“She writes amorous complainings,” he now said, with a voice of rage, in closing his long speech—“she writes sonnets to her lover, instead of governing and reading the petitions, reports, and other documents that come to her from the different ministries and bureaus, which she constantly returns unread. You are men, and are you willing to bear the humiliation of being governed by a woman who dishonors you by disregarding her first and holiest duties, and setting before your wives and daughters the shameful example of a criminal love, thus disgracing her own son, your emperor and master?”
“No, no, we will not bear it!” cried the wildly excited men, grasping the hilts of their swords. “Give us proof of her unfaithfulness, and we shall know how to act as becomes men over whom an adulterous woman would reign!”
“It is an unnatural and unendurable law that commands man to obey a woman. It is contrary to nature that the mother should rule in the name of her son, when the father is living—the father, whom nature and universal custom acknowledge as the lord and head of his wife and children!” cried the prince.
“Give us proof of her guilt,” cried the soldiers, “and we will this very hour proclaim you regent in her stead!”
A confidential servant of the prince, who entered at this moment, now whispered a few words in his ear.
The prince’s face flamed up. “Well, then, gentleman,” said he, straightening himself up, “you demand proof. In this very hour will I furnish it to you. But I do it upon one condition. No personal violence! In the person of your present regent you must respect the mother of your emperor, the wife of your future regent! Anna will yield to our just representations, and voluntarily sign the act of abdication in my favor. That is all we ought to demand of her. She will retain her sacred and inviolable rights as the wife of your regent, as the mother of your emperor. Forget not that!”
“First of all, give us the proof of her guilt!” impatiently cried the men.
“I shall, alas, be able to give it you!” said the prince, with dignity. “Far be it from me to desire the conviction of an innocent person! Believe me, nothing but her guilt could induce me to take action against her; were she innocent, I would be the first to kneel and renew to her my oath of fidelity and obedience. But you cannot desire that I, your generalissimo, should be the subject of a wife who shamefully treads under foot her first and holiest duty! The honor of you all is wounded in mine. Come, follow me now. I will show you Count Lynar in the arms of his mistress, the Regent Anna Leopoldowna!”
The prince strode forth, cautiously followed by his generals. They thus passed noiselessly through the long corridor leading from the wing of the palace inhabited by the prince to that occupied by the regent.
In the boudoir of the Regent Anna a somewhat singular scene was now presented.