Page images

which was given her, and the whole family soon retired to rest, after a promise had been made, that the information, which Sobiesky so earnestly desired, should be furnished on the following morning.

The day dawned which was to put the wishful youth in possession of facts, which to him appeared of the last consequence, and which were to lead to results above what his imagination could have pictured. From whatever feeling it might have proceeded, there was evidently a degree of hesitance on the part of Chowanskoi, to commence the narrative, for which the youth so eagerly panted. At length he drew him aside from the company of Eudocia, and retiring with him to a secluded part of the garden, they entered a rudely-constructed building, unusually strong, and of true Spartan appearance. Sobiesky had, at various times of late, observed that Chowanskoi paid frequent visits to this place, into which, however, he had never before been admitted. Immediately upon entering the door, it was closed and locked by Chowanskoi. The internal appearance was in perfect uniformity with its external form. It was lofty, and composed of two apartments on the ground floor. The light which it received streamed through some small apertures, placed near the roof in a slanting position, which were defended by strong crossed bars.

The door of the inner room was opened, and as they entered Sobiesky started back involuntarily, as his eye encountered an object placed opposite the entrance. The sun glared powerfully in the heavens, and streaming through one of the windows of the apartment, fell full upon a garment which depended from the wall, and which was stained with blood! Above it was a sword, half unsheathed, while daggers, pistols, and various et-ceteras of a destructive kind, were exhibited in crescential array. Chowanskoi observed the effect produced upon Sobiesky; and, grasping his arm with one hand, he pointed to the only decorations of the place with the other, and in a half-suppressed tone, yet fully expressive of how much he felt, exclaimed, -"Son of Count Soltikoff, these call for vengeance!" and then, letting go his hold, he threw himself on one knee before the astonished youth, and continued, “I am now, and will continue to be, your faithful servant: here I vow to serve you as I did my noble master.”

“Rise, rise," returned Sobiesky;“and, I beseech you by all the ties of friendship and of duty, explain the meaning of your mysterious declarations; tell me who is my father?-does he yet live?-But, oh! if I heard rightly, and may dare interpret your expressions, I have no father!"-Chowanskoi instantly rose, and, leading Sobiesky to a rude seat immediately opposite the object which bad first arrested his attention, replied, “Heir of the noble house of Tottelawitua, you have indeed no father! But you inherit all the virtues and spirit of him to whom you owe your being.” “Where did he fall?” asked Sobiesky, with mournful anxiety; "it must have been a bloody day when Soltikoff fell, for I

have often heard and read of his valour.” “It was indeed, a bloody day,” returned Chowanskoi; “but in a few words I will inform you of the whole.”

“Concerning those commotions, which once so greatly agitated our country, while yet Iwan and Peter were mere children, and which reduced the Russian empire to the brink of destruction, you are not ignorant: of these circumstances I have frequently informed you. A brief reference only to facts connected with them, is required.

“Scarcely had death closed the eyes of Czar Theodore, Alexis' successor, when his two brothers, the princes John and Peter, were, by the authority of those brave Strelitzes, who had fought at the bidding of Sophia, proclaimed joint sovereigns, while the princess was appointed co-regent with them. Anxious to save her country, and persuaded of the incapacity of John ever to become such a ruler as Russia demanded, and as Peter was the son of Alexis by a second marriage, it was never expected he would mount the throne, the heroic princess herself assumed the reins of government. Long had she struggled against insurrection, until John, who had retired from public life, being only so far concerned in matters of state as to affix his name occasionally to instruments of peculiar im

At that eventful period, Peter seized the supreme power. To whatever extent ambition might have influenced Sophia, Peter himself was not less ambitious. By his command, the princess was secured, and sent to the convent of the Holy

port, died.

age, he

Trinity, in Moscow. Thus freed from every check, at little more than seventeen years of caused those changes and innovations in our national affairs, upon which, until the present period, he has continued to advance. The affairs of the revenue were altered; the sacred matters of the church were handled; the patriarchal dignity suppressed. These and other matters followed close upon each other.

Alarmed for the public good, the venerable ministers of the sanctuary left their cells, and came forth to rouse the people secretly in their own defence. Soon an army was raised for the suppression of innovations upon ancient customs, and to oppose the introduction of foreigners to instruct the nation.

“A considerable body of Strelitzes, which had been scattered abroad on the frontiers of Lithuania, united their forces, and marched boldly towards the imperial city. On that memorable day, your father, the brave Count Soltikoff, held the command. The attack was made in wisdom and with vigour. Success appeared certain, until the capture of the noble count: disorder and dismay instantly spread through the ranks; flight became general; numbers were slain, and many taken prisoners. Orders were soon issued from the cabinet of Peter, for the destruction of those brave chiefs who had sought the welfare of their country.

“The appointed day came. The leaders were conducted to the place of execution; and, after enduring the punishment of the knout, were

beheaded on the public scaffold. Among the number who thus perished, was your father. Eighteen years have elapsed since that day. You were then young, not having attained your fourth year. Your mother had, before that period, been called away. I, who had long been favoured by your father, seemed your only friend, -your single protector. Your patrimonial estate and property were confiscated: instant destruction seemed to threaten you. Having, therefore, secured all that remained of your noble sire's, with the greatest despatch,

-and, among other things, that garment which he wore on the day of his death, together with those, his arms, I betook myself to flight, bearing with me yourself and my infant child, Eudocia.

"The valleys of Valdai were then less peopled than now they are; hence, they afforded a place of shelter. My own industry reared the cottage we inhabit: this place became the depository of those relics of one dear to me. To excite myself to detestation of the deed and its author, by which I was deprived of an honoured master, these tokens of each have been contemplated by me.

The hour of vengeance has at length arrived. My recent journey to Moscow was to settle finally with those who burn to avenge the death of Count Soltikoff and their own wrongs, by punishing the Czar himself. You are invited to become chief of those who are ready to raise a host of daggers in

your service."

« PreviousContinue »