The princess now approached her cousin, the Regent Anna, who came from the adjoining room to meet and welcome her, and for one short moment the courtiers forgot her smiles and her inoffensiveness. All eyes were with the most intense anxiety directed toward those two women; all conversation, jesting, and laughing were at once suspended. There was a deep pause, all breathing was smothered, all feared that the loud beating of their hearts might betray them and cause them to be suspected.
The two princesses now approached each other—Princess Elizabeth would have bent a knee to the regent—Anna, with charming kindness, raising and kissing her, tenderly reproached her for coming so late.
“I feared coming too early,” said Elizabeth, pressing the regent’s hand to her lips, “for I doubted whether my fair cousin would find time to bestow a friendly word upon her poor relation, Princess Elizabeth!”
“How could Elizabeth fear that, when she knows I love her like a sister?” tenderly asked the regent, and, taking the arm of the princess, she made with her a round through the rooms.
Now again came life and movement in this lately so silent and anxiously expectant assemblage; they now knew how they were to deport themselves: Princess Elizabeth was in the good graces of the regent, and therefore they could receive her polite greetings with the most reverential thankfulness; they could approach her and admire her beauty without incurring suspicion. The stereotyped smile had reappeared upon all faces, cheerful and lively conversation was again resumed, and wherever the two arm-in-arm wandering princesses appeared, they were greeted with endless shouts of ecstasy.
As we have said, it was a gay and very splendid festival. Only occasionally did something like a dark shadow pass through the rooms; only here and there did the chattering guests forget their wonted smiles; only occasionally did the mask of cheerfulness fall from many a face, discovering serious, anxious features, and suspicious, lurking glances. Every one felt that a catastrophe was impending, but, as no one could know its result in advance, all wished to keep as clear of it as possible, and seem perfectly unconscious and unaffected by these things. As they could not foresee which party would triumph, they found it advisable to join neither while awaiting coming events, after which they would hail as lords and masters those who might succeed in attaining to power.