
to me. Towards the end of March I again found a home in the house of a
priest and his wife who were as parents to me, and to whom I owe a
lifetime of gratitude. Here I found not only safety but work, that
blessed anodyne against all trouble. My passport, as I have said,
described me as a teacher, and a teacher I now became, thanks to my new
friends, who found me plenty of pupils among the working-class children
of the neighborhood. I taught them the simple elements, and to children
of the more intellectual classes languages and music. My pay was in
food, but food in the Bolshevist paradise is worth much more than money,
so I was completely satisfied.

By this time my appearance was so changed that I lost all fear of the
police or the Chekha. One day when I was slowly walking the long
distance across the river to my favorite church, the resting place of
Father John, a motor car stopped in my path and I recognized as its
occupant the Chekha inquisitor Boze, the man who had several times been
my brutal jailer. “Grazhdanka (Citizeness),” he addressed me, “please
tell me where to find ----” he named a street and number whither he was
bound, doubtless on some errand of terror. Giving him the direction, I
moved on as fast as my crippled legs could carry me, but I need not have
been afraid for he did not know me at all.

So went the year 1920, my mother and I and the good priest’s family
often discussing the possibilities of escape from the increasing
starvation, death, and terror which everywhere surrounded us. People did
escape, we knew, but how were we to do it--two women, one old and the
other lame? It seemed altogether impossible. Besides, we had almost
nothing with which to buy our way out of the country. My only shoes were
homemade affairs of carpet, and I was so careful of them that often when
walking I took them off and carried them in my hands to preserve them.
Another thing, beset with dangers as we were in Russia we were no longer
hungry, because I had an increasing number of pupils, and each one meant
a tiny portion of food and firewood for my mother, my friends, and
myself. But here is a strange and a universally human thing. Food and
warmth do not bring content to prisoners, they create courage, and when
one day in late October we received a letter from my sister, safe in a
near-by country which I may not name, the flame of adventure blazed up
in the soul of my brave little mother and in my own heart. My sister
suggested the possibility of our getting out by one of the ways that
persist in flourishing in spite of Bolshevism and the Chekha, and she
offered us, if we succeeded in escaping, the shelter of her own home. I
cannot reveal any detail of those secret ways of escape, because they
still exist, and must not in any way be placed in jeopardy. Enough it is
to say that Petrograd is separated from Finland by only a few versts of
land, carefully guarded, and by a narrow arm of the Baltic Sea which
cannot be quite as successfully guarded. In winter this water freezes,
not as unsalted water freezes, smooth and thick and safe for passage,
but in rough and treacherous hummocks of mixed ice and snow, with
unexpected gaps of half-frozen water opening here and there between the
ice masses. Still, the icy Baltic does at times admit of sledge passage,
and there are men who make a business of taking over--for a price far
beyond what most Russians can afford--refugees who have friends waiting
for them in Finland or in countries to the west and south. Sometimes Red
soldiers have to be bribed, and often they sell out the people whose
money they accept. Sometimes also the men who contract to take refugees
over the ice betray their passengers to the Bolshevik guards. Any way
you look at it, escape from Bolshevik Russia is about as perilous as
going unarmed into a tiger’s cage. Yet people dare it, and we did.

It was about the first of December in our calendar, in the year 1920,
when we received a second smuggled letter from my sister: “Be ready
whenever we send for you.” For that promised summons we waited in
desperate suspense until two days after Christmas. Then to my mother’s
lodging came a fisherman and his little boy with the whispered news that
we were to go with them on the day following. My mother found means of
sending the news to our friend the priest, and he brought it to me.
“Tomorrow at four o’clock you go abroad.”

The next day at the appointed hour my mother and I, two shivering
creatures facing death, but ready, met at a small railway station
leading along the Baltic shores. The fisherman’s son was also at the
station, but obeying instructions, we did not notice him but simply
followed wherever he led. Our train journey was short, and at five
o’clock, pitch dark in the Russian winter, we alighted at a poor
village, following the boy who carried on his back a bag of potatoes.
Alas! In the darkness and confusion we lost him, and stood in the icy
cold like lost souls, not knowing where to turn. Suddenly out of the
shadows a peasant woman approached us. “Are you looking for a boy with a
bag of potatoes?” she said in a low voice, and to our frightened assent
she murmured: “Follow me.” We followed, although, for all we knew, it
was to a Chekha prison. Anybody in Russia may be Chekha, the friend who
invites you to dinner, the man who buys your last jewel, the woman who
offers to guide you over an unknown road. You can trust no one,
consequently, when you must, you trust anyone. We followed the peasant
woman into a dim hut, and there we found two fishermen who assured us
that they were ready that night to take us across the frozen Baltic to a
village on the Finnish side. Their horses and sledges, they told us,
were safely hidden, but they would be ready to take us and three other
fugitives, a lady, a child, and a maid, as soon as we could safely
venture to leave the village. As luck would have it there was a festival
and a dance going on that night, and we had to sit in that stifling hut
in complete silence until two o’clock. Also we had to pay for our
shelter and escape one hundred thousand rubles, which my mother had
secured by selling her last treasure, a pearl necklace.

When the last peasant had gone to bed and silence wrapped the village,
we stole out through the mud and the snow, and got into the rough
sledge. Hardly had we struck the rough ice of the Baltic when the sledge
overturned, waking the child who, silent before, now began to cry and to
beg to go home. The little thing spoke only French and I can still hear
him repeating over and over again in a high baby voice which he did not
know imperiled the lives of all of us: “Maman, Maman, à la maison, à la
maison.” For six hours we drove thus, slowly and cautiously over the
rotten ice, one of the men driving, and the other running ahead with a
long pole testing the ice for a safe pathway. Often we stopped to listen
for possible sentinels, and once in the neighborhood of Kronstadt we had
such a fright that I wonder the men dared go farther. Plainly to our
ears came the grinding of machinery, and we knew that where there was
machinery there were men. We stopped long and listened, until our driver
suddenly remembered that the noise was that of an ice breaker several
miles out of our highway. By this time I was so stiff and drowsy with
cold, so nearly frozen, in fact, that I hardly cared what happened to
us. Seeing my wretched state, one of the men took off an extra pair of
woolen socks he wore and slipped them on my feet. The unknown lady who
accompanied us also spared me a warm wrap, and by rubbing and holding
me close to their bodies they kept me alive. At eight o’clock of a pale
winter morning they lifted me out of the sledge and with the others I
stood trembling on the snowy shores of Finland.

“Now you are out of Sovdepia” (Soviet land), said the fishermen
cheerfully, “but we are not safe yet, for the Finnish police may catch
us and send us back.” Hurriedly we climbed the hill to the cottage of
one of the smugglers. Here we met his wife, who, gray with fear, came
out to meet her husband after his night of peril on the ice. The woman
gave us hot coffee, bread, and cheese, but she would not keep us long in
her house. We knew that we must report as soon as possible at the
quarantine station, and we knew, besides, that the sorely tried Finnish
authorities would not be any too glad to see us coming. Do not blame the
Finns for this. Every Russian refugee is a burden on their slender
resources, and too often a pretended refugee is merely a Bolshevik agent
sent to stir up trouble among disaffected workmen. However, on this
occasion the Finns received our wretched group with infinite kindness,
and made us comfortable during the required period we spent in the
quarantine station. Then we went to our separate destinations, all of us
to poverty, obscurity, homesickness, to that sunless clime which waits
the exile wherever he may go. In the country where my mother and I
finally arrived we found my sister, happier than ourselves, because she
left Russia before the great horror began, thus saving part of her
fortune. My sister gave us food, clothing, a lodging. Except for her
bounty we had lost everything we ever owned, home, friends,
possessions, country, for Russians now have no country, no flag, no
place in the wide world. The best any of us can hope for is an obscure
corner in some foreign land where we can earn enough to buy our daily
bread, and a quiet place in which to pray every day of our lives: “God
save Russia.”

I am told, although I can hardly believe it, that in other lands, even
in free America, there are beings so deluded that they wish to bring
about revolution and Bolshevism. I do not wish for any of them the long
nightmare of suffering that I, one of millions, have suffered under
revolution and Bolshevism. I pray only that there may be revealed to
them the fate of the betrayed who have died and are dying under the
criminal administration of the Provisional Government and, later, of
Lenine and his fanatical followers. If they can be made to know only in
part what my poor, ravished country is today, they will forget their
delusions and pray with the exiles: “God save Russia.”



APPENDIX A

THE TRUTH CONCERNING THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL FAMILY

     Statement of Vladimir Michailovitch Roudneff, appointed by Minister
     of Justice Kerensky Special High Commissioner for Revision and
     Investigation of the actions of Ministers and other High Personages
     of the Imperial Government.


“I was acting as Procureur of the Court of Assizes of Ekaterinoslav when
I received orders from Minister of Justice Kerensky to become a member
of the High Commission of Inquiry charged with an examination of the
acts and abuses of ministers and other high personages of the former
Government. While working with this Commission in Petrograd I was
especially assigned to examination of sources of secret influences at
Court which were known as Dark Forces. My work with the Commission
lasted until August, 1917, when I was forced to leave because the
President, Mourvavieff, insisted upon my making reports of a plainly
prejudicial character.

“As an Attorney General (_juge d’instruction_) I had access to all
documents, and the right to be present at the examination of all
witnesses, with the view of establishing impartially the part played by
persons accused by society and the public press of exerting influence on
foreign and domestic politics. I was assigned to read all the papers and
letters found in the Winter Palace, the palace at Tsarskoe Selo, and at
Peterhof, especially the personal correspondence of the Emperor and
Empress, certain of the Grand Dukes, and also the correspondence seized
in the course of examination of the house of Archbishop Varnava, also of
Countess S. S. Ignatieff, Dr. Badmaeff, Voyeikoff, and Anna Viroubova,
and also to the relations existing between the Imperial family and the
German Imperial family. Being aware of the importance of my inquiry in
throwing light on historical events preceding and following the
Revolution, I made copies of all documents and letters, _dossiers_, and
statements of witnesses. In leaving Petrograd I took with me all these
copies, concealing them in my home in Ekaterinoslav, but it is probable
that these documents were destroyed when the Bolsheviki raided my house.
If by happy chance I find that they still exist I shall certainly
publish them in full, without any comments of my own.

“In the meantime I consider it my duty to write a short account of the
principal persons who were accused of being Dark Forces. I must,
however, warn the reader that as I write from memory some details may
escape my mind. When I went to Petrograd to begin my work with the High
Commission I admit that I was influenced by all the pamphlets and
newspaper articles on the subject of the Rasputine influence, and other
rumors and gossip, and I began my work under the domination of
preconceived prejudices. But careful and impartial investigation soon
forced me to the opinion that these rumors and newspaper accounts were
based on slender foundations.

“The most interesting person charged with exercising a malign influence
on political affairs was Gregory Rasputine, therefore this person was
the central figure of my investigations. The account of the surveillance
under which he lived, up to the very day of his death, is of great
importance. This surveillance was exercised by the ordinary as well as
the secret police, special agents noting all his goings and comings,
some of these agents being disguised as policemen or as servants.
Everything concerning the movements of Rasputine was carefully recorded
every day. If he left his house, even for an hour or two, the moment of
his departure and his return was noted, and also every person he met on
the road.

“The secret agents kept strict account of all people he met and of all
who visited him. In cases where the names of these persons were not
known their full descriptions were taken. After having read all papers
and examined many witnesses I reached the conclusion that Rasputine was
a person more complex and less comprehensible than had been previously
represented. In studying his personality I naturally paid attention to
the chronological order of circumstances which finally opened to the man
the doors of the Tsar’s palace, and I discovered that the first
preliminary was his acquaintance with the well known, pious, and learned
churchmen Bishops Theofan and Hermogen. I noted also that it was
afterwards due to the influence of Rasputine that these two great
pillars of the Orthodox Church fell into disfavor. He was the cause of
the relegation of Hermogen to the Monastery of Saratoff, and of the
disgrace (demotion) of Theofan, after these two archbishops, discovering
Rasputine’s low instincts, openly turned against him. All the evidence
pointed to the conclusion that in the inner life of Rasputine, a simple
peasant of the Government of Tobolsk, there occurred suddenly a complete
change transforming him and turning him toward Christ. Only in this way
can I explain to myself his intimacy with these two remarkable bishops.
This hypothesis is moreover confirmed by Rasputine’s story of his
journey to the Holy Land. This book is marked by extreme naïveté,
simplicity, and sincerity. On the recommendation of the exalted
churchmen mentioned, Rasputine was received by the Grand Duchesses
Anastasie Nicholaevna and Melitza Nicholaevna, and it was through them
that he made the acquaintance of Mme. Viroubova, _née_ Tanieff, then
maid of honor. He made a deep impression on this very religiously
inclined woman, and gained at last an entry to the Imperial Palace. It
was then that awoke in him his worst instincts, hitherto repressed, and
it was then that he began adroitly to exploit the religious fervor
possessed by very high personages. It must be admitted that he played
his part with astonishing cleverness. Correspondence bearing on the
subject and the testimony of various witnesses prove that Rasputine
refused all subsidies, gratuities, and even honors which were freely
offered him by their Majesties, indicating thus his integrity, his
disinterestedness, and his profound devotion to the Throne, insisting
that he was an intercessor for the Imperial family before God’s throne.
He alleged that everyone envied him his position, that he was surrounded
by intriguers and slanderers, and that therefore evil reports concerning
him were unworthy of belief. The only favor he accepted was the rental
of his lodgings, paid by the personal Chancellor of his Majesty. He also
accepted presents made by the hands of the Imperial family, such as
shirts, waist-bands, etc.

“Rasputine had free entry to the apartments of the Emperor, saying
prayers, addressing the Emperor and Empress with the familiar ‘thou,’
and greeting them in the Siberian peasant manner (with a kiss). It is
known that he warned the Emperor, ‘My death shall be thine also,’ and
that at Court he was regarded as a man gifted with the power of
forecasting events. His predictions were couched in mysterious phrases
like those of the Pythons of antiquity.

“Rasputine’s income was derived from numerous persons who desired
positions and money, and used Rasputine as their intermediary with the
Emperor. Rasputine asked favors for his clients, promising, if these
were granted, all kinds of blessings to the Imperial family and to
Russia.

“To this must be added that Rasputine possessed within himself a strange
power by which he was able to exercise hypnotic suggestion. I have been
able to establish the fact that he cured by hypnotism the disease of St.
Vitus Dance which afflicted the son of one of his friends, Simanovitch.
The young man was a student in the College of Commerce, and his malady
completely disappeared after two séances in which Rasputine plunged the
patient into hypnotic slumbers.

“Another case establishing the hypnotic power of Rasputine may be noted.
During the winter of 1914-15 he was called to the house of the
superintendent of railways in Tsarskoe Selo where lay, entirely
unconscious, Anna Alexandrovna Viroubova, who had been seriously injured
in a railroad accident. She was suffering from broken legs and a
fracture of the skull. Their Majesties were in the room when Rasputine
arrived, and he, simply raising his arms, said to the unconscious woman:
‘Anushka, open your eyes,’ which she instantly did, looking
intelligently around her. This naturally made a deep impression on
everyone present, including their Majesties, and it served to increase
the prestige of Rasputine. Although Rasputine could barely read and
write, he was far from being an inferior person. He had a keen and
observant intellect, and a rare faculty of reading the character of any
person with whom he came in contact. The rudeness and exaggerated
simplicity of his bearing, which lent him the appearance of a common
peasant, served to remind observers of his humble origin and his lack of
culture.

“As so much was bruited in the public press about the immorality of
Rasputine, the closest attention was given to this phase of his
question. From the reports of the secret police it was proved that his
love affairs consisted solely in night orgies with music-hall singers
and an occasional petitioner. It is on record that when he was drunk he
sometimes hinted of intimacies in higher circles, especially in those
circles through which he had risen to power, but of his relations with
women of high society nothing was established, either by police records
or by information acquired by the commission. In the papers of the
Bishop Varnava was found a telegram from Rasputine as follows: ‘My dear,
I cannot come, my silly women are shedding tears and won’t let me go.’
As for the accusation that in Siberia Rasputine was accustomed to bathe
in company with women, and that he was affiliated with the ‘Khlysty’
sect, the Extraordinary Commission referred these charges to
Gramoglassoff, professor in the Ecclesiastical Academy (of Moscow), who
after examination of all the evidence, testified that among peasants of
many parts of Siberia the common bath was a usual custom, and that he
found no evidence in the writings or preachings of Rasputine of any
affiliation with the ‘Khlysty’ doctrines.

“Rasputine was a man of large heart. He kept open house, and his
lodgings were always crowded with a curiously mixed company living at
his expense. To acquire the aureole of a benefactor, to follow the
precepts of the Gospels according to which the generous hand is always
filled, Rasputine took the money offered by his petitioners, but he gave
generously to the poor and to people of the lower classes who begged his
assistance. Thus he built up a reputation of being at once a generous
and a disinterested man. Besides these alms Rasputine spent large sums
in restaurants, cafés, music halls, and in the streets, so that when he
died he left practically nothing. The investigation disclosed an immense
amount of evidence concerning the petitions carried by Rasputine to
Court, but all these, as has been said, referred merely to applications
for positions, favors, railway concessions, and the like.
Notwithstanding his great influence at Court not a single indication of
Rasputine’s political activity was disclosed.

“Many proofs of his influence were found in the papers of General
Voyeikoff, Commandant of the Palace, as for example the following: ‘My
dear, Arrange this affair. Gregory.’ These letters were annotated by
Voyeikoff, with the names and addresses of the petitioners, the nature
of their demands, the results of their applications, and the date of the
replies. Many letters of the same kind were found among the papers of
President of the Council of Ministers, Sturmer, and of other high
personages. All the letters concerned themselves exclusively with favors
and protection for the people in whom Rasputine interested himself. He
had special names for various persons with whom he was in frequent
contact. Sturmer was called ‘The Old Man,’ Archbishop Varnava
‘Butterfly,’ the Emperor ‘Papa,’ and the Empress ‘Mama.’ The nickname of
Varnava, ‘Butterfly,’ was found in a letter to Mme. Viroubova.

“The inquiry into the influence of Rasputine on the Imperial family was
intensive, but it was definitely established that that influence had its
source in the profound religious sentiments of their Majesties, joined
to their conviction that Rasputine was a saint, and was the sole
intermediary between God and the Emperor, as well as of all Russia. The
Imperial family believed that they saw proofs of his sanctity in his
psychic power over certain persons of the Court, such as bringing back
to life and consciousness the desperately injured Mme. Viroubova, whose
case has been described; also in his undoubtedly benign influence on the
health of the heir, and on a whole series of fulfilled forecasting of
events.

“It is evident that sly and unscrupulous people did everything in their
power to profit by Rasputine’s influence on the Imperial family, thus
waking up in the man his worst instincts. This is particularly true of
the former Minister of the Interior, A. N. Khvostoff and of Belezky,
Director of the Police Department. To consolidate their position at
Court they came to an understanding with Rasputine whereby they agreed
to pay him, out of the private funds of the Police Department, the sum
of three thousand rubles monthly, besides other sums, that he might
require, provided he helped them to place candidates agreeable to them.
Rasputine accepted these conditions, and for three months filled his
engagements, but finding that the arrangement was not advantageous to
himself, returned to his independent manner of work. Khvostoff, fearing
that Rasputine would betray him, began openly to oppose him. He knew
that he stood well with the Imperial family, and he counted also on the
coöperation of the Duma, of which he was a member, and in which
Rasputine was cordially hated. This put Belezky in a difficult position,
because he doubted Khvostoff’s power at Court, and he had no doubt at
all concerning Rasputine’s power. Belezky decided therefore to betray
his chief, and range himself on the side of Rasputine. His object was,
to use the words of Rasputine himself, to throw down the Khvostoff
ministry. The struggle between these two officials culminated in the
famous plot against the life of Rasputine, which created such a
sensation in the press during the year 1916. The plot was laid by
Belezky in the following manner. An engineer named Heine, owner of
several private gambling houses in Petrograd, was hired to go to
Christiania to meet the unfrocked monk Illiador Troufanoff, a former
friend of Rasputine. The result of this journey was a series of
telegrams addressed to Heine and signed by Illiador covertly alluding to
a conspiracy against the life of Rasputine. In one of these telegrams it
was stated that the forty men engaged in the conspiracy were
dissatisfied to wait longer, and it was necessary to send them
immediately thirty thousand rubles. These telegrams, coming in war time
from a neutral country, were delivered to the police, only after having
been read being passed on to the person addressed. Finally, after
receiving all the telegrams, Heine presented himself to Rasputine in the
guise of a repentant sinner, giving him full details of the plot, in
which he owned himself concerned, but which he vowed Khvostoff to be the
leading spirit. The result was that Rasputine took the story to the
Imperial family, and the dismissal of Khvostoff quickly followed. It is
an interesting fact that Heine’s telegrams from Christiania mentioned a
number of names of persons living in Tsaritzine, former friends of
Illiador, who were supposed to be in Christiania busy with the details
of the plot. The evidence given at the inquiry proved beyond doubt that
the persons concerned had never left their homes.

“Personally the official Khvostoff was highly esteemed by both the
Emperor and the Empress, they believing him to be sincerely religious,
and devoted to the interests of the Imperial family and to Russia, but
the evidence shows that he was really devoted only to his personal
interests. He once invited the head of the Gendarmerie, General
Komissaroff, to go with him in civilian dress, and to introduce
Rasputine to the Metropolitan Pitirim. They were received by a novice
who went to the Metropolitan’s study to announce them. When the
Metropolitan appeared Rasputine introduced General Komissaroff, and
disagreeable as it was to see a gendarme officer in his house, his
Eminence invited the men to follow him into his study. There they
discovered Khvostoff sitting on a sofa. Seeing Rasputine Khvostoff
laughed rather nervously, but continued his conversation with the
Metropolitan, then, rising to take his departure, asked General
Komissaroff to drive home with him. Komissaroff found himself in an
awkward position, and when Khvostoff suddenly asked him if he understood
the affair he answered in the negative. ‘Well,’ said Khvostoff, ‘it is
now clear in what relation Pitirim stands with Rasputine. When you were
announced he was just telling me that he had nothing in common with
Rasputine, and that the person who was waiting to see him was an eminent
Georgian. “Permit me,” he said, “to leave you for a few minutes.” Now we
see who the “eminent Georgian” really was.’ This was testified to by
Komissaroff himself.

“Of all the ministers Khvostoff was the closest to Rasputine. Rumors of
the intimate relations between Sturmer and Rasputine were found to be
without foundation. There was between them, it is true, a friendship.
Sturmer understood Rasputine’s great influence, and did what he could to
advance the interests of his clients. He sent fruit, wine, and
delicacies to Rasputine, but there is no evidence that he allowed him to
influence political affairs. The relations between Rasputine and
Protopopoff, who, for some reason, Rasputine called ‘Kalinine’ were no
more intimate, although Protopopoff liked Rasputine, and it is certain
that Rasputine defended Protopopoff when the position of the latter was
menaced. This was done usually in the absence of the Sovereigns,
Rasputine addressing himself to the Empress, at the same time uttering
predictions.

“Protopopoff distinguished himself by an extraordinary lack of will
power, representing at different times quite opposing organizations. He
was even at one time elected vice-president of the Duma. Protopopoff has
publicly been accused of initiating and carrying out an attempt to put
down the popular uprising of the first days of the Revolution. He is
accused of having placed machine guns on the roofs of houses to shoot
down the armed insurgents. However, the _juge d’instruction_
Jousvik-Kompaneitz, after having interrogated many witnesses, and
examining all the machine guns found in the streets of Petrograd in the
first days of the Revolution, has testified that all the machine guns
belonged to different regiments, and none, not even those found on the
roofs of houses, to the police. Generally speaking, there were no
machine guns on roofs, except those placed there at the beginning of the
war as a defense against airplane attacks. It must be said that during
the critical days of February, 1917, Protopopoff showed a complete
incapacity, and from the legal point of view, his absolutely criminal
weakness. Among his papers were found intimate and even affectionate
letters from Rasputine, but not one letter contained anything more than
recommendations in favor of his protégés. Nor in the papers of any other
high personages were found letters of different tenor signed by
Rasputine. Both press and public seem to have been persuaded that
Rasputine was very intimate with two political adventurers, Dr. Badmaeff
and Prince Andronnikoff, and that through him these men were able to
exercise wide political influence. Evidence has established, however,
that these rumors were without any foundation. The two adventurers were,
in fact, nothing more than the hangers-on of Rasputine, glad to gather
up the crumbs from his table, and falsely representing to their clients
that they had influence over Rasputine, and through him influence at
Court.”

(Here follows at some length the result of the High Commission’s inquiry
into the activities of Dr. Badmaeff and Prince Andronnikoff, but as they
have nothing whatever to do with this history they are omitted. A. V.)

“Badmaeff was the physician of Minister Protopopoff, but the Imperial
family had no confidence in his methods--any more than had
Rasputine--and in an examination of the servants of the Imperial
household, it was demonstrated clearly that the Thibetan doctor had
never been called in his professional capacity to the apartments of the
Emperor’s children.

“General Voyeikoff, Commandant of the Palace, I examined many times in
the Fortress of Petropavlosk where he was imprisoned. He did not play a
very powerful rôle at Court, but according to letters from his wife,
daughter of Court Minister Fredericks, covering the years 1914-15, and
found in his house, he was esteemed by the Imperial family as a man
devoted to the throne, an impression which I, after several interviews
with him, did not share. From letters of Voyeikoff to his wife it is
plain that he was hostile to Rasputine. In certain of the letters he
calls Rasputine the evil genius of the Imperial family and of Russia,
and he believed that his intimacy at Court discredited the throne and
gave strength to humors and opinions and slanderous stories by which the
anti-Government party profited. Nevertheless he took full advantage of
the influence of Rasputine. He had not the courage to reject his
petitions, which is proved by the annotations in his handwriting on the
letters of Rasputine.”

(High Commissioner Roudneff adds that, in his opinion, Voyeikoff thought
badly of Rasputine, and that his wife hated the man, but that neither of
them communicated their views to the Imperial family. A. V.)

“Having heard a great deal of the exceptional influence at Court of Mme.
Viroubova, and of her relations with Rasputine, and having read and
believed what was said about her in society and the press, I must admit
that when I went to examine her in the Fortress of Petropavlosk I was
frankly prejudiced against her. This hostility remained with me up to
the moment of her entrance into the office of the Fortress under the
escort of two soldiers. As she entered the room I was struck with the
expression of her eyes, an expression of more than earthly gentleness
and meekness. This first impression was confirmed in all my subsequent
interviews with her. From the first conversation which I had with her I
became convinced that, given her individuality and her character, she
could never have had any influence on politics either foreign or
domestic. I believe this in the first place because of the essentially
feminine point of view shown by her on all political matters of which we
talked, and in the second place because of her loquacity and her
complete incapacity to keep secret even facts which might reflect on
herself. I became convinced that to ask Mme. Viroubova to keep anything
a secret was equivalent to proclaiming it from the housetops, because
anything that she thought important she felt impelled to communicate,
not only to friends but to possible foes. Noting these two
characteristics of Mme. Viroubova, I asked myself two questions--why she
stood in close relations with Rasputine, and what was the secret of her
intimacy with the Imperial family.

“I found the answer to the first question in conversations with the
parents of Mme. Viroubova, M. Tanieff, chief of the private Chancellory
of his Majesty, and his wife, _née_ Countess Tolstoy. From them I
learned of an episode in the life of their daughter which, in my
opinion, explained why Rasputine obtained later such an influence over
the will of the young woman. At the age of thirteen Mme. Viroubova fell
gravely ill of typhus, the illness being complicated with peritonitis,
and her condition, according to the physicians, was desperate. Her
parents called to her bedside the famous priest, Father John of
Kronstadt. Following his prayers the illness took a favorable turn, and
the young girl was soon pronounced out of danger. This made a deep
impression on her mind, and thereafter strongly inclined her to a
religious life.

“Mme. Viroubova first met Rasputine in the house of the Grand Duchess
Melitza Nicholaevna (wife of Grand Duke Peter), and that meeting was not
a happy event. The Grand Duchess had prepared Mme. Viroubova for the
meeting by conversations on the subject of religion, and had given her
certain French books on occult subjects. Later the Grand Duchess invited
Mme. Viroubova to her house, promising to introduce her to a great
intercessor before God in favor of Russia, a man who possessed gifts of
prophecy, and the faculty of curing the sick. This interview by Mme.
Viroubova, then Mlle. Tanieff, made a great impression on the young
woman who was then on the eve of marriage with Lieutenant Viroubova.
Rasputine spoke only on religious subjects, and when the young girl
asked him if he approved her marriage he answered allegorically saying
that the pathway of life was strewn not only with roses but with thorns,
and that man progressed towards perfection only through sufferings and
trials.

“The marriage of Mme. Viroubova was from the first unhappy. According to
the testimony of Mme. Tanieff, the man was completely impotent, addicted
to perverted practices and saddistic habits, causing her daughter the
most frightful moral sufferings and physical disgust. Nevertheless,
believing in the Biblical injunction ‘Whom God hath joined let no man
put asunder,’ Mme. Viroubova for a time kept her sufferings a secret
even from her parents, and only after she had been nearly killed by her
husband did she reveal to them the tragedy of her marriage. The result
was, of course, a divorce. The testimony of Mme. Tanieff concerning the
moral character of her son-in-law was confirmed by a medical examination
of Mme. Viroubova, ordered by the Commission of Inquiry, and by which
was established the virginity of the young woman. This examination was
held in May, 1917. In consequence of her shocking marital experience the
religious inclinations of Mme. Viroubova were increased and were
developed into something approaching religious mania. She became the
purest and most sincere admirer of Rasputine, who, up to the last day of
his life, she considered a holy man, and one completely disinterested
from every worldly point of view.

“In regard to the question of the intimacy of Mme. Viroubova with the
Imperial family, I concluded that it had its roots in the wholly
different mentalities of the Empress and Mme. Viroubova, that attraction
of opposites which so often seems necessary to complete a balance. The
two women were entirely different, and yet they had many things in
common. Both, for example, were devotedly fond of music, and as the
Empress possessed an agreeable contralto voice and Mme. Viroubova a good
soprano, they occupied many leisure hours singing duets.

“Such were the conditions which produced in the minds of persons
ignorant of the nature of the intimacy between the Empress and Mme.
Viroubova, belief in the exceptional influence of Mme. Viroubova on
Court affairs. As has been said, Mme. Viroubova possessed no such
influence, nor could she have possessed it. The Empress dominated the
intelligence and the will of Mme. Viroubova, but the attachment between
the two women was very strong. The religious instincts deeply rooted in
their two natures explains the tragedy of their veneration of Rasputine.
The relations between the Empress and Mme. Viroubova could be likened to
those of a mother and daughter, nothing more.

“My opinions regarding the moral qualities of Mme. Viroubova, resulting
from interviews with her in the Fortress of Petropavlosk and in the
Winter Palace were entirely confirmed by the forgiving and Christian
spirit displayed by her towards those who had caused her, in the course
of her imprisonment, the most horrible suffering. Of the insults and
tortures to which she was subjected in the Fortress I did not learn, in
the first instance, from Mme. Viroubova herself, but from her mother.
Only on direct examination did Mme. Viroubova confirm her mother’s
testimony, and even then she spoke calmly and with astonishing meekness,
saying that her persecutors should not be blamed too severely because
they did not realize what they were doing. These tortures of the prison
guards, such as spitting in her face, dealing her blows on the head and
body, accusing her of being the mistress of the Emperor and of
Rasputine, tearing off her clothes and threatening to murder a sick
woman who could walk only with the aid of crutches, caused the
Commission of Inquiry to transfer the prisoner to a house formerly
occupied by the Director of the Gendarmerie (House of Detention). The
testimony of Mme. Viroubova presented a complete contrast to that of
Prince Andronnikoff. Her statements were all candid and sincere, and
their truth was subsequently established beyond doubt by documentary
evidence. The only fault I found with Mme. Viroubova was her tendency to
wordiness, and her amazing habit of skipping from one subject to
another, without regard to the fact that she might be hurting her own
cause. Mme. Viroubova appears to have interceded at Court for various
persons, but her petitions were received with a certain distrust because
of her known goodness and her simplicity of mind.

“The character of the Empress Alexandra was shown clearly in her
correspondence with the Emperor and with Mme. Viroubova. This
correspondence, in French and English, is filled with sentiments of
affection for her husband and children. The Empress occupied herself
personally with the education of her children, and she often indicates
in her letters that it is desirable not to spoil them or to give them
habits of luxury. The correspondence reveals also the deep piety of the
Empress. In her letters to her husband she often describes her emotions
during religious services, and speaks of the peace and tranquillity of
her soul after prayer. Hardly ever, in the course of this long
correspondence, are any allusions made to politics. The letters concern
intimate and family affairs only. In passages in which Rasputine is
mentioned she speaks of him as ‘that holy man,’ and shows that she
considers him one sent of God, a prophet, and a man who prays sincerely
for the Imperial family. Through the whole correspondence, which covers
a period of ten years, I found not one single letter written in German.
According to the testimony of Court adherents I have proof that before
the War German was never spoken at Court. Because of public rumors of
the sympathy of the Empress for Germany and of the existence in the
Palace at Tsarskoe Selo of private wires to Berlin, I made a careful
examination of the apartments of the Imperial family, and I found no
indications at all of communications between the Imperial household of
Russia and the Imperial household of Germany. I also examined the rumors
concerning the beneficence of the Empress towards the German wounded and
prisoners of War, and I found that the Empress showed compassion for the
sufferings of Germans and Russians alike, without distinction, desiring
to fulfill the injunction of Christ who said that whoever visited the
sick and suffering also visited Himself.

“For these reasons, and above all on account of the frail health of the
Empress, who suffered from a disease of the heart, the Imperial family
led a very retired life, which favored the development, especially in
the Empress, of extreme piety. Inspired by her devotion the Empress
introduced into certain churches attached to the Court a régime of
monastic services, and followed with delight, in spite of her ill
health, up to the very end, masses which lasted for hours on end. This
same excessive religious zeal was the foundation for her admiration for
Gregory Rasputine, who, possessing an extraordinary power of suggestion,
exercised an undeniably salutary effect on the invalid Tsarevitch.
Because of her extreme piety the Empress was in no proper state of mind
to understand the real source of the amazing influence of Rasputine on
the health of the Heir, and she believed the explanation to be due, not
at all to hypnotism, but to the celestial gifts which Rasputine owed to
the sanctity of his life.

“A year and a half before the Revolution of 1917, the former monk,
Illiador Troufanoff, sent his wife from Christiania to Petrograd with
the proposal that the Imperial family purchase the manuscript of his
book, which later appeared under the title of ‘The Holy Devil,’ in which
the relations of the Imperial family with Rasputine were scandalously
represented. The Police Department interested itself in the matter, and
at its own imminent risk entered into negotiations with the wife of
Illiador concerning the purchase of the manuscript for which Illiador
demanded, I am assured, sixty thousand rubles. The affair was finally
submitted to the Empress Alexandra who repudiated with indignation the
vile proposition of Illiador, saying that ‘white could never be made
black, and that an innocent person could never be assoiled.’

“In terminating this inquiry I believe it necessary to repeat that
Bishops Theofan and Hermogen contributed importantly to the introduction
of Rasputine at Court. It was because of their recommendations that the
Empress, in the beginning, received Rasputine cordially and confidently.
Her sentiments towards him were fortified only by the reasons indicated
in the course of this document.”



APPENDIX B


Copy of certificate of acquittal of Anna Viroubova issued by the High
Commission of Inquiry, August, 1917.

Ministry of Justice

The High Commission of Inquiry into the acts and abuses of Ministers and
other High Personages of the Former Government.

25th of August, 1917.
      No. 3285
      Petrograd
    Winter Palace
  Tel. 1-38-20 and 186.

          (Seal)


_Testimonial_

This testimonial delivered to Anna Alexandrovna Viroubova at the end of
the investigation of the High Commission of Inquiry, certifies that she
was found not guilty and that she will not again be called to judgment.
This statement is given under the signature and seal of the President of
the High Commission.

(_Signed_) N. MOURVAVIEFF.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Happily many of these photographs were later recovered and appear
among illustrations of this volume.

[2] So little did any of the Allied rulers and statesmen anticipate the
World War that in July, 1914, President Poincaré accompanied the French
fleet on its cruise to the Baltic. Many festivities were arranged for
him, and he was regally entertained by the Emperor. When receiving the
ambassadors President Poincaré spoke gravely of the troubled political
situation, but he said nothing to indicate that he expected war.

[3] Previous to the War and the impending revolution the Empress had
had very little to do with politics, but it is true that when affairs
became desperate she did what she rightly could to advise her husband.

[4] This is the same Cyril Vladimirovitch who has recently proclaimed
himself “Head of the Romanoff Family and Guardian of the Throne.”

[5] See Appendix B.

[6] Finland had not then separated from the old Russian Empire.

[7] The snapshot taken of me by Mr. Gibbs soon after I was released
from the fortress.

[8] Rasputine.

[9] This was the house and the room I occupied in my stay in Tobolsk on
my second visit to Siberia.

[10] Baroness Buxhoevden, lady in waiting.

[11] The Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was always a strict vegetarian.

[12] Groten and Linevitch were the two aides-de-camp who were so
devoted to the family during the trying period before the Revolution.
Afterwards they were denied entrance to the palace.

[13] Brest-Litovsk.

[14] Anniversary of Rasputine’s assassination.

[15] A wounded officer and friend.

[16] A well-known marine officer.

[17] Presumably the Soviet Government.

[18] Isa, Baroness Buxhoevden, lady in waiting.

[19] Miss Schneider.

[20] Sister of the Emperor.

[21] Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna.

[22] Princess Galatzine.

[23] Rasputine foresaw this correctly and the Grand Duke of Hesse
retains his old home in peace.

[24] Western readers perhaps do not know how indispensable is vocal
music in Russian church services where no organ is permitted. All
priests are trained musicians, and there is much congregational singing.

[25] By this the Empress meant that the secret messenger would give me
particulars she dared not write in her letter.

[26] To a convent as they desired.

[27] All purely personal letters were burned in the palace at Tsarskoe
Selo as soon as the news of the Emperor’s abdication reached us, the
Empress being determined that her most sacred possessions should not be
made public by the Provisional Government. She never recovered from the
grief of destroying her youthful love letters, which were more to her
than the most costly jewels she possessed, the richest of any sovereign
in Europe. To me this is a singular revelation of the real character of
the Empress.





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