"No. I have come to seek mercy, and not justice."
"Permit me to inquire who you are?"
"I am the daughter of Captain Mironoff."
"Captain Mironoff! the one who commanded one of the Orenburg fortresses?"
The lady seemed moved.
"Excuse me," said she, in a still more friendly tone, "if I meddle in your affairs; but I am occasionally at court: explain to me what your petition consists in, and I may perhaps be able to help you."
Maria Ivanovna rose, and thanked her respectfully. Everything about the unknown lady attracted her heart involuntarily, and inspired her with confidence. She took a folded paper from her pocket, and handed it to her unknown protectress, who read it over to herself.
She perused it first with attention and interest; but of a sudden her face changed, and Maria Ivanovna, whose eyes watched all her movements, was startled by the severe expression on that face, which, a moment before, had been so pleasant and calm.
"You petition for Grineff?" said the lady, coldly. 'The empress cannot pardon him. He joined the pretender, not from ignorance or credulity, but as a debased and dangerous vagabond!"
"Oh! it is not true!" exclaimed Maria Ivanovna.
"How not true?" continued the lady, wrathfully.
"Not true—I swear to God it is not true! I know all, and will tell you everything. It is for my sake alone that he has subjected himself to all that has befallen