With a pleasing graciousness she extended her fair hands to her friends, who respectfully pressed them to their lips and then departed.
“Alexis!” called the princess, as Razumovsky was about to withdraw with the others—“Alexis, you will remain awhile. While my women are undressing me, you shall sing me to sleep with that charming slumber-song you sing so splendidly!”
Alexis smiled and remained.
A quarter of an hour later deep silence prevailed in the dark palace of Elizabeth, and through the stillness of the night was heard only the sweetly-melodious voice of the handsome Alexis, who was singing his slumber-song to the princess.
From this day forward her four trusted friends left the princess no peace. They so stormed her with prayers and supplications, Alexis so well knew how to represent his despair at her approaching and unavoidable marriage, that the amiable princess, to satisfy her friends and be left herself at peace, declared herself ready to sanction the plans of her confidants and enter into a conspiracy against the regent.
Soon a small party was formed for the cause of the princess. Grunstein—who, as the princess had said, from a bankrupt merchant had attained the position of subordinate officer—Grunstein had succeeded in winning for the cause of the princess some fifty grenadiers of the Preobrajensky regiment, to which he belonged; and these people, drunkards and dissolute fellows, were the principal props upon which Elizabeth’s throne was to be established! They were neither particular about the means resorted to for the accomplishment of the proposed revolution, nor careful to envelop their movements in secrecy.
Elizabeth soon began to find pleasure and distraction in exciting the enthusiasm of the soldiers. She often repaired to the caserns of the guards, and her mildness and affability won for her the hearts of the rough soldiers accustomed to slavish subjection. When she rode through the streets, it was not an unusual occurrence to see common soldiers approach her sledge and converse familiarly with her. Wherever she showed herself, there the soldiers received her with shouts, and the palace of the princess was always open to them. In this way Elizabeth made herself popular, and the Regent Anna, who was informed of it, smiled at it with indifference.
Just as incautiously did Elizabeth’s fanatical political manager, Lestocq, set about his work. He made no secret of his intercourse with the French ambassador, and in the public coffee-houses he was often heard in a loud voice to prophesy an approaching political change.
But with regard to all these imprudences it seemed as if the court and the regent were blinded by the most careless confidence, as if they could not see what was directly before their eyes. It was as if destiny covered those eyes with a veil, that they might not see, and against destiny even the great and the powerful of the earth struggle in vain.