Tranquil and still lay the Russian fleet in the haven. But the ports of the admiral’s ship were opened, and the yawning cannon peeped threateningly forth. No boats were allowed to approach the ship; but some, impelled by curiosity, nevertheless ventured it, and at the cabin window they thought they saw the pale princess wringing her hands, her arms loaded with chains. Others also asserted that in the stillness of the night they had heard loud lamentations coming from the admiral’s ship.
On the next day the Russian fleet weighed anchor for St. Petersburg! Proudly sailed the admiral’s ship in advance of the others, and soon became invisible in the horizon.
On the shore stood Count Alexis Orloff, and, as he saw the ships sailing past, with a savage smile he muttered: “It is accomplished! my beautiful empress will be satisfied with me!”
She was satisfied, the great, the sublime empress—satisfied with the work Alexis Orloff had accomplished, and with the manner in which it was done.
In the presence of her confidential friends she permitted Orloff’s messenger, Joseph Ribas, to relate to her all the particulars of the affair from the commencement to the end, and to the narrator she nodded her approval with a fell smile.
“Yes,” said she to Gregory Orloff, “we understand women’s hearts, and therefore sent Alexis to entrap her. A handsome man is the best jailer for a woman, from whom she never runs away.” And bending nearer to Gregory’s ear, she whispered: “I, myself, your empress, am almost your prisoner, you wicked, handsome man!”
And ravished by the beauty of Gregory Orloff, the third in the ranks of her recognized favorites, the empress leaned upon his arm, whispering words of tenderness in his ear.
“And what does your sublime majesty decide upon respecting the prisoner?” humbly asked Joseph Ribas.
“Oh, I had almost forgotten her,” said the empress, with indifference. “She is, then, yet living, this so-called daughter of Elizabeth?”
“She is yet alive.”
The empress for some time thoughtfully walked back and forth, occasionally turning her bold eagle eye upon her two favorite pictures, hanging upon the wall. They were battle-pieces full of terrible truth; they displayed the running blood, the trembling flesh, the rage of opponents, and the death-groans of the defeated. Such were the pictures loved by Catharine, and the sight of which always inspired her with bold thoughts.
As she now glanced at these sanguinary pictures, a pleasant smile drew over the face of this Northern Semiramis. She had just come to a decision, and, being content with it, expressed her satisfaction by a smile.
“That bleeding feminine torso,” said she, pointing to one of the pictures, “look at it, Gregory, that wonderful feminine back reminds me of the vengeance Elizabeth took for the beauty of Eleonore Lapuschkin. Well, Elizabeth’s pretended daughter shall find me teachable; I will learn from her mother how to punish. Let this criminal be conducted to the same place where the fair Lapuschkin suffered, and as she was served so serve Elizabeth’s daughter! We have no desire to tear out the tongue of this child. Whip her, that is all, but whip her well and effectually. You understand me?”