“One, two, three—tra, la, la!” sang Alexis, and the empress whirled and made her graceful turn, as he had taught her.
Lestocq repeated his question to the empress.
Elizabeth was precisely in the most difficult tour.
“Yes, yes,” she breathlessly cried, “I deliver them all over to you; scourge them, punish them, send them to Siberia—whatever you think best! Halt, Alexis, we must try this tour over again. But, indeed, I think I shall acquit myself very well in it.”
“Heavenly!” cried Alexis. “Once more, then! One, two, three—la, la, la, tra la!”
“Punish them all, all!” had Elizabeth said, “but the regent, her husband, and her son—them you will permit to return to Germany!”
“We must accomplish the will of the empress, and therefore let them go!”
“We will obey her commands,” said Lestocq to Alexis Razumovsky. “We must let them go free, but it would be dangerous to let them ever reach Germany. With their persons they would preserve their rights and their claims, and Elizabeth would always stand in fear of this regent and this young growing emperor, whose claims to the imperial Russian crown are incontestable. You alone, Razumovsky, can turn away this danger from the head of the empress, by convincing her of its reality, and inducing her to change her mind. Reflect that the safety of the empress is our own; reflect that, as we have risen with her, so shall we fall with her!”
“Rely upon me,” said Alexis, with a confident smile; “this regent and her young Emperor Ivan shall never pass the Russian boundary! Let them now go, but send a strong guard with them, and travel by slow marches, that our couriers may be able to overtake them at a later period. That is all you have to do in the case.”
And, humming a sentimental song, Alexis repaired to the apartments of the empress.
Before the back door of the palace Elizabeth had occupied as princess, a travelling-sledge was waiting. Gayly sounded and clattered the bells on the six small horses attached to the sledge; gayly did the postilions blow their horns, and with enticing calls resounded the thundering fanfares through the cold winter air.
To those for whom this sledge was destined, this call sounded like a greeting from heaven. It was to them the dove with the olive-branch, announcing to them the end of their torments; it was the messenger of peace, which gave them back their freedom, their lives, and perhaps even happiness. They were to return to Germany, their long-missed home; hastening through the Russian snow-fields, they would soon reach a softer climate, where they would be surrounded by milder manners and customs. What was it to Anna that she was to be deprived of earthly elevation and power—what cared she that she henceforth would no more have the pleasure of commanding others? She was free, free from the task of ruling slaves and humanizing barbarians; free from the constraint of greatness, and, finally free to live in conformity with her own inclinations, and perhaps, ah, perhaps, to found a happiness, the bare dreaming of which already caused her heart to tremble with unspeakable ecstasy.