And even Alexis had been unable to withstand this magic! Oh, Elizabeth narrowly watched him; she had analyzed his every word and every glance; she had seen how he always pressed near her, how he blushed with joy when she remarked his presence and returned his salutation! Yea, she, and perhaps only she, had seen Alexis covertly possess himself of the glove which Eleonore had lost the previous evening at the grand court ball, had seen him press that glove to his lips and afterward conceal it in his bosom.
As Elizabeth thought of these things her eyes filled with tears, and her whole form shook with rage. She felt unable to be angry with or to punish him, but she was resolved that Eleonore Lapuschkin should feel the whole weight of her vengeance.
“Oh,” said she, while pacing her boudoir in a state of violent excitement, “I shall know how to punish this presumptuous woman! Ha, does she not give herself the appearance of not remarking that I constantly have for her a clouded brow and an unfriendly greeting? How! will she not take the pains to see that her empress looks upon her with disfavor? But she shall see and feel that I hate, that I abhor her. Oh, what a powerless creature is yet an empress! I hate this woman, and she has the impudence to think I cannot punish her unless she is guilty.”
And weeping aloud, Elizabeth threw herself upon the divan. A low knock at the door recalled her attention from her angry grief. Rising, she bade the person at the door to enter.
It was Lestocq, the privy councillor and president—Lestocq, the confidant of the empress, who came with a joyful face and cheerful smile.
Elizabeth felt annoyed by this cheerfulness of her physician. With an angry frown she turned her back upon him.
“Why were you not at the court ball last evening?” she then roughly said.
“I was there,” answered Lestocq.
“Ah, that is not true,” cried the empress with vehemence, glad at least to have some one on whom she could discharge her anger. “It is false, I say; no one saw you there! Ah, you dare, then, to impose a falsehood upon your empress? You would—”
“I was at the court ball,” interposed Lestocq; “I saw and noted all that occurred there. I saw that my empress beamed in all the splendor of beauty, and yet with her amiable modesty she thought Eleonore Lapuschkin handsomer than herself. I read in Elizabeth’s noble brow that she was pained by this, and that she promised to punish the presumption of the insolent countess.”