The murderers ransacked the palace, penetrating every room, killing every Polish man and treating the Polish ladies with the utmost brutality. They inquired eagerly for the tzarina, but she was nowhere to be found. She had concealed herself beneath the hoop of an elderly lady whose gray hairs and withered cheek had preserved her from violence. Zuski now went to the dowager tzarina, the widow of Ivan IV., and demanded that she should take her oath upon the Gospels whether Dmitri were her son. He reported that, thus pressed, she confessed that he was an impostor, and that her true son had perished many years before. The conspirators now fell upon Dmitri and his body was pierced with a thousand dagger thrusts. His mangled remains were then dragged through the streets and burned. Mariana was soon after arrested and sent to prison. It is said that nearly two thousand Poles perished in this massacre.
Even to the present day opinion is divided in Russia in regard to Dmitri, whether he was an impostor or the son of Ivan IV. Respecting his character there is no dispute. All that can be said in his favor is that he would not commit an atrocious crime unless impelled to it by very strong temptation. There was now no one who seemed to have any legitimate title to the throne of Russia.
The nobles and the senators who were at Moscow then met to proceed to the election of a new sovereign. It was an event almost without a parallel in Russian history. The lords, though very friendly in their deliberations, found it difficult to decide into whose hands to intrust the scepter. It was at last unanimously concluded to make an appeal to the people. Their voice was for Zuski. He was accordingly declared tzar and was soon after crowned with a degree of unanimity which, though well authenticated, seems inexplicable.
The Poles were exasperated beyond measure at the massacre of so many of their nobles and at the insult offered to Mariana, the tzarina. But Poland was at that time distracted by civil strife, and the king found it expedient to postpone the hour of vengeance. Zuski commenced his reign by adopting measures which gave him great popularity with the adjoining kingdoms, while they did not diminish the favorable regards of the people. But suddenly affairs assumed a new aspect, so strange that a writer of fiction would hardly have ventured to imagine it. An artful man, a schoolmaster in Poland, who could speak the Russian language, declared that he was Dmitri; that he had escaped from the massacre in his palace, and that it was another man, mistaken for him, whom the assassins had killed. Poland, inspired by revenge, eagerly embraced this man’s cause. Mariana, who had been liberated from prison, was let into the secret, and willing to ascend again to the grandeur from which she had fallen, entered with cordial cooeperation into this new intrigue. The widowed tzarina and the Polish adventurer contrived their first meeting in the presence of a large concourse of nobles and citizens. They rushed together in a warm embrace, while tears of affected transport bedewed their cheeks. The farce was so admirably performed that many were deceived, and this new Dmitri and the tzarina occupied for several days the same tent in the Polish encampment, apparently as husband and wife.