The senators departed with bitter murmurs and severe threats. Count Alexis Orloff remained, and the cowardly senate, trembling with fear of this young Russian empire, had silently pocketed the humiliation of seeing this over-bearing Russian within their walls for several weeks longer. This evidence of the haughty insolence of Count Orloff was related among the Romans with undisguised pleasure, and they thanked him for having thus humiliated and insulted the proud and imperious republic. But they suspiciously shook their heads when they learned that he seemed disposed to display his pride and arrogance in Rome! They told of a soiree of the Marchesa di Paduli which Alexis Orloff had attended. As they there begged of him to give some proof of the very superior strength which had acquired for him the name of “the Russian Hercules,” he had taken one of the hardest apples from a silver plateau that stood upon the table and playfully crushed it with two fingers of his left hand. But a fragment of this hard apple had hit the eye of the Duke of Gloucester, who was standing near, and seriously injured it. The sympathies of the whole company were excited for the English prince, and he was immediately surrounded by a pitying and lamenting crowd. Count Orloff alone had nothing to say to him, and not the slightest excuse to make. He smilingly rocked himself upon his chair, and hummed a Russian popular song in praise of his empress.
And was it not also an insult for Alexis Orloff now to show himself a friend to the Jesuits, whom the decree of God’s vicegerent had outlawed and proscribed? Was it not an insult that he loudly and publicly promised to these persecuted Jesuits a kind reception and efficient protection in Russia, and invited them to found new communities and new cloisters there?
But Alexis Orloff cared little for the dissatisfaction of the Romans, He said to his confidant Stephano: “There is no greater pleasure than to set at defiance all the world, and to oppose all these things which the stupid people would impose upon us as laws. The friend and favorite of the Empress Catharine has no occasion for complying with such miserable laws; wherever I set my foot, there the earth belongs to me, and I will forcibly maintain my pretensions whenever they are disputed! In Russia I am the serf of the empress, in revenge for which I will, at least abroad, treat all the world as my serfs. This gives me pleasure, and wherefore is the world here but to be enjoyed?”
“A little also for labor,” said Stephano, with a sly smile.
“For that I have my slaves, for that I have also you!” responded Orloff, laughing. “There is only one labor for me here in Rome, and that is to create as much disturbance as possible in the city; to set the people at odds with the government, so that they may have their hands full, and find no time for observing our nice game with our little princess, or to interfere with it. We must have freedom of action, that is the most important. Hence we must protect these pious Jesuits, and offer support to the enemies of this too-enterprising pope, by which means we shall ultimately attain our own ends, and that is enough for us!”