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"Up, now, my friends, to the palace of the czar, where these usurpers dwell and inflict upon you the shame of calling a cradled infant your emperor. Come, and let us punish them for this insult, by thrusting them from their usurped power!"
"We will follow our empress in life and death!" cried the soldiers.
They therefore started again, and once more hastened through the silent streets until, at length, they reached the imperial palace, where dwelt the Emperor Ivan with his parents.
Elizabeth, with her confidential partisans in four sledges, had hastened on in advance of the others. With renewed courage they approached the principal entrance of the palace.
The guard took to their arms, and the drummer was preparing to beat an alarm, when a single blow of Lestocq's fist broke through the skin of the drum.
The terrified drummer fell, and over his body passed the band of conspirators, Elizabeth at their head.
No one ventured to oppose them; the slaves fell upon their knees in homage to her who announced herself as their mistress and empress!
Thus meeting with universal submission and obedience, they approached the wing of the palace occupied by the Emperor Ivan and his mother the regent. Here is stationed an officer of the guard. He alone ventures defiance to the intruders. He meets them with his sword drawn, and swears to strike down the first person who attempts to enter the corridor.
"Unhappy man, what is it you dare!" said Lestocq, boldly advancing. "You are guilty of high-treason. Fall upon your knees and implore pardon of your empress, Elizabeth!"
The officer shrank bank in terror. It was an empress who stood before him, and he had dared to defy her!
Begging forgiveness and mercy, he dropped his sword and fell upon his knees. The Russian slave was awakened in him, and he bent before the one who had the power to command.
Unobstructed, retained by no one, Elizabeth and her followers now strode through the corridor leading to the private apartments of the regent. Sentinels were placed at every door, with strict commands to strike down any one who should dare to oppose them.
In this manner they reached the anteroom of the regent's chamber.
Elizabeth had not the courage to go any farther. She hesitatingly stopped. A deep shame and repentance came over her when she thought of the noble confidence Anna had shown, and which she was now on the point of repaying with the blackest treason.
Lestocq, whose sharp, observing glances constantly rested upon her, divined her thoughts and the cause of her irresolution. He privately whispered some words to Grunstein, who, with thirty grenadiers, immediately approached the door of Anna's sleeping-room.
With a single push the door was forced, and with a wild cry the soldiers rushed to the couch upon which Anna Leopoldowna was reposing.
With a cry of anguish Anna springs up from her slumber, and shudderingly stares at the soldiers by whom she is encompassed, who, with rough voices, command her to rise and follow them. They scarcely give her time to put on a robe, and encase her little feet in shoes.
But Anna has become perfectly calm and self-possessed. She knows she is lost, and, too proud to weep or complain, she finds in herself courage to be tranquil.
"I beg only to be allowed to speak to Elizabeth," said she, aloud. "I will do all you command me. I will follow you wherever you wish, only let me first see your empress, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth, leaning against the door-post, had heard these words; yielding to an involuntary impulse of her heart, she pushed open the door and appeared upon the threshold of Anna Leopoldowna's chamber.
On perceiving her, a faint smile passed over Anna's features.
"Ah, come you thus to me, Elizabeth?" she said, reproachfully, with a proud glance at the princess.
Elizabeth could not support that glance. She cast down her eyes, and again Anna Leopoldowna smiled. She was conquered, but before her, blushing with shame, stood her momentarily subdued conqueror. But Anna now remembered her son, and, folding her hands, she said, in an imploring tone:
"Elizabeth, kill not my son! Have compassion upon him!"
Elizabeth turned away with a shudder, she felt her heart rent, she had not strength for an answer.
Lestocq beckoned the soldiers, and commanded them to remove the traitress, Anna Leopoldowna.
Thirty warriors took possession of the regent, who calmly and proudly submitted herself to them and suffered herself to be led away.
In the corridor they encountered another troop of soldiers, who were escorting the regent's husband, Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and Anna's favorite, Julia von Mengden.
"Anna!" sorrowfully exclaimed the prince, "oh, had you but listened to my warning! Why did I not, in spite of your commands, what I ought to have done? I alone am to blame for this sad misfortune."
"It is no one's fault but mine," calmly responded Anna. "Pardon me, my husband, pardon me, Julia."
And so they descended to the sledges in waiting below. They placed the prince in one, and the regent, with Julia, in the other.
"Ah," said Julia, throwing her arms around Anna's neck, "we shall at least suffer together."
Anna reclined her head upon her friend's shoulder.
"God is just and good," said she. "He punishes me for my criminal love, and mercifully spares the object of my affections. I thank God for my sufferings. Julia, should you one day be liberated and allowed to see him again, then bear to him my warmest greetings; then tell him that I shall love him eternally, and that my last sigh shall be a prayer for his happiness. I shall never see him again. Bear to him my blessing, Julia!"
Julia dissolved in tears, and, clinging to her friend, she sobbed: "No, no, they will not dare to kill you."
"Then they will condemn me to a life-long imprisonment," calmly responded Anna.
"No, no, your head is sacred, and so is your freedom. They dare not attack either."
"Nothing is sacred in Russia," laconically responded Anna.
The sledges stopped at the palace of the Princess Elizabeth. Hardly two hours had passed since Elizabeth, in those same sledges, had left her palace as a poor, trembling princess; and now, as reigning empress, she sent them back to the dethroned regent.
The latter entered the palace of the princess as a prisoner, while Elizabeth, as empress, took possession of the palace of the czars.
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The Daughter of an Empress -by- Louise Muhlbach