In anxiety almost unbearable we waited until the morning of March 9 (Russian) the arrival of the Emperor. I was still confined to my bed and Dr. Botkin was making me his first visit of the day when my door flew open and Mme. Dehn, pale with excitement, rushed to my bedside exclaiming breathlessly: "He has come!" As soon as she could command words she described the arrival of the Emperor, not as of yore attended, but guarded like a prisoner by armed soldiers. The Empress was with Alexei when the motor cars drove into the palace grounds, and Mme. Dehn told how she sprang to her feet overjoyed and ran like a schoolgirl down the stairs and through the long corridors to meet her husband. For a time at least the happiness of reunion blotted out the suspense of the past and the gloomy uncertainty of the future. But afterwards, alone, behind their own closed doors, the emotion of the betrayed and deserted Emperor completely overcame his self-control and he sobbed like a child on the breast of his wife. It was four o'clock in the afternoon before she could come to me, and when she came I read in her white, drawn face the whole story of the ordeal through which she had passed. With prideful composure she related the events of the day. I tried to match her in courage but I am afraid I failed. I, who in all the twelve years of my life in the palace had but three times seen tears in the eyes of the Emperor, was entirely overwhelmed at her recital. "He will not break down a second time," she said with a brave smile. "He is walking in the garden now. Come to the window and see." She helped me to the window and herself pulled aside the curtain. Never, never while I live shall I forget what we saw, we two, clinging together in shame and sorrow for our disgraced country. Below in the garden of the palace which had been his home for twenty years stood the man who until a few days before had been Tsar of all the Russias. With him was his faithful friend Prince Dolgorouky, and surrounding them were six soldiers, say rather six hooligans, armed with rifles. With their fists and with the butts of their guns they pushed the Emperor this way and that as though he were some wretched vagrant they were baiting in a country road. "You can't go there, Gospodin Polkovnik (Mr. Colonel)." "We don't permit you to walk in that direction, Gospodin Polkovnik." "Stand back when you are commanded, Gospodin Polkovnik." The Emperor, apparently unmoved, looked from one of these coarse brutes to another and with great dignity turned and walked back towards the palace. I had been a very sick woman, and I was now hardly fit to stand on my feet. The light went out suddenly and I fainted. But the Empress did not faint. She got me back to my bed, fetched cold water, and when I awoke it was to feel her cool hand bathing my head. From her calm and detached manner no one could have guessed that the scene we had just witnessed was part also of her own tragedy. Before leaving me she said as to a child: "If you will promise to be very good and not cry he shall come to see you this evening."
After dinner they came, the Emperor and Empress with our friend Lili Dehn. The two women sat down at a table with their needlework leaving the Emperor free to sit by my bed and talk to me privately. I have tried to show Nicholas II as a human person, with human emotions, and I have no desire now to represent him, in the hour of his humiliation, as other than a man feeling keenly and acutely the bitterness of his position. I had been unable until the day of his return to realize with any degree of clarity the full extent of his calamity. It was to me almost unbelievable that his enemies, who had so long plotted and schemed for his overthrow, had at last succeeded. It was beyond reason that the Emperor, the finest and best of the whole Romanov family, should be allowed to fall under the feet of his decadent, treacherous kinsmen and subjects. But the Emperor, his eyes hard and glistening, told me that it was indeed true. And he added: "If all Russia came to me now on their knees I would never return."
With tears in his voice he spoke of the men, his most trusted relations and friends, who had turned against him and caused his downfall. He read me telegrams from Brusilov, Alekseyev, and other of his generals, others from members of the family, including a message from Nicholas Nicholasevich, in which the writers "on their knees" begged his Imperial Majesty, for the salvation of Russia, to abdicate. In whose favor did they wish him to abdicate? The weak and ineffectual Duma? The great untaught masses of the people No, to their own blind and self-seeking oligarchy, which, under a regent of its own choosing, would rule the boy Alexei and through him the people and the uncounted wealth of Russia. But this at least the Emperor could and did prevent. Both his heart and his mind forbade him to abdicate in favor of the Tsarevich. "My boy I will not give to them," he said feelingly. "Let them get some one else, Mikhail, if he thinks he is strong enough."
I regret that I cannot remember every word the Emperor told me of the scenes in his train when the deputation from the Duma came to demand his abdication. I was trying too hard to obey the Empress's injunction to "be good and not cry." But I remember -his telling me how arrogant and vain the deputies, especially Gutchkov and Shulgin, showed themselves. On their departure the Emperor's first words were addressed to the two tall Cossacks who stood guard at his door. "It is time now for you to tear my initials from your shoulder straps," he told them. The Cossacks saluted and one of them said: "Please your Imperial Majesty, please allow us to kill them." But the Emperor replied: "It is too late to do that now."
Of his mother, who hurried from Kiev, accompanied by Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, to see him, he said that he was vastly comforted to have her near him, but that the sight of the Grand Duke was unendurable. Driving away from the train with the Empress Dowager, the Emperor had been much moved to see the people along the whole distance of two versts fall on their knees to bid him farewell. There was a group of schoolgirls from the institute at Mogiliev who forced their way past the guards and surrounded their Sovereign, begging his handkerchief, his autograph on bits of paper, the buttons from his uniform, anything for a last souvenir. The Emperor's face grew sharply lined when he spoke of those brave girls and the kneeling people. "Why did you not appeal to them?" I asked. "Why did you not appeal to the soldiers?" But the Emperor answered gently: "The people knew themselves powerless, and as for appeal. ing to the soldiers, how could I? Already I had heard threats of murdering my family." His wife and children, he said, were all on earth he had left to live for now. Their happiness and well-being were all his soul desired. As for the Empress, more than himself the real object of malice, only over his body should any hand be raised to injure her. Giving way once more for a brief moment to his grief the Emperor murmured half to himself: "But there is no justice, no justice on earth." Then as if in apology he said: "It has shaken me badly, as you see. -For the first few days I was so little myself that I could not even write my diary."
As we talked it came over me for the first time in full force that all was indeed finished for Russia. The army was disrupted, the nation fallen. I could foresee, to some extent at least, the horrors we should have to meet, but in a kind of desperate hope I asked the Emperor if he did not think that the riots and strikes would now be put down. He shook his head. "Not for two years at least," he predicted. But what did he think was to become of him, of the Empress and the children? He did not know, but there was one prayer he should not be too proud to make to his enemies, and that was that they should not send him out of Russia. "Let me live here in my own country, as the humblest and most obscure proprietor, tilling the land and earning the poorest living," he exclaimed. "Send us to any distant corner of Russia, but only let us stay."
This was the only time I ever saw the Emperor in the least degree unmanned, or overcome with the bitterness of grief which I knew must have filled his spirit. After that first day in the palace gardens he gave his jailers no opportunity of insulting him. With Prince Dolgorouky he walked out daily but only along near pathways to the palace doors. The snow was heavy on the ground and the two men vigorously exercised themselves shoveling it from paths and roadways. Often the Emperor would look up from this strenuous work to wave a hand to those of us who were watching from the windows. In the solitude of my sick chamber I tormented myself with thoughts of what might be in store for the Emperor and the beloved family whose happiness and well-being were more to him than the most exalted throne. They were all prisoners of the Duma now, and what dark and hapless fate was the ruthless, irresponsible Duma preparing for them? Not a comforting question to haunt the mind of one ill in body and soul. From my first waking moment on I lived in anticipation of the daily visit of the Empress. She who had all at stake still kept her wonderful courage alive. She came in tall and stately, a smile on her gentle, melancholy face, bringing me the news of the nurseries, messages from the children, making me work, doing everything possible to cheer and to lighten my mind. In the evening the Emperor usually came, wheeling his wife in her invalid's chair, for by night her strength had all but gone. They stayed with me for an hour and then went on to say good night to the suite in the drawing room. Sadly diminished in numbers was that suite, but unchanged in fealty and affection for fallen majesty. Among those devoted friends who appeared almost like the survivors of a shipwreck were Count Benckendorff, brother of the former Russian ambassador to Great Britain, and his wife, who had boldly arrived at the palace when it was first surrounded by mutinous soldiers; two maids of honor, Baroness Buxhoevden and Countess Hendrikova; the faithful Miss Schneider ("Trina"), Mme. Dehn, Count Fredericks, General Voyeikov and the Hussar officer, General Grooten. The two devoted aides-de-camp, Lieutenant Linevitch and Count Zamirsky, who had flown to the palace to be near the Empress after the abdication, had been forced to leave, or they too would have remained to the end. Of the household M. Gilliard and Mr. Gibbs, the French and English tutors of Alexei, had elected to remain. Madeleine, and several other personal attendants, including three nurses, also stayed. "In good times we served the family," said these honest souls, "never will we forsake them now."
Not once, after the very first of our conversations, and not at any time I believe to others in the palace did the Emperor or the Empress make the smallest complaint of their captivity. They seemed to suffer for Russia rather than for themselves, for they knew, and said so, that the army, suddenly in the midst of war released from all discipline, would soon cease to fight efficiently, or perhaps to obey orders at all. This of course the world knows is precisely what did happen. The Emperor, I must admit, sometimes betrayed a gruesome kind of humor over the fantastic blunders of the self-styled statesmen who were so rapidly making general shipwreck of their revolution. In every way they showed their weakness and bewilderment. Whether or not they feared to trust old officers of the Empire with the custody of the Imperial Family I cannot be sure, but the men they sent to Tsarskoe were a constant source of ironic mirth to the suite. Most of these men were young, raw, underbred, and inexperienced, the best of them being junior officers promoted since 1914. One day one of the guard officers, just to show how democratic Russia had become, swaggered up to the Emperor and offered to shake hands with him. Unfortunately, as he afterwards told me, the Emperor was so busy shoveling snow that he could not take advantage of the man's condescension.
The newly appointed commandant of the palace was a young man named Paul Kotzebou, before the War an officer of the lancers, but for some piece of misconduct cashiered from the service. I had long known Kotzebou and aside from his doubtful army record I was not sorry to see him in the palace, for I knew that if weak of character he was at least kind of heart. Kind indeed he proved himself, for he visited my sickroom in friendly fashion, risked arrest by consenting to smuggle letters to my parents in St. Petersburg, and was the first to warn me that the Provisional Government was contemplating my arrest. Many of the old friends and advisers of the Emperor were already in prison, but the proposal to arrest a woman whose sole crime had been devotion to the Empress and her children gave us all an uncomfortable, premonitory shock. The distress of the Empress was greater almost than her pride. The mercy she would have scorned to ask for herself she was ready to beg for me, and she did most earnestly implore Kotzebou to intercede in my behalf. "What possible good will it do them to arrest one helpless woman?" she urged. "Parting with her would be like losing one of my own children." Kotzebou, whatever his feelings, could only reply: "If I could, Madame-but there is nothing I can do, nothing."
The Emperor alone refused to believe my arrest at all probable, but the others were badly frightened at the prospect. The sister of mercy who had worked in my hospital and was taking care of me, almost went on her knees to the Emperor and Empress. "Now is the time to show your real love for Anna Alexandrovna," she cried. "Take her into the rooms of your own children and never let anybody touch her." Cooler counsel came from Count Benckendorff, who advised the Emperor and Empress not to oppose my arrest if it were ordered. The only result of opposition, he pointed out, would be more arrests and perhaps increased hardship for the Empress. "I do not think they will detain her, unless it is in one of the rooms of the Tauride," he said, meaning that I might only be isolated for a time in the palace where the Duma held its sessions. Count Benckendorff was later to learn what kind of justice was being prepared by the criminal lunatics who were at Russia's throat.
One morning towards the 20th of March I had a hurried note from the Empress, the contents of which were enough to make me forget all my own troubles. Marie, who had been very ill and who now she feared was dying, was calling constantly for me. The servant who brought the note told me that Anastasia also was in a critical condition, lungs and ears being in a sad state of inflammation. Oxygen alone was keeping the children alive. Kotzebou was calling on me at the time, and as I sat up in bed wildly demanding to be dressed, he begged me not to leave my room. "They are only waiting until you are well enough to be arrested," he assured me. But though I feared arrest I feared still more letting the child I loved die with one single wish unfulfilled, and as soon as I could be sufficiently clothed it was Kotzebou himself who wheeled my chair through the long corridors to the nurseries. It was the first time in weeks that I had seen the children and our meeting was full of tears. We wept in each other's arms and then without wasting any time I went on into Marie's room. The child indeed seemed to be at the point of death, but when she saw me the suffering in her eyes turned to something like joy. Her weak hands fluttered on the bedclothes and with a feeble cry, "Anya, Anya," she began to weep. Long I sat beside her holding her hot and wasted body in my arms, and when I left her she was asleep. Shaken though I was with that experience, I had one more agony to bear. When my chair was being wheeled back along the corridor I passed the open door of Alexei's room, and this is what I saw. Lying sprawled in a chair was the sailor Derevenko, for many years the personal attendant of the Tsarevich, and on whom the family had bestowed every kindness, every material benefit. Bitten by the mania of revolution, this man was now displaying his gratitude for all their favors. Insolently he bawled at the boy whom he had formerly loved and cherished, to bring him this or that, to perform any menial service his mean lackey's brain could think of. Dazed and apparently only half conscious of what he was being forced to do, the child moved about trying to obey. It was too much to bear. Hiding my face in my hands, I begged them to take me away from the sickening spectacle.
The next day, my last in the palace, I went again to the children, and for a few hours at least was a little bit happy. The Emperor and Empress had luncheon served in the nurseries, and we were all able to eat in some comfort because both Marie and Anastasia were showing signs of improvement. Still we were troubled because Kotzebou, as a reward for his too kindly treatment of the captives, had that morning been removed from the palace, and the doctors when they came brought with them newspapers, fair samples of the new "free" press of Russia, bristling with frightful stories, especially about me. For the first time I began to realize, with a sick heart, what an arrest might means what grotesque charges I might be called upon to face. For the first time, in these newspapers I read the amazing tale of how I had conspired with Dr. Badmiev to poison the Emperor and the Tsarevich. Dr. Badmiev, that half mad old Siberian root and herb doctor, who never in his life had been admitted to the palace as a physician or even as a friend! It was too absurd to resent. Even the Empress who at first had shown anger, burst into mocking laughter. "Here, Anya," she cried, "keep this story for your collection."
The next day I was arrested. I awoke in a morning of storm and howling wind and in my soul a feeling of dread and foreboding. Immediately after my coffee I wrote a note to the Empress asking her not to wait until afternoon to see me. Her reply was kind and cheering, but she was busy in the nurseries and could not leave until after the arrival of the doctors.
With luncheon came Lili Dehn, and scarcely had we the meal when we were aware of great noise and confusion in the corridor outside. An icy hand seemed to seize my heart. "They are coming! ", I whispered, and Mme. Dehn, springing from her chair cried: "Impossible. No no -" and panic-struck fled the room. The door flew open to admit a frightened servant with a note from the Empress. "Kerensky 10 going through our rooms. Do not be frightened. "God is with us." Hardly had the man retired when again the door opened and another frightened servant, a palace messenger in a feathered cap, announced in a drowned voice the arrival of Kerensky. In a moment the room seemed to fill up with men and walking arrogantly before them I beheld a small, clean-shaven, theatrical person whose essentially weak face was disguised in a Napoleonic frown. Standing over me in his characteristic attitude, right hand thrust into the bosom of his jacket, the man boomed out: "I am the Minister of justice. You are to dress and go at once to St. Petersburg." I answered not a word but lay still on my pillows looking him straight in the face. This seemed to disconcert him somewhat for he turned to one of his officers and said nervously: "Ask the doctors if she is fit to go. Otherwise she must be ar. rested and isolated in the palace." Count Benckendorff, who stood in the back of the room near the door, volunteered to see the doctor, and when he returned it was with the message that Dr. Botkin gave them permission to take me. Afterwards I learned that the Empress reproached the doctor bitterly, saying over and over through her tears: "How can you? How can you? You who have children of your own." But Dr. Botkin was by this time a victim of craven fear, and he was incapable of refusing any request of the Provisional Government.
They gave me time to dress warmly, and I had a moment in which to reply briefly to a note from the Emperor and Empress, in which they enclosed small pictures of Christ and the Virgin, signed with their Majesties' initials, N. and A. When at last I was ready to go it suddenly surged over me that this might be the end of my long association with these dearly loved friends, my Sovereigns, whose intimate lives I had shared for twelve years, Ready to fall on my knees before him if necessary I made a final appeal to Colonel Korovitchinko, the new commandant of the palace, begging h 'in to let me see them for one moment, just long enough to say good-bye. Colonel Korovitchinko, who afterwards died a cruel death at the hands of the Bolsheviki, at first refused, but moved by my tears he relented a little. The Emperor, he said, was outside and could not be summoned, but he would exert his authority far enough to send me under guard to say good-bye to the Empress. Under escort of two officers I was taken to the apartment of Mlle. Schneider, and very soon the pale Empress was wheeled into the room by her devoted attendant Volkov. We had time for only one long embrace and the hurried exchange of two rings. Then Tatiana, who came with her mother, embraced me, weeping, and a S she too begged for a last memory gift I gave her the only thing I had to give, my wedding ring. Then the soldiers tore us apart but I saw that the man who gave the order did it with tears in his eyes. The last I remember was the white hand of the Empress pointing upward and her voice: "There we are always together." Volkov, weeping, cried out courageously: "Anna Alexandrovna, God will surely help."
They carried me downstairs to the motor, for I could neither walk nor stand, even with the help of my crutches. At the door stood several soldiers and Court servants, visibly distressed, but by this time I felt nothing, heard nothing. I was turned to stone. When I was lifted into the car I was startled to see there another woman. like myself swathed in wraps and veils. It was Lili Dehn, whose arrest had not before this day even been threatened. Dazed as I was, it was some comfort to hear her whisper that we were to travel to St. Petersburg together. I recovered myself a little, enough at least to recognize the frightened face of the servant who closed the door of the car. Killed a few months later, this good man had been for a longtime a sailor on the Imperial yacht. "Take care of their Majesties," I managed to say to him. Then the motor car shot forward, and I left the palace at Tsarskoe Selo forever. Both Lili and I pressed our faces to the glass in a last effort to see those beloved we were leaving behind, and through the mist and rain we could just discern a group of white-clad figures crowded close to the nursery windows to see us go. In a moment of time the picture was blotted out and we saw only the wet landscape, the storm-bent trees, the rapidly creeping twilight. In another few moments we were at the station, the dear, familiar station of Tsarskoe, where so many, many times I had waited to greet or to say a short farewell to the Emperor and Empress. Ready for us was one of the small Imperial trains, now the special train of Kerensky. Our guards hurried us into a carriage, and the train immediately began to move. At the same time our carriage was invaded by Kerensky and a group of soldiers. Without even a pretense of decent politeness the new Minister of justice began to shout at us: "Give your family names," and because we did not speak quickly enough the little man became insulted. "You will learn that when I ask a question you must answer promptly." We gave our names and Kerensky, turning triumphantly to the soldiers, ejaculated: "Well 1 Are you convinced now?" Apparently some of the men had expressed doubts as to whether they had bagged the right criminals. Sick and half fainting, I sank back into the cushions and closed my eyes on their departing figures. Lili bent over me with her salts bottle and soon I was able to sit up with some show of courage. It was the first time I had left the house since my illness and I was still very weak.
Arrived in St. Petersburg, Kerensky paraded us before his officers like barbarian captives of some Roman emperor, but this did not affect us seriously. Our eyes were busy gazing at the changed aspect of St. Petersburg, soldiers swanking around the streets proud of their slovenly appearance, the badge of their new freedom; mobs of people running aimlessly about, or pausing to listen to street-corner orators; and everywhere on walls and buildings masses of dirty red flags. An old-fashioned coach belong to the Imperial stables had been sent for us and still closely guarded we drove to the Ministry of justice. There we climbed a long very steep staircase - how I did it on my crutches 'I do not yet understand - and were shown into a room on the third floor, empty even of a wooden chair. Silently we stood and waited, and after a time men came in carrying two sofas. On one of these Lili sat down and on the other I lay prone. Again we waited, no one near us save the unkempt soldier who guarded the door. The evening lengthened and finally Kerensky honored us with another brief visit. He did not look at me at all but asked Lili if they had built us a fire. It was an unnecessary question, for he must have felt the icy chill of the room. A few minutes later, however, a servant did build a fire in the tiled stove, and another brought in a tray with eggs and tea. Left alone with the unkempt soldier, the man he man suddenly amazed us by breaking into a volley of speech in which he cursed most eloquently the new order of things. Nothing good would come of it, nothing, was his opinion. Somewhat reassured because we had a guard who was not at heart a Revolutionist, we lay down, but the night brought to neither of us any anodyne of sleep and rest.
Next chapter: XVI
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