She suffered much, this poor empress, dethroned by death; she suffered, although reposing upon silken cushions, with a gold-embroidered covering for her shaking limbs.
And she was yet so young, hardly fifty, and she loved life so intensely! Oh, she would have given half of her empire for a few more years of life and enjoyment. But what cares Death for the wishes of an empress? Here ends her earthly supremacy! Groaning and writhing, the earth-worm tremblingly submits.
Where, now, were all her favorites—those high lords of the court, those grand noblemen, created from soldiers, grooms, lackeys, and serfs—where were they now? Why stood they not around the death-bed of their empress? Why were they not there, that the remembrance of the benefits conferred upon them might drive away those terrible reminiscences of the torments she had inflicted upon others? Where were they, her counts, barons, field-marshals, and privy councillors, whom she had raised from nothing to the first positions in the realm?
None were with her! They had all hastened thence for the preservation of their ill-gotten wealth, to crawl in the dust before Peter, to be the first to pay him homage, that he might pardon their greatness and their possessions! From the death-bed they had fled to Peter, and kneeling before him, they praised God for at length bestowing upon the happy realm the noblest and best ruler, Peter III.!
But where were Elizabeth’s more particular friends, who had made her an empress?
Where was Lestocq?
Him the empress had banished to Siberia. Yielding to the prayers and calumnies of his enemies, which she was too weak to withstand, she had given him up; she had sacrificed him to procure peace and quiet for herself, and in the same hour in which she had tenderly pressed his hand, and called him her friend, had she signed his sentence of banishment! Lestocq had for nine years languished in Siberia.
Where was Grunstein? Banished, cast off, like Lestocq.
Where was Alexis Razumovsky?
Ah, well for her! He stood at her bedside, he pressed her cold hand in his; he yet, in the face of death, thanked her for all the benefits she had heaped upon him. But alas! she was also surrounded by others—by wild, pale, terrible forms, which were unseen by all except the dying empress! She there saw the tortured face of Anna Leopoldowna, whom she had let die in prison; there grinned at her the idiotic face of Ivan, whose mind she had destroyed; there saw she the angry-flashing eyes and bloody form of Eleonore Lapuschkin, and, springing up from her bed, the empress screeched with terror, and folded her trembling hands in prayer to God for grace and mercy for her daughter, for Natalie, that He would turn away the horrible curse that Eleonore had hurled at her child.
Alexis Razumovsky stood by her bedside, weeping. Overcome, as it seemed, by his sorrow, another left the death-chamber of the empress, and rushed to his horse, standing ready in the court below! This other was Count Rasczinsky, the confidant of the empress.