“I have shaken off my imperial burdens,” said she to her friends; “let us now begin to enjoy the imperial pleasures. Ah! we shall lead a pleasant life in this splendid palace. My first law is this: No one shall speak to me of government business or state affairs. I will have nothing to do with such things, do you hear! For what purpose do I have my ministers and my council? Go you with such wearisome questions to my grand chancellor, Tscherkaskoy, and my minister, Bestuscheff; they shall govern for me. I can demand that of them, as I pay them for it. If you seek an office, if you have invented any thing for promoting the welfare of the country, if you have found any official abuse, or discovered any conspiracy, then go to Bestuscheff or to Woronzow, or also to Lestocq—spare me! But when you have a grace to demand, when you need money, when you desire a title or orders, then come to me, and I will satisfy your wishes. We have much money, many ribbons for orders, and as for titles, they are the cheapest and most convenient of all, as they cost absolutely nothing. Ah, a jest just now occurs to me. We will amuse ourselves a little to-day. We will have a title-auction. Call our courtiers, attendants, and servants. We shall have a gay time of it! We will have a game at dice. Bring the dice! I will at each throw announce the prize, and the dice shall then decide who is the winner!”
They all gathered around her; the noble gentlemen of her body-guard, consisting of the grenadiers who had been raised to nobility and created officers at the commencement of her reign. They came noisily, with singing and laughing, and saluting their empress, Elizabeth, with a thundering viva.
“First of all, let us drink your health, sir captain!” said she, ordering wine to be brought, as well as brandy of the costly sort she had lately received as a present from the greatest distiller of her capital, to which she herself was very partial.
Loudly clinked their glasses, loudly was shouted a viva to the empress, which Elizabeth laughingly accepted by offering them her hands to kiss, and was delighted when they fell into ecstasies over the beauty and freshness of those hands.
“Now, silence, gentlemen of the body-guard!” she cried. “I, your captain, command attention!”
And, when silence was established, she continued: “We will have a game at dice, and titles and orders, gold and brandy, shall be the prizes for which you shall contend!”
“Ah, that is magnificent, that is a glorious game!” exclaimed they all.
“The first prize,” said Elizabeth, “is the position of privy councillor! Now take the dice, gentlemen!”
They began to throw the dice, with laughter and shouting when they had thrown a high number—with lamentations and stamping of the feet when it was a low one.