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PREJUDICES OF PAUL.
that the august family of Paul were wholly unacquainted with the meditated blow.
The Emperor, from an aversion he had taken to those palaces, which formed the favourite residence of Catherine, resolved upon building a palace for himself. The gorgeous magnificence of Zarsko Zelo, and of the Winter palace, and all the Oriental voluptuousness of the Hermitage, were hateful to him; indeed, to such an elevation had his abhorrence of these places attained, that he had determined to reduce them to the dust, that only
"The blackness of ashes should mark where they stood."
His fate, which was fast approaching, prevented the accomplishment of this irretrievable act of delirium. The Emperor and his family resided, at the time when the confederacy had resolved upon his removal, in the new palace of Saint Michael. It is an enormous quadrangular pile, of red Dutch brick, rising from a massy basement of hewn granite; it stands at the bottom of the Summer Gardens, and the lofty spire of its Greek chapel, richly covered with ducat gold, rising above the trees, has a beautiful appearance.
As Paul was anxious to inhabit this palace as soon after he was crowned as possible, the masons, the carpenters, and various artificers, toiled with incredible labour by day and by
THE MICHAELISKY PALACE.
torch-light, under the sultry sun of the summer, and in all the severity of a polar winter, and in three years this enormous and magnificent fabric was completed. The whole is moated round, and when the stranger surveys its bastions of granite, and numerous draw-bridges, he is naturally led to conclude, that it was intended for the last asylum of a Prince at war with his subjects. Those who have seen its massy walls, and the capaciousness and variety of its chambers, will easily admit that an act of violence might be committed in one room, and not be heard by those who occupy the adjoining one; and that a massacre might be perpetrated at one end, and not known at the other. Paul took possession of this palace as a place of strength, and beheld it with rapture, because his Imperial mother had never even seen it. Whilst his family were here, by every act of tenderness endeavouring to soothe the terrible perturbation of his mind, there were not wanting those who exerted every stratagem to inflame and encrease it. These people were constantly insinuating, that every hand was armed against him. With this impression, which added fuel to his burning brain, he ordered a secret stair-case to be constructed, which, leading from his own chamber, passed under a false stove in the anti-room, and led by a small door to the terrace.
It was the custom of the Emperor to sleep in an outer apartment next to the Empress's, upon a sopha, in his regi
315 mentals and boots, whilst the Grand Duke and Duchess, and the rest of the Imperial family, were lodged at various distances, in apartments below the story which he occupied. On the tenth day of March, O. S. 1801, the day preceding the fatal night, whether Paul's apprehension, or anonymous information, suggested the idea, is not known, but conceiving that a storm was ready to burst upon him, he sent to Count Pthe governor of the city, one of the noblemen who had resolved on his destruction: I am informed, P—‚' said the Emperor, "that there is a conspiracy on foot against 66 me; do you think it necessary to take any precaution?”
The Count, without betraying the least emotion, replied,
Sire, do not suffer such apprehensions to haunt your mind; "if there were any combinations forming against your Majesty's person, I am sure I should be acquainted with it." "Then I am satisfied," said the Emperor, and the governor withdrew. Before Paul retired to rest, he unexpectedly expressed the most tender solicitude for the Empress and his children, kissed them with all the warmth of farewell fondness, and remained with them longer than usual; and after he had visited the centinels at their different posts, he retired to his chamber, where he had not long remained, before, under some colourable pretext, that satisfied the men, the guard was changed by the officers who had the command for the night, and were engaged in the confederacy. An hussar, whom the Emperor had particularly honoured by his notice and atten
tion, always at night slept at his bed-room door, in the antiroom. It was impossible to remove this faithful soldier by any fair means. At this momentous period, silence reigned throughout the palace, except where it was disturbed by the pacing of the centinels, or at a distance by the murmurs of the Neva, and only a few lights were to be seen distantly and irregularly gleaming through the windows of this dark colossal abode. In the dead of the night, Z— and his friends, amounting to eight or nine persons, passed the draw-bridge, easily ascended the stair-case which led to Paul's chamber, and met with no resistance till they reached the anti-room, when the faithful hussar, awakened by the noise, challenged them, and presented his fusee: much as they must have all admired the brave fidelity of the guard, neither time nor circumstances would admit of an act of generosity, which might have endangered the whole plan. Zdrew his sabre and cut the poor fellow down. Paul, awakened by the noise, sprung from his sopha: at this moment the whole party rushed into his room; the unhappy Sovereign, anticipating their design, at first endeavoured to entrench himself in the chairs and tables, then recovering, he assumed a high tone, told them they were his prisoners, and called upon them to surrender. Finding that they fixed their eyes steadily and fiercely upon him, and continued advancing towards him, he implored them to spare his life, declared his consent instantly to relinquish the sceptre, and to accept of any terms which they would dic
tate. In his raving, he offered to make them princes, and to give them estates, and titles, and orders, without end. They now began to press upon him, when he made a convulsive effort to reach the window: in the attempt he failed, and indeed so high was it from the ground, that had he succeeded, the expedient would only have put a more instantaneous period to his misery. In the effort he very severely cut his hand with the glass; and as they drew him back he grasped a chair, with which he felled one of the assailants, and a desperate resistance took place. So great was the noise, that notwithstanding the massy walls, and thick double folding-doors, which divided the apartments, the Empress was disturbed, and began to cry for help, when a voice whispered in her ear, and imperatively. told her to remain quiet, otherwise, if she uttered another word, she should be put to instant death. Whilst the Emperor was thus making a last struggle, the Prince Y struck him on one of his temples with his fist, and laid him. upon the floor; Paul, recovering from the blow, again im-plored his life; at this moment the heart of P————— Z— relented, and upon being observed to tremble and hesitate, a young Hanoverian resolutely exclaimed, "We have passed the Rubicon: if we spare his life, before the setting of tomorrow's sun, we shall be his victims!" upon which he took off his sash, turned it twice round the naked neck of the Emperor, and giving one end to Z, and holding the other himself, they pulled for a considerable time with all their force,