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bloody hand he held the orb, symbol of sover-
eignty; in the other, the sceptre, symbol of
power.



20 The Imperial Orgy

Horsey, an English tourist, who visited him
and who was perhaps imaginative, says that the
sceptre, three feet long, was a whale's tooth
crusted with jewels, and that the robe he wore
was so laden with other jewels that he could not
move.

In that regalia, Ivan, hyena though he were,
must have resembled Arpocrates, god of silence.
About him, in kaftans of white satin, boiars
stood, armed with silver hatchets. They did not
speak. No one spoke. There was not a sound,
not a whisper, not a movement. One would have
thought the court bewitched. In the witchery
of it, in that silence, on that throne, Ivan pre-
sented the spectacle — by no means commonplace
— of absolute might. Presently he gestured, the
court awoke and ambassadors and tourists ap-
proached the monster, who already divine, had
taken on other aspects of divinity.

After the manner of Tlaloc, the lizard-faced
god of the Aztecs, he made the rain and the fine
weather. Those about him had nothing what-
ever, and very naturally since he had all. Con-
sequently, on state occasions, he rained sunshine
on them. Guards, nobles, the rest of the court,
were given silks, satin, velvet, gems. The func-
tion at an end, the lizard-hyena saw to it that
garments and jewels were returned.



Ivan the Terrible 21

That custom, which he originated, was after-
ward abrogated, but the theory of it, the theory
that from the tsar everything emanated, that he
alone was, that no one else is anybody, persisted
and so sovereignly that patriotism became
treason.

Treason at this time was not in the code, it
was in the index. Patriotism was fealty and
fealty religion. To the Russian, in his Greek
Church, the tsar, the nation and the Almighty
were entities barely differentiable. That idea,
lunatic certainly, but an article of faith, endured
and in enduring inspired, as it was intended to
inspire, such awe that, until within relatively
recent years, Russians got from their convey-
ances and threw themselves in the mud, in the
snow, before a tsar as he passed.

Through a beautiful subversion of this idea,
prelates in announcing Ivan's death, proclaimed
that he had become an angel. At the death-
notice Muscovy really grieved. That in itself
partakes of the marvellous. What perhaps is
more marvellous still is that with the grief aston-
ishment mingled. An angel! It was unac-
countable and not at all because of his fiendish-
ness but because of local servility. An angel!
Could he not have done better? Without effort



22 The Imperial Orgy-

it had been assumed that when he deigned to die
he would be translated to the zenith ineffable.

Balzac said that it is not possible to conceive
of an ugly angel. Perhaps he forgot Ivan who,
just prior to his assumption, contrived to sully
even the Kreml. Between those lines there is
drama. Karamsin supplied the details. From
them Alexis Tolstoi wrote a play: — The Death
of Ivan the Terrible.

The mise en scene is a horrible room in the
palace of horrors. In that vomitory of crime,
Ivan, stretched on a bed of zibelines, was mo-
mentarily alone. Boris Godounov, a wolfman,
had just left him.

Without, guarded by keepers, were men in
peaked bonnets and the long, starred robes of
Babylon.

It was adjacently that Ivan lay, but not quite
alone. Death that tore tiaras from popes and
sceptres from kings, reducing them all to the
great proletariat of eternity, was there also.
The men in starred robes had foretold it. Un-
known to them, unknown, too, to Ivan, the
wolfman had invited it.

A little before, from the red stairway of the
red palace, Ivan had seen a comet. Was it a
presage of his passing, he wondered? That he
might know, he had summoned magicians, as-



Ivan the Terrible 23

sembled astrologers, promising that if they lied
he would kill them.

At the moment, to minister to Ivan, timidly,
atiptoe, the wife of his son Fedor entered and
fled aghast at his instant and monstrous lubric-
ity.

Ivan laughed. Death? He had shamed it
from him. Laughing still, he clapped. A
page appeared. Ivan ordered. The soothsay-
ers and their guards filed in.

Ivan, indicating the wizards, told the guards
to take them out, take them away and burn them
alive. They had lied. They had said he was
to die that day. Make a bonfire of them!

Ivan turned, turned again. "Wait! The day
is not done. Hold them until night. Then,
the stake!

"Here!" he called at approaching pages.
"Lead me to my treasure-hall."

That hall was floored with agate, roofed with
gold. In it, jewels were heaped. There were
bags of emeralds, bags of rubies, bags of pearls.
There were crowns there, the crown of Muscovy,
the crown of Kasan, the crown of Kiptchak, the
crown of Siberia, the crown of Astrakhan,
crowns on crowns, diamonds on gold, dust on
blood. There were great silver bins piled one
on top of the other, each replete with coin, with



24 The Imperial Orgy

the sack of cities, with the spoil of provinces,
with the riches of realms, with spectres, with
tears.

With widening eyes, the miser-satyr stared.
The hall had faded, the crowns had vanished,
the glare had gone. There was nothing, blood
only and mists of murdered men.

He wavered, staggered, fell. From out the
mist death had leaped.

Ivan the Angel was winging his way on high.

A table remained. It was set. On it were
chalices of power, flagons of grandeur, cups of
mud and blood. The wine was there, the feast
prepared. The imperial orgy had begun.



II

DMITRI THE SORCERER

GREECE had many shrines. There was
one to every divinity. There was one
to the unknown god. In Rome there
were altars to every sin, except the sins unknown.
Unknown sins were unimaginable. Two, that
have become known since then, are indescribable.
To-day, in words masked to the teeth, one is
called cloacism; the other, masochism. In-
vented by the Tatars for the relaxation of ba-
trachians and ghouls, afterward they were for-
gotten until, in Flanders and Champagne, they
were revived by the Huns.

Ivan adopted them, took to them naturally,
took to religion also. Ferocious felons are often
devout. In the cathedrals of contemporaneous
Spain, highwaymen sharpen their daggers while
saying their prayers. From saurian abysses
Ivan passed to the cloister. There he prostrated
himself, protested his abasement, after which he
returned to it.

During one of his religious crises, a son,

25



26 The Imperial Orgy

Fedor, was conceived. He had another son, the
lad whom he killed, and still another, Dmitri
who was also killed, killed twice, killed three
times, killed oftener perhaps, but who, in each
instance, came to life again.

Russian history is packed with drama. In
point of time, in point, too, of surprise, the
Dmitri drama leads. Schiller attempted it,
Goethe considered it, Soumarokov wrote it. It
will be told in a moment. The story of Fedor
comes first. Brief and unusual, it is like the tale
of the Persian king who, invisible to his subjects,
occupied himself with beautiful things.

Before Ivan became an angel, he instituted a
pentarchy, a council of five — five boiars — nom-
inally a ministry of affairs domestic and foreign,
but whose actual ministry was limited to varia-
tions on the Byzantine formula: — "May I speak
and live?" Among the five was Boris God-
ounov, whose sister Fedor had married. Ivan
gone, the pentarchy led Fedor to the feast, seated
him there, set the chalices before him.

A dilettante in delicate emotions, the food was
too rich, the wine too strong. Beyond were Per-
sian tapestries. Abandoning the orgy to Boris,
he retired behind them and thereafter occupied
himself in going to mass and avoiding his wife.

The charm of missals — missals that pictured



Dmitri the Sorcerer 27

the twelve perils of hell — the ecstasy apprehen-
sible in devotion, the harmony of grave hymns,
the glow of ikons, these things appealed to him
in ways which blood and mud never could.
With fine levity, history has called him chaste.
At least he was neither sensual nor drunken, ab-
stentions very remarkable in those days and par-
ticularly in a son of Ivan. Fedor resembled his
father as a fawn resembles a boa-constrictor.
The table with its high festoons failed to detain
him. But, an artist, he embellished Moscow.
He gave it an avenue on which, in lieu of the
pine isbas of Ivan's day, there were palaces, un-
comfortable, unsanitary, but of stone, and more
churches — already there were five hundred —
and among them one in particular, a little gem,
that held just seven souls.

On the palace walls he hung paintings that
displayed the leading chapters of Russian his-
tory, the main events of the Bible. In the mid-
dle rotunda, from which a red stairway led, he
put mosaics of saints and seraphs and, behind a
screen of jewels, the Madonna. Above, in the
centre of the arched roof, he added a sculptured
lion holding in its teeth a twisted serpent from
which the tsaral eagles swung. Beneath was the
throne which he supplemented with the four
monsters of the Apocalypse. These were of



28 The Imperial Orgy

gold, the throne was gold, the walls were gold
and about them he put gold and silver vases,
some in the form of licornes and stags, others in
the form of swans and peacocks and all so mas-
sive that, Karamsin says, it took a dozen men to
move one of them.

These decorations effected, Fedor became a
Persian king. It fatigued him to rule. From
despotism he shrank. No tsar has been more
the artist and less the autocrat than he. But no
tsar has been artist at all — except in the divine
business of ordering people off the earth. In
that, each of the litter was hors concours.
Fedor, with no criminal tendencies, with no
orgiac tastes, effaced himself, abandoning Mus-
covy to a wolf.

Beauvois de Chauvincourt wrote learnedly on
lycanthropy, concerning which it used to be
heretical to disbelieve. Boris Godounov pre-
sented a prefectly defined case. A magnificent
brute, Tatar on the distaff side, he looked the
wolf, lived the wolf and made others die of that
wolfishness. In the orgy that Ivan initiated,
raveningly he had assisted. Very close to Ivan
and always edging closer, finally he closed in on
him. Ivan's abrupt ascension was caused by a
poisoned brew which the wolf cooked and served
him. The brew brought him close to the




BORIS GODUNOV



Dmitri the Sorcerer 29

throne, to which he got closer, still closer, until
he hugged it.

To-day, in operatic circles, his basso howl
resounds. Moussorgski did reasonably well by
him, though less happily perhaps than Glinka
did with Mikhail Romanov, the insignificant
insect around whom he composed A Life for the
Tsar. One may regret that instead of that insect
he did not take Fedor. The regret is idle. It
was Fedor's destiny to live less in scores than in
sanctity, a sancity, parenthetically, which Dmi-
tri, his thoroughly demoniac brother, exceeded.

Dmitri, then a boy of seven, was a little savage,
a trifle malformed. One of his arms was longer
than the other. With his mother, he lived ob-
scurely and afar at Ouglitch where he tortured
kittens and puppies and made models in snow of
the chief boiars whose heads he chopped off.
The story of these traits, very promising,
thoroughly Ivanesque, was probably invented.
But Fedor was childless ; also he was frail. The
little savage was next in line. Boris licked his
chops at both. One at a time.

Presently the little savage was murdered, or
so it was reported. In those days murder was
common and not at all criminal. But a tsare-
vitch was holy. His assassination was sacrilege.
rmmediately the obituary was corrected.



30 The Imperial Orgy

Dmitri had not been murdered. He had killed
himself, accidentally, while at play, during
which, knife in hand, he had a fit of epilepsy and
the knife had cut his throat. The story may not
be true, but at any rate he was dead, though how
he died witnesses differed. That was very in-
judicious of them. The official version must
prevail. Dmitri's mother was sent to a convent,
other witnesses to their graves. Ouglitch was
razed, the inhabitants exterminated. During the
massacre, a bell tolled. What business had it
to do that? Karamsin says that Boris exiled it,
shipped it to Siberia. Excellent measure.

Dmitri then was thoroughly dead. Years
later to make him deader, if that were possible,
he was beatified and made a saint. In the Greek
Church, to which orthodox Russia adhered, can-
onisation was less arduous than at Rome. The
proponent's tomb was opened. If the body had
not decomposed that miracle attested his sanct-
ity. But a bone is part of the body; at a pinch,
so, too, is a lock of hair. Given but these and
the miracle subsisted. They sufficed for the
young savage. Moreover, when his tomb was
opened, a perfume, rarely delicious, issued from
it. That in itself was enough, yet there was
more. His remains, a bone and a hank of hair
worked the usual wonders, effected the usual



Dmitri the Sorcerer 31

cures. In the same measure that Dmitri's death
was beyond doubt, so also was his sanctity.

All this was years later. Fedor meanwhile
had joined his angelic father. Boris remained.
His sister blessed him; the boiars knelt to him.
A wolf was tsar.

In his lair was a daughter, Xenia. Her eye-
brows met, a mark of beauty then greatly ad-
mired and which when lacking was produced
with a crayon. Baer, a Lutheran clergyman
who was in Moscow at the time and who left a
little bloody history of it, said that she seemed
moulded in cream and spoke more elegantly
than a book.

The rumour of these charms allured the
Prince of Denmark to Moscow, where, although
he was a foreigner, consequently a heretic and
hated as such, Boris so feasted him that he died.
It was said that he had been poisoned. Prob-
ably that was untrue, but thereafter other princes
fought shy of this beauty for whom fate had in
store a role which, on another stage, Louise de
la Vallicre immortalised.

Incidentally there were tortures, decapita-
tions, butcheries, wars and sacks. Boris God-
ounov was becoming very terrible. There was
a famine more terrible still, during which



3^ The Imperial Orgy

human flesh hung in the markets and a mother
was seen eating her child.

With these harmonies for overture, the cur-
tains parted, on one of the great dramas of Rus-
sian history. At the court of Sigismond, king
of Poland, abruptly, like a knight in a ballad,
the dead Dmitri appeared. Sardou never did
better.

Whether it were the real Dmitri, whether it
were an impostor, or, as was afterward said, a
sorcerer that then occupied the stage, no one now
can say and, it may be that, save the chief actors,
no one then could. The tale that was told was
that relatives at Ouglitch, fearful of Boris and
his wolfishness, had substituted a dead boy for
the tsarevitch who was then hidden in a monas-
tery which, years later, he abandoned and after-
ward joined the Cossacks.

The Cossacks, literally the Fighters, were
hordes on horseback that had republics that were
armies, but no chiefs, except in war, when they
elected a despot and called him hetman. Among
the cavalry republics was that of the Cossacks
of the Don. Dmitri joined them and declared
his rank, exhibiting, to prove it, various tokens;
in particular, a cross of diamonds.

Diamonds then were not the articles of com-
merce that they have since become. Inhibited



Dmitri the Sorcerer 33

to the vulgar, they were reserved to the elect.
Generally, there were laws on the subject: what
is more potent, there were terrors. To anyone
not born to the purple, the possession of a dia-
mond was malefic. The evil repute of that hill
of light, the Koh-i-nor, has no other origin. A
belief in this malignancy, common among the
simple to-day, was potent then. Moreover the
pretender, young, virile, ugly — ugly with that
ugliness that attracts — had an air sovereign and
compelling. He looked the king. In addition
to the cross, his appearance may have been con-
firmatory. In any event it served as passport to
the court of Sigismond, who, perhaps, had issued
the passport himself. That is possible. It may
be that the claimant was really prince, but with
the bend sinister, a natural son of this king who,
for reasons of his own, wanted him on the throne
of Russia.

Russians and Poles were like first cousins that
loathe each other. Mutually antipathetic, they
came of the same stock. But while the Poles, in
their relative freedom, had developed the Slavic
grace and gallantry, the Russians, under the
Tatars, had degenerated into ignorant and super-
stitious brutes. Bathory, the antecedent king
of Poland, had proposed to reunite the two na-
tions. The proposition, advanced to Fedor, was



34 The Imperial Orgy

rejected by Boris, fearful for his own regency
and the domination which the superior civilisa-
tion might exert.

Sigismond, in seconding Dmitri, may have
had the same idea. But that is conjectural, as is
almost everything else concerning Dmitri, except
that he was a demon and, what is far rarer, a
man. He may have been Sigismond's son. He
may have been Ivan's. He may have been
neither. Concerning his origin there are texts
by the ton, opinions all you like, but a certainty
never, unless a mother's recognition may be so
regarded. The mother of Dmitri Redux did
recognise him as her son, or pretended to, and
must have pretended, if pretend she did, because
she was terrorised into it. Between those horns
of the duenna, the reader may choose. The rest
is fairy-tale, very bloody, equally dramatic, with
a coup de theatre for finale.

At Sigismond's court, Dmitri Redivivus en-
countered Iouri Mniszech, lord palatin of Sen-
domir, a great noble as greatly in debt, who also
had a daughter, Maryna, another beauty, prima
donna in the lyric drama that ensued. At first
sight the two young people fell in love. Life be-
came fair as a dream. The impoverished father
sanctioned the engagement, the subtle king of-
fered an army. Both had the throne in view:



Dmitri the Sorcerer 35

Sigismond perhaps for himself, Mniszech cer-
tainly for his daughter. But while it does not
appear that the king made any conditions, the
father demanded sacks of the Kreml gold. To
get the girl, Dmitri had to get the gold and to
get the gold he had first to get the throne. It
was the old Hesperidian story, told backward,
told in Slav.

The encounterable difficulties were formid-
able. Boris had an army to maintain him. But
here, as in every fairy-tale, the unbelievable
enters. Muscovy, enthralled by the story of the
resurrection of her lawful lord and weary of
a werewolf's teeth, rose to Dmitri. The troops
refused to fight against Ivan's son and heir.
Very sensibly, too. At Dmitri's heels were long
vistas of Poles and Cossacks; the former bril-
liant, glittering, yet frightful with the wings of
great vultures which they wore on their hel-
mets; the latter soberly and sombrely fierce.

Among the Muscovite troops, Boris, by way
of counter-irritant, circulated a quadrille of
monks who were, or who claimed to be, superiors
of the monastery where the pretender had been.
Violently they denounced him as an impious
impostor, a youth of base origin whom again
and again they had punished and for what?
For sorcery!



36 The Imperial Orgy

The accusation, which afterward was shud-
deringly recalled, Dmitri traversed. He trapped
the monks, put them to the question. On the
peaks of torture three of them died. The
fourth recanted. Dragged before Dmitri he col-
lapsed, but he gasped: — "Behold the tsar!" In
an effort to get him to his feet, those that stood
about kicked him. He was dead.

The testimony lacked conclusiveness. To con-
firm it, something else was required. Dmitri's
mother was in a convent. He invited her to
join him. They met in a tent, very sumptuous,
it is said, that had been erected for the purpose
at the outskirts of Moscow. Within the tent,
concealed from all, for a few moments they
remained. Then, issuing from it, they em-
braced; the tsaritsa publicly acknowledging
Dmitri as her son. Afterward, she was said to
have said that, while in the tent, Dmitri threat-
ened to kill her if she refused. That may or
may not be true. But, at the time, who could
doubt that he were tsar?

No one perhaps, not even Boris, particularly
not Boris. The loupgarou may not have known
the truth about Dmitri, but he knew it then
about himself. In Beauvois de Chauvincourt's
learned and very reasonable work on lycan-
thropy, it is stated that when a werewolf is cor-



Dmitri the Sorcerer 37

nered and cannot escape, he kills himself. Boris
Godounov drank poison and just in time.
Through the holy gate of holy Moscow, Dmi-
tri was riding. He rode a white charger whose
legs and tail had been dyed scarlet, a pic-
turesque conceit intended to suggest that the
horse had waded through blood.

At the entrance, dignitaries in gala dress
■tendered him a gold plate on which were bread
and salt, the symbols of submission. Dmitri
flung himself from that horse — the detail is
typical — and strode — another typical detail —
into the palace where, perhaps after an old man-
ner of paying old debts, he made the fascinat-
ing Xenia his. The coronation followed and
for a while this lad, he was only twenty-one,
lived in state with a tsarevna for mistress.

In fairyland, kings and queens never appear
without their crown and to Dmitri, the Kreml,
vomitory of crime though it were, must have
been fairyland then. Whether prince or im-
postor, his life had been rude. Hunger had
been his bedfellow, peril his drink and sud-
denly, through one of the prodigious shuffles of
fate, he was tossed from nowhere into every-
thing.

Above him swung a gold bicephalous bird.
Heneath the eagle was a panoply of canary bro-



38 The Imperial Orgy

cade festooned with pearls that silver griffons
upheld. Beneath the panoply, on a throne of
gold, in a golden robe, he sat. About him were
prelates in purple; princes in ermine. On his
head was the crown; in his hand the sceptre.
But at his feet, in the attitude of a slave, a man,
old, fat, dressed and bejewelled as now only
maharajahs are, held, with venomous and greedy
fingers, the imperial sword.

That man, that slave, whom Dmitri had first
disgraced and then raised to the position of valet,
was Vassili Chouiski. Watch him! He is the
villain in this drama of which all that has gone
before is prelude.

Years earlier, in the remote obscurity in which
the savage young tsarevitch lived, Vassili's had
been the arm chosen by Boris to eliminate him.
A Rurikovitch and as such with claims of his
own to the throne, he had done the work, not
for Boris, but for himself, a design which Boris
thwarted. Since then he had bided and brooded
and plotted and for what? At the very mo-
ment when he might have called Muscovy his,
the dead young savage had revived, not merely
to thwart him again but to disgrace him. Pub-
licly, in the Red Square, Dmitri had had him
knouted, as a preliminary to chopping his head
off. Then, just when the axe was raised, Dmi-



Dmitri the Sorcerer 39

tri had laughed and pardoned, yet only to send
him to Siberia and, as the cart was starting, had
laughed anew, pardoned once more and made
him his valet. Such vengeance might have en-
venomed a saint. Vassili was not a saint. A
wretched, greedy old man, he bided and plotted.

With the careless temerity of youth, Dmitri
abetted him. At the very beginning, in flinging
himself from the crimson-legged charger and
in striding into the palace, he affronted Mos-
cow. A prince of Muscovy never strode. When
he deigned to walk, though it were from one
room to another, boiars supported him. When
he rode, they lifted him up, held him in the
saddle, lifted him down, treating him always
like an idol. Dmitri was grand-duke and tsar,
but primarily a man. He derided old customs
and with them the abysmal Muscovite ignorance,
which, like all else that was orthodox, Russia
revered.

Former grand-dukes amused themselves with
bear fights which they enjoyed from a balcony.
A fight was arranged for Dmitri. He aban-
doned the balcony and killed the bear. It was
a tsar's privilege to kill his subjects. But a
bear, no. Moscow drew the line at that.

A yet graver affront was Dmitri's entourage.
All Poles, they were all pagans, as all foreign-



40 The Imperial Orgy

ers were. Other nations professed other creeds.
That was their damnation. Russia alone was


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