Look only forward, constantly forward, where the skies are clear, and dream of happiness! Look forward—no, turn not backward your glance, for the horizon darkens in your rear; misfortune is closely following upon your track! You see it not, you only look forward and still you smile.
It draws nearer and nearer, this black cloud of evil. It is the ravens, the booty-scenting ravens who are following you!
Look forward, dream yourselves happy, and smile yet. What would it help you to look back! You cannot escape the calamity.
Nearer and nearer, with a wild cry, rush these ravens of misfortune; the air already bears detached sounds to Anna’s ears.
She trembles. It is as if her boding soul scented the approaching evil. Pressing her child closer to her bosom, she gives her husband her hand.
The horses are attached to the sledge, and the soldiers leave the public house. All is ready for the train to go on over the boundary. The postilions draw the rein! Now a wild cry of “Halt! halt!”
The soldiers bear up, the postilions halt!
“Forward! forward!” shrieks Prince Ulrich, in mortal anguish.
“Halt! in the name of the empress!” cried an officer who came rushing past upon a foaming steed, and he handed to the commander of the escort an open writing, furnished with the imperial seal.
The commander turned to the postilions.
“To the right about, toward Riga!” ordered he, and then, turning to the trembling princely pair, he said: “In the name of the empress, you are my prisoners! I am directed to conduct you to the citadel of Riga!”
With a loud groan, Anna sinks into the arms of her husband. He consoles her with the most soothing and affectionate words; he has thought, sorrow, only for her—he feels not for himself, but only for her.
For a moment Anna was overpowered by this unexpected horror; then she calmly rose erect, and pressed her son more closely to her bosom.
“We are all lost,” whispered she, “prisoners forever! Poor child—poor, unhappy husband!”
“Despair not,” said Prince Ulrich, “all may yet turn out well! Who knows how soon aid may reach us!”
Anna lightly shook her head, and thinking of the last words of her friend, she murmured low: “Punishment passes, but love remains!”
THE PALACE OF THE EMPRESS
The new empress, Elizabeth, had rewarded and punished, and with that thought she had finished her imperial labors and forever dismissed all her difficulties.