“Lestocq,” said she, “it is well you have come at this moment, else, perhaps, I might have forgotten to say to you that it is all over with the conjuration spun and woven by you and the French marquis. We must give it up, for the affair is more dangerous than you think it, and I may say that you have reason to be thankful to me for having, by my foresight and intrepidity, saved you from the torture, and a possible transportation to Siberia. Ah, it is very cold in Siberia, my dear Lestocq, and you will do well silently and discreetly to build a warm nest here, instead of inventing ambitious projects dangerous to all of us.”
“And whence do you foresee danger, princess?” asked Lestocq.
“The regent knows all! She knows our plans and combinations. In a word, she knows that we conspire, and that you are the principal agent in the conspiracy.”
“Then I am lost!” sighed Lestocq, gliding down upon a chair.
“No, not quite,” said Elizabeth, with a smile, “for I have saved you. Ah, I should never have believed that the playing of comedy was so easy, but I tell you I have played one in a masterly manner. Fear was my teacher; it taught me to appear so innocent, to implore so affectingly, that Anna herself was touched. Ah, and I wept whole streams of tears, I tell you. That quite disarmed the regent. But you must bear the blame if my eyes to-day are yet red with weeping, and not so brilliant as usual.”
And Princess Elizabeth ran to the toilet-table to examine critically her face in the glass.
“Yes, indeed,” she cried, with a sort of terror, “it is as I feared. My eyes are quite dull. Lestocq, you must give me a means, a quick and sure means, to restore their brightness.”
Thus speaking, Elizabeth looked constantly in the glass, full of care and anxiety about her eyes.
“I shall appear less beautiful to him to-day,” she murmured; “he will, in thought, compare me with Eleonore Lapuschkin, and find her handsomer than I. Lestocq, Lestocq!” she then called aloud, impatiently stamping with her little foot, “I tell you that you must immediately prescribe a remedy that will restore the brilliancy of my eyes.”
“Princess,” said Lestocq, with solemnity, “I beseech you for a moment to forget your incomparable beauty and the unequalled brilliancy of your eyes. Be not only a woman, but be, as you can, the great czar’s great daughter. Princess, the question here is not only of the diminished brilliancy of your eyes, but of a real danger with which you are threatened. Be merciful, be gracious, and relate to me the exact words of your yesterday’s conversation with the regent.”
The princess looked up from her mirror, and turned her head toward Lestocq.
“Ah, I forgot,” she carelessly said, “you are not merely my physician, but also a revolutionist, and that is of much greater importance to you.”
“The question is of your head, princess, and as a true physician I would help you to preserve it. Therefore, dearest princess, I beseech you, repeat to me that conversation with the regent.”