She surrounded this feared field-marshal with spies and listeners; she caused all his actions to be watched, every one of his words to be repeated to her, in order to ascertain whether it had not some concealed sense, some threatening secret; she doubled the guards of her palace, and, always trembling with fear, she no longer dared to occupy any one of her apartments continuously. Nomadically wandered they about in their own palace, this Regent Anna Leopoldowna and her husband Prince Ulrich of Brunswick; remembering the sleeping-chamber of Biron, she dared not select any one distinct apartment for constant occupation; every evening found her in a new room, every night she reposed in a different bed, and even her most trusted servant often knew not in which wing of the castle the princely pair were to pass the night.
She, before whom these millions of Russian subjects humbled themselves in the dust, trembled every night in her bed at the slightest rustling, at the whisperings of the wind, at every breath of air that beat her closed and bolted doors.
She might, it is true, have released herself from these torments with the utterance of only one word of command; it required only a wave of her hand to send this haughty and dangerous Munnich to Siberia! Nor was an excuse for such a proceeding wanting. Count Munnich’s pride and presumption daily gave occasion for anger; he daily gave offence by his reckless disregard and disrespect for his chief, the generalissimo, Prince Ulrich; daily was it necessary to correct him and to confine him within his own proper official boundaries.
And such refractory conduct toward a Russian master, had it not in all times been a terrible and execrable crime—a crime for which banishment to Siberia had always been considered a mild punishment?
Poor Anna! called to rule over Russia, she lacked only the first and most necessary qualification for her position—a Russian heart! There was, in this German woman’s disposition, too much gentleness and mildness, too much confiding goodness. To a less barbarous people she might have been a blessing, a merciful ruler and gracious benefactor!
But her arm was too weak to wield the knout instead of the sceptre over this people of slaves, her heart too soft to judge with inexorable severity according to the barbarous Russian laws which, never pardoning, always condemn and flay.
It was this which gradually estranged from her the hearts of the Russians. They felt that it was no Russian who reigned over them; and because they had no occasion to tremble and creep in the dust before her, they almost despised her, and derided the idyllic sentiments of this good German princess who wished to realize her fantastic dreams by treating a horde of barbarians as a civilized people!
The slaves longed for their former yoke; they looked around them with a feeling of strangeness, and to them it seemed unnatural not everywhere to see the brandished knout, the avenging scaffold, and the transport-carriages departing for Siberia!