you to go in your travelling dress? Had we not better send to the midwife for her yellow gown?"
The chamber-groom said that her majesty had been pleased to command that Maria Ivanovna should go alone, and just as she was. There was no alternative. Maria Ivanovna took her seat in the carriage, and drove off, taking Anna Vlassievna's counsels and blessings.
Maria Ivanovna had a presentiment that our fate was about to be decided; her heart beat fast, and sank within her. In a few minutes the carriage stopped at the palace. Maria Ivanovna, much agitated, ascended the staircase. The doors flew open before her. She passed through a succession of gorgeous apartments, the chamber-groom leading the way. They finally reached a closed door, where he left her, with the assurance that she should be immediately announced.
The prospect of being brought face to face with the empress frightened her so much, that she found some difficulty in supporting herself. The doors were opened, and she entered her majesty's dressing-room.
The empress sat at her toilet-table, attended by several ladies, who respectfully stood aside to make way for Maria Ivanovna. The empress turned to her kindly, and Maria Ivanovna recognized the lady with whom she had but recently so freely conversed. She motioned her to come nearer, and said, with a smile—
"I am glad that I was able to keep my word, and grant your request. Your business is settled. I am convinced of your lover's innocence. Here is a letter, which you will be good enough to deliver yourself into the hands of your future father-in-law."