“And what if it were, nevertheless, true,” said the prince, pressingly—“if we are really threatened with a great danger? A word from you can turn it away. Let us, therefore, be careful! Remember your son, Anna—his life is also threatened! Protect him, mother of the emperor! Allow me, the generalissimo of your forces, to take measures of precaution! Let me establish patrols, and cause a regiment, for whose fidelity I can be answerable, to guard the entrances of the palace!”
Anna smilingly shook her head. “No,” said she, “nothing of all that shall be done! Such precautions manifest suspicion, and would wound the feelings of this good Elizabeth. She is innocent, believe me. I yesterday sharply observed her, and she came out from the trial pure. It would be ignoble to distrust her now. Moreover, she has my princely word that I will always listen only to herself, and believe no one but her. In the morning I will go to her and show her this letter, that she may have an opportunity to justify herself.”
“You therefore consider her wholly innocent?” asked the prince, with a sigh.
“Yes, perfectly innocent. Her firm demeanor, her asseverations, her tears, have convinced me that it was unjust in us to believe the hateful rumors that had spread concerning her. Let us therefore retire in peace and quiet. No danger threatens us from Elizabeth!”
There was something convincing and tranquillizing in Anna’s immovable conviction; the prince felt his inability to oppose her, and was ashamed of his feminine fears in the face of her masculine intrepidity.
With a sigh he took his leave and returned to his own room. At the door he turned once again.
“Anna,” said he, with solemnity, “you have decided upon our destiny, and God grant that it may eventuate happily! But should it be otherwise, should the monstrous and terrible break in upon you, then, at least, remember this hour, in which I warned you, and confess that I am free from all blame!”
Without awaiting an answer, with a drooping head and deep sigh, the prince left the room.
Anna looked after him with a compassionate smile.
“Poor prince!” she murmured low, “he is always so timid and trembling; that indicates unhappiness! He loves me, and I cannot force my heart to return the feeling. Poor prince, it must be very sad to love and be unloved!”
With a sigh she closed the door through which her husband had passed.
“I will now sleep,” said she. “Yes, sleep! Possibly Heaven may send me a pleasant dream, and I may see my Lynar! But no, I must first go to Ivan, to ascertain whether his slumber is tranquil.”
With hasty steps she repaired to the adjacent chamber, which was that of the young emperor.
There all was still. Before the door opening upon the corridor she heard the regular step of the soldier on guard. The waiters upon the emperor were slumbering upon mattresses around him. It was a picture of profound tranquillity.