“Now do your duty,” said he to Grunstein. “Seize young Ivan.”
“But remember my command, and spare him,” said Elizabeth, slowly and hesitatingly leaving the chamber.
“Now to Ivan!” Grunstein commanded his soldiers, and with them he hastened to the sleeping-room of the young emperor.
There deep stillness and undisturbed peace yet prevailed. Only the waiting-women were awakened, and had hastily fled in search of concealment and safety. They had left the young emperor entirely alone, and he had not been awakened by the disturbance all around him.
He lay quietly in his splendid cradle, which was placed upon a sort of estrade in the centre of the room, dimly lighted by a lamp suspended from the ceiling by golden chains. This slumbering, smiling, childish face, peeping forth from the green silk coverings of the pillows, resembled a fresh, bursting rosebud. It was a sight that inspired respect even in those rough soldiers.
Devoutly staring, they at first remained at the door of the room; then slowly, and stepping on the points of their toes, they approached nearer and surrounded the cradle. But, remembering the words of their new empress, “Spare his sleep,” no one dared to touch the child, or awaken him from his slumber.
In close order the bearded warriors pressed around the cradle of the imperial child, leaning upon their halberds, watching for his awaking.
It was a rare and admirable picture. In the centre, upon its estrade, was the splendid cradle of the slumbering child, and all around, upon the steps of this child-throne, these soldiers with their wild and threatening faces, all eyes expectantly resting upon the smiling infantile brow.
The door now opened, and, her face pallid with terror, Ivan’s nurse rushed into the room and to the cradle of her imperial nursling. The soldiers, with imperious glances, beckoned her to await in silence, like themselves, the awakening of the emperor. The poor woman spoke not, but her fast-flowing tears indicated the depth of her grief.
Time passes. As if under enchantment, earnest, immovable, silent, stand the soldiers. Behind the cradle, her eyes and arms raised imploringly toward heaven, stands the nurse, while the child continues to slumber, smiling in its sleep.
At the expiration of an hour thus passed, the imperial infant moves, throws up its little rosy arms, opens its eyes—it is awake!
A cry of triumph escapes the lips of all the soldiers—all arms were stretched forth to seize him who, an hour before, had been their lord and emperor.
The child, frightened by the aspect of these rough soldiers, bursts out into a cry of alarm, and stretches out its little arms toward its nurse.
She takes him in her arms and weeps over him. The frightened child buries its little face in the bosom of his nurse, and the soldiers now convey them both to the waiting sledges. The dethroned emperor is quickly transported to the dethroned regent at Elizabeth’s palace, who, with hot tears, clasps her son to her heart.