Now he stands before a closed door! What if that should prove the chamber of the duke? He thinks he hears a breathing.
He cautiously tries the door. Slightly closed, it yields to his pressure, and he enters. There stands a huge bed with hanging curtains, which are boldly drawn aside by Mannstein.
Before him lies the regent, Duke Biron of Courland, with his wife by his side.
“Duke Biron, awake!” called Mannstein, with a loud voice. The ducal pair started up from their slumber with a shriek of terror.
Biron leaps from the bed, but Mannstein overpowers him and holds him fast until his soldiers come. The duke defends himself with his hands, but is beaten down with musket-stocks. They bind his hands with an officer’s scarf, they wrap him in a soldier’s mantle, and so convey him down to Field-Marshal Munnich’s carriage which is waiting, below, to transport him to the winter palace.
While Mannstein and the soldiers were occupied with the duke, his duchess had found an opportunity to make her escape. With only her light night-dress, shrieking and lamenting, she had rushed into the street.
She was seized by a soldier, who, conducting her to Mannstein, asked what he should do with her.
“Take her back into the palace!” said Mannstein, hastening past.
But the soldier, only anxious to rid himself of an encumbrance, threw the now insensible duchess into the snow, and hurried away.
In this situation she was found by a captain of the guard, who lifted her up and conveyed her into the palace to give her over to the care of her women, that she might be restored to consciousness and dressed. But she no longer had either women or servants! Her reign is over; they have all fled in terror, as from the house of death, that they may not be involved in the disaster of those whose good fortunes they have shared. The slaves had all decamped in search of new masters, and the regent’s palace, so often humbly and reverently sought, is now avoided as a pest-house.
With trembling hands the duchess enveloped herself in her clothes, and then followed her husband into the winter palace.
And while all this was taking place the court and nation yet trembled at the names of these two persons who had just been so deeply humbled. The Princess Anna Leopoldowna, accompanied by the shouting soldiery, made a triumphant progress through the streets of the city, stopping at all the caserns to receive the oaths and homage of the regiments.
This palace-revolution was consummated without the shedding of blood, and the awaking people of St. Petersburg found themselves with astonishment under a new regency and new masters!
But a population of slaves venture no opposition. Whoever may have the power to declare and maintain himself their ruler, he is their master, and the slavish horde bow humbly before him.