Like a thundering cry of jubilation it was instantly echoed through the hall.
The generals were the first to join in this enthusiastic viva!
A quarter of an hour later the generals were permitted to retire, and the emperor was reconveyed to his apartments.
Anna Leopoldowna remained alone with her husband and the newly-married pair, who had retreated to the recess of a window and were whispering together.
Anna now turned to her husband, and, with cutting coldness in her tone, said:
“You must understand, my husband, that I am very generous. It was in my power to arrest you as a traitor, but I preferred to shame you, because you, unhappily, are the father of my child.”
“You think, then,” asked the prince, with a scornful smile, “that I shall take the buffoonery you have just had played before us for truth?”
“That, my prince, must wholly depend upon your own good pleasure. But for the present I must request you to retire to your own apartments! I feel myself much moved and exhausted, and have also to prepare some secret dispatches for Count Lynar to take with him in his journey.”
“Count Lynar is, then, to leave us?” quickly asked the prince, in an evidently more friendly tone.
“Yes,” said Anna, “he leaves us for some weeks to visit the estate in Liefland which I have given to Julia as a bridal present, and to make there the necessary preparations for the proper reception of his wife.”
Julia clasped the hands of her mistress, and bathed them with tears of joy and gratitude.
“Anna,” whispered Prince Ulrich, “I did you wrong. Pardon me.”
Anna coldly responded: “I will pardon you if you will be generous enough to allow me a little repose.”
The prince silently and respectfully withdrew.
Anna finally, left alone with her lover and her favorite, sank exhausted upon a divan.
“Close the doors, Julia, that no one may surprise us,” she faintly murmured. “I will take leave. Oh, I would be left for at least a quarter of an hour undisturbed in my unhappiness.”
“Then it is quite true that you intend to drive me away?” asked Count Lynar, kneeling and clasping her hands. “You are determined to send me into banishment?”
Anna gave him a glance of tenderness.
“No,” said she, “I will send myself into banishment, for I shall not see you dearest. But I felt that this sacrifice was necessary. Julia has sacrificed herself for us. With another love in her heart, she has magnanimously thrown away her freedom and given up her maiden love for the promotion of our happiness. We owe it to her to preserve her honor untarnished, that the calumnious crowd may not pry into the motives of her generous act. For Julia’s sake, the world must and shall believe that she is in fact your wife, and that it was love that united you. We must, therefore, preserve appearances, and you must conduct your wife to your estate in triumph. Decency requires it, and we cannot disregard its requirements.”