“Your majesty has not a moment to lose. Rise and follow me!”
Catharine, alarmed, called her confidential attendant, dressed hurriedly in disguise, and entered a carriage which was waiting for her at the garden gate. The horses were goaded to their utmost speed on the road to St. Petersburg, and so inconsiderately that soon one of them fell in utter exhaustion. They were still at some distance from the city, and the energetic empress alighted and pressed forward on foot. Soon they chanced to meet a peasant, driving a light cart. Count Orloff, who was a reputed lover of Catharine, and was guiding in this movement, seized the horse, placed the empress in the cart, and drove on. These delays had occupied so much time that it was seven o’clock in the morning before they reached St. Petersburg. The empress, with her companions, immediately proceeded to the barracks, where most of the soldiers were quartered, and whose officers had been gained over, and threw herself upon their protection.
“Danger,” she said to the soldiers, “has compelled me to fly to you for help. The tzar had intended to put me to death, together with my son. I had no other means of escaping death than by flight. I throw myself into your arms!”
Such an appeal from a woman, beautiful, beloved and imploring protection from the murderous hands of one who was hated and despised, inspired every bosom with indignation and with enthusiasm in her behalf. With one impulse they took an oath to die, if necessary, in her defense; and cries of “Long live the empress” filled the air. In two hours Catharine found herself at the head of several thousand veteran soldiers. She was also in possession of the arsenals; and the great mass of the population of St. Petersburg were clamorously advocating her cause.