“Anna!” sorrowfully exclaimed the prince, “oh, had you but listened to my warning! Why did I not, in spite of your commands, what I ought to have done? I alone am to blame for this sad misfortune.”
“It is no one’s fault but mine,” calmly responded Anna. “Pardon me, my husband, pardon me, Julia.”
And so they descended to the sledges in waiting below. They placed the prince in one, and the regent, with Julia, in the other.
“Ah,” said Julia, throwing her arms around Anna’s neck, “we shall at least suffer together.”
Anna reclined her head upon her friend’s shoulder.
“God is just and good,” said she. “He punishes me for my criminal love, and mercifully spares the object of my affections. I thank God for my sufferings. Julia, should you one day be liberated and allowed to see him again, then bear to him my warmest greetings; then tell him that I shall love him eternally, and that my last sigh shall be a prayer for his happiness. I shall never see him again. Bear to him my blessing, Julia!”
Julia dissolved in tears, and, clinging to her friend, she sobbed: “No, no, they will not dare to kill you.”
“Then they will condemn me to a life-long imprisonment,” calmly responded Anna.
“No, no, your head is sacred, and so is your freedom. They dare not attack either.”
“Nothing is sacred in Russia,” laconically responded Anna.
The sledges stopped at the palace of the Princess Elizabeth. Hardly two hours had passed since Elizabeth, in those same sledges, had left her palace as a poor, trembling princess; and now, as reigning empress, she sent them back to the dethroned regent.
The latter entered the palace of the princess as a prisoner, while Elizabeth, as empress, took possession of the palace of the czars.
THE SLEEP OF INNOCENCE
Anna Leopoldowna had hardly left the room in which she had been surprised and captured, when Lestocq turned to Grunstein with a new order.
“Now,” said he, in an undertone to him—“now hasten to seize the emperor. This little Ivan must be annihilated.”
Elizabeth had overheard these words, and remembering Anna’s last prayer, she exclaimed with vehemence:
“No, no, I say, he shall not be annihilated! Woe to him who injures a hair of his head! I will not be the murderer of an innocent child! Take him prisoner, get him in your power, but in him respect the child and the emperor! Tear him not forcibly from his slumber, but protect his sleep! Poor child, destined to suffer so early!”
“No weakness now, princess,” whispered Lestocq; “show yourself great and firm, else all is lost! Come away from here, that the sight of this child may not yet more enfeeble your heart. Come, much more remains to be done.”
And, reverently taking Elizabeth’s hand, he led her to the door.