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holy. Throughout the universe her lord was
the one Christian king, and all other kings his
slaves. But was Dmitri a Christian? Was
he even Muscovite? He allowed the Polish
hussars to enter the Church of the Mother of
God with clanking swords and to squat there,
leaning against the sacred ikons, to which he
never bowed. His priests, it was said, were
papists. But when it was said also that he was
to marry a heretic, it was suspected that he could
not be a Russian at all, rather, as Vassili Choui-
ski insinuated, a hireling employed by Sigis-
mond to deliver Muscovy to the Polish king.

As novelists express it, the ground was pre-
pared.

Into the gloom of the Kreml, Xenia mean-
while was fading. From a delight, she had be-
come an ennui ; from a vision, a shadow. Deeper
into the gloom she passed. A convent opened
and swallowed her. Dimitri nodded good-rid-
dance. He, too, was preparing. Maryna was
en route.

Already the treasure-chests had been opened.
The sacks of gold were paid. Then, at last,
came the bride. But to Moscow, how inde-
cently!



Dmitri the Sorcerer 41.

In a chariot drawn by eight horses that were
tricked out and painted to resemble tigers, she
appeared, dressed after the manner of Marie de
Medici, with a ruff two feet in diameter, a bal-
looning skirt, a waist that would fit in a garter,
her hair done high and, like her waist, exposed.

In Muscovy, the hair of a Christian woman
was concealed by a headgear. Always her gown
was girdled above the breast. Never had Mos-
cow seen such an exhibition. The old ortho-
dox city was not placated by the presence of
the girl's father, nor by the presence of a chape-
ron, mistress of the robes. For behind the heret-
ics, trooped a retinue, three thousand strong,
and what Christian woman ever took an army
with her when she went to a husband's arms?

Of all of which Dmitri heard nothing and
cared less. Later he did hear. At the moment
he was supervising the welcome. The pomp of
that is said to have been prodigious. No doubt
it was. In the great hall of the palace, a hall
heaped to the rafters with bizarre vases and
fabulous beasts, there were concerts, masquer-
ades and a state dinner more lavish than any-
thing that anywhere had been known.

Among the courses which, after the oriental
fashion, succeeded each other interminably,
there were swan's knees, lamb's lungs, roast



42 The Imperial Orgy

cygnets, storks cooked in ginger, deer's brains,
lemon soup, sweetmeats of honey and attar of
rose. Additionally were the wines of Hungary,
of Alicante and the Canaries, together with the
strong waters of Holland and of France. But
these, all of them, after another oriental cus-
tom, were served last.

Dmitri had a table to himself, a plate to him-
self and also a fork, then a great novelty. The
table was on a dais. Below and beyond the
guests feasted, forkless, from trenchers. Mary-
na was not present. It was not etiquette that
she should be. Nor did she appear until just
prior to the ceremony, when old men supported
her, as though she were an infant in arms, from
the cathedral's entrance to the altar. Dmitri was
similarly supported. Etiquette so required. To
the assembled Poles it was ridiculous. They
laughed indecently.

Afterward, in the Kreml, there was a ball,
during which Dmitri, in Polish costume, danced
with his bride and, for good measure, with her
father. Beyond, in the Red Square, Poles, very
drunk, drew their swords, pinked the Musco-
vites. The good measure was full. Concerts,
balls, masquerades, in particular the bride's ex-
hibition of her hair and waist, these things, every



Dmitri the Sorcerer 43

one, were pagan abominations. The good meas-
ure, full already, overflowed.

To Dmitri and Maryna it was all very rap-
turous. Life at its apogee had begun. The
rapture lasted one week. At the stroke of
twelve on the seventh night, men-at-arms, en-
rolled by Chouiski, were clamouring and beat-
ing at the bridal door.

A naked man is never brave, but he may be
adroit. Dmitri disappeared through a win-
dow. Maryna shrieked, as perhaps only a
frightened girl can shriek. Nearby, in an ad-
joining apartment, were her women. They hur-
ried to her. One of them, the chaperon, was
vast and formidable. Under the immense far-
thingale which she wore, Maryna hid. Just in
time. The men had broken in. The other
women, who were not at all formidable and
who, being Polish, were pretty, were carried
away, treated as playthings. Maryna escaped,
in a shift, it is said, to her father. The house
in which lie lodged was besieged. The houses
where other Poles lodged were besieged also.
They gave as good as was sent. But a lot of
them, taken in taverns and the open, were killed
outright. To employ an archaic phrase, the
streets were dyed — like wool — with blood.

Dmitri, in vanishing through a window, dis-



44 The Imperial Orgy

appeared. For a time, that is. Presently he
was found. When found, he had broken his
legs. He could not move. In that condition
he was shot, stabbed, hacked even in the face,
which was disgustingly disfigured. Incidentally
he was insulted.

"Dog of a bastard, tell us who you are?"

Dmitri made no reply. He was dead. A
wandering Jew had his gabardine torn off. It
was put about the naked body, which, carried
to the Red Square, was dumped on a table. On
that table for three days it remained. On the
third night, a thin blue flame hovered above it.
The phenomenon, caused probably by the
corpse's putrefaction, created a terror all the
more profound because superstitious. Who
knew what it might portend?

In an effort to ward any evil, the corpse was
carried to a cemetery. A grave was dug. The
body was lowered into it. Immediately other
phenomena occurred. Over the grave, eagles
were seen that flew away when approached and
then returned. Eagles! At least they were not
two-headed. The comfort was meagre. At
night, the flame was still visible. What is worse,
sounds were heard, oddly discordant, that came,
or seemed to come, from below.

The terror augmented. The grave was




- - - ~~7 a TlL. .W.r, .-' — J

DEMETBJVS Ernpn-
ana

i \in .Comaunbey
i :'_hfort'. > . etc .



DMITRI



Dmitri the Sorcerer 45

opened. It was empty! That body had moved.
It had moved of itself! It was at the other
end of the cemetery!

There could be no doubt about it then. The
monkish accusation was recalled. Dmitri was
a sorcerer who knew the infernal art of post-
mortem resuscitation. With a vampire one could
not be too careful. As supreme precaution, the
body was burned and the ashes, rammed in a
cannon, were fired from it. Then only did terror
pass. Dmitri, his ghost or its counterfeit, had
been definitely laid.

Maryna, meanwhile, minus her crown, and
her father, minus his sacks, were extracted from
the besiegers and invited to leave. The invita-
tion was not cordial, but the forms were there.
Polish reprisals, always possible, were, if pos-
sible, to be avoided. Hence the civility which
emanated from Chouiski who, in the riot, had
become tsar.

Maryna, calling herself tsaritsa still and in-
sisting on being treated as such, set forth with
the surviving Poles for Sendomir. She never
reached it. The great playwright that destiny
is, had for her an epilogue in reserve. One
may wonder whether, in insisting on her pre-
rogatives, she knew it. Logically, the drama
ended dramatically, as drama should end, on



46 The Imperial Orgy

the bloody night of the interrupted honeymoon.
Did she know that it was to be resumed. One
wonders.

Leo X., a very lettered pope, said and sensi-
bly enough, "Since God has given us the papacy,
let us enjoy it." Chouiski could also enjoy him-
self. An ignorant and very vile old man, he
was not lettered. But he was capable at least
of a butcher's pleasures and, other things being
equal, he might have supped on them. The
great playwright had planned differently. Be-
fore Maryna had gone more than half the way
to Sendomir, a coup de theatre occurred. That
devil of a Dmitri was alive again!

The news of it, filtering through the Kreml,
struck Chouiski dumb. Reaching the travel-
lers en route for Poland, it stupefied them as
well it might. They looked at the widowed
bride who perhaps was widowed no longer.
Perhaps! It was all highly phantasmagoric.
But in looking they saw that their stupefaction
was not shared by her. She appeared to know
all about it. It may be that she did.

Afterward it was reported that on the bloody
night, Turkish horses disappeared from the
tsaral stables. It was also reported that in the
early morning, a boatman on the Oka ferried
three men, one of whom, indicating another,



Dmitri the Sorcerer 47

said that he was tsar; a statement which he re-
peated later that day to an innkeeper on the
road to Tuchino. In each instance he had
added: — "He will return with an army and re-
ward you."

That may or may not have been true. But
whether true or false, it was also reported that
letters stamped with Dmitri's seal were in cir-
culation. At any rate, a cavalry republic, the
Cossacks of the Don, were rising and rallying in
his name.

"In his name, yes, but in whose else? Who
is this impostor?" Chouiski, with recovered
speech, demanded. It was at this juncture, in
an effort to show that whoever the reincarnation
might be, it was not that of the original tsare-
vitch, it was then that the wretched old man
evolved a lovely expedient. He ordered the
young savage's tomb opened and commanded his
canonisation. The priests may have wept at
the altars, they obeyed.

Dmitri then was at Tuchino. Whether this
Dmitri were the prince twice dead, or another
being, the reader may take a moment to decide.
It had taken Maryna no longer. She hurried
to him, threw herself into his virile arms, one
of which was longer than the other. It is no-
where related that that malformation had been



48 The Imperial Orgy

remarked in Moscow, but it was the peculiarity
of the murdered young tsarevitch.

In Tuchino, a bandit's lair, splendour was
absent. For balls there were riots; for concerts,
brawls. Cossacks drink nobly. The capacity
of Poles is proverbial. What is termed the
flower of the nobility joined Dmitri in this lair
which, camp, lupanar and fortress combined,
contained a hundred thousand men, every one
of them eager to reseat a tsar, eagerer still to
loot the tsaral treasure. Then, presently, off
they started.

Chouiski had thought of enjoying himself.
Instead he quaked. Sigismond, an army at his
heels, was marching on him. Chouiski quaked
at that, but far less than he quaked at the demon
Dmitri who was marching also. Let the sor-
cerer again get him and this time farewell to
his head.

Against a sorcerer, sorcery is indicated. At
Chouiski's orders, magicians worked their spells.
Infants unborn were torn from their mothers.
From gutted horses hearts were removed. With
both a horrible hash was made and strewn, full-
handed, as grain is strewn, before the walls.
The necromancy succeeded. Abruptly, though
through what normal connivance has never
clearly appeared, once more Dmitri was assas-



Dmitri the Sorcerer 49

sinated, yet, as was customary with him, briefly
only. In the interval, Maryna, carried off by
a Tatar, vanished on horseback from history.

The sorcerer reappeared. More exactly,
there was another incarnation. Probably the
new Dmitri was not Dmitri at all. None the
less the avatars continued. The surprising crea-
ture never again entered the Kreml, but his
ghost was not definitely laid until Chouiski died.
That seemed to placate him.

Then leisurely the preludes to another and a
greater drama began. Transiently the stage
was occupied by Mikhail Romanov, an insig-
nificant insect who, every morning, beat his
empty head fifteen hundred times on the stones
before the altar. That insect was grandfather
of a gorilla.



Ill

PETER THE GREAT

THE night in which Hercules was con-
ceived lasted forty-eight hours. So at
least it has been said. Assuming that
the story be true, the night in which Peter was
conceived must have lasted twenty-four.

Who the male collaborator may have been is
unimportant. But the problem perplexed him.
In a scene, tolerably dramatic, which Dolgorou-
kov recites, he shouted it.

"Whose son am I?" Glaring, he pointed.
"Yours, Tihon Streshnief ? Speak or I will have
you strangled."

Streshnief fell on his knees. "Batushka!
Mercy! How can I tell? I was not the only
one!"

In the chronicles of nations figures arise.
Time passes and they pass with it. They are
forgotten like spilt wine. Occasionally come
figures that persist. Usually they are brutes.
It is the Caesars that are remembered, not the
saints. Cyrillus, a bishop, contrived to be useful

50



Peter the Great 51

and to be beautiful. To be both is to be sublime.
Sublimity is a dangerous occupation. It may
lead to oblivion and also to Golgotha. Cyrillus
gave Russia nothing less than a language. His
reward is the dustbin. With the alphabet that
he created the name of Petrus Maximus is writ-
ten. It is written on a page of granite. The
granite is red. Voltaire thumbed it and said:
"Half hero." Voltaire paused and added:
"Half tiger."

A tiger is a beautiful animal. There was
nothing beautiful about Peter, nor is there about
a gorilla. Peter was a gorilla with brains.

Like the great apes in a Borneo jungle, he
sprang and killed. He had the same indis-
putable instinct for destruction, the same elas-
ticity, the same quick subtlety of sense. In
Moor's portrait of him, the expression, vaguely
ruminant, is that of a beast that has fed. Back
of it is another, an impression of will, inflexi-
ble as an axe and of which you feel the chill and
the edge. The man is there, framed in wood,
like a bird of prey nailed on a panel.

Probably the reincarnation of a Tatar khan,
necessarily he was a nihilist. "Take earth and
heaven, take all laws human and divine and
spit on them and that," said a lucid exponent,
"is nihilism." Nihilism and bolshevism differ,



52 The Imperial Orgy

but only in spelling. Peter was the original bol-
shevist.

His earliest bath was blood. At the death of
his mother's husband, surviving enthusiasts
formed opposing factions. Cheerfully, the
guardians of the peace participated in their mas-
sacre of each other. The spouting blood
drenched Peter; drenched Sophia, his sister;
drenched Ivan, his brother, with whom he had
ascended a two-seated throne. Back of the
throne was a chair. Before it hung a curtain,
behind which was the girl. A moment only.
Sophia was a phantom. So also was Ivan. Peter
alone was real. Watch himl

At his feet Russia sprawled, inert, chaotic; a
land still mediaeval, but without chivalry, ro-
mance, poetry, troubadours and cours d'amour.
It was a land across which beings moved, ig-
norant as carps. Of the mediaeval spirit they
possessed only the sure cognition of hell. Other-
wise, its night enveloped them. They loved it.
Except drink, it was the only thing they did love.
A protection, it made them obscure See what
he does to them and to it.

As yet he was a cub. Wait until he grows.
Wait until he becomes, what he did become,
seven feet tall — seven feet which to those be-
ings must have seemed seven hundred. When



Peter the Great 53

the gorilla was grown, history beheld what the
tired old gossip had never beheld before and
never has witnessed since, the spectacle of a na-
tion, backward, obstinate, rigid, unwilling to de-
velop, tossed from Asia into Europe, knouted
into evolution, terrorised into modernity.

Terror was Peter's nurse. His toys were
weapons. His palace, haunted by nightmare,
was hung with horror. Before him the history
of his house uncoiled in shudders. He gasped,
but only for air. When he stretched his legs,
dwarfs in double rows surrounded him with
screens of violet and concealing silk. Even a
cub would balk at that. When he could, he
got to the sea. Through an atavism proceed-
ing perhaps from the pirates from whom he
presumptively descended, he had dreamed of
it. His predecessors had dreamed also, but they
had fought. There was the Baltic. It belonged
to the Xorse. There was the Euxine. It be-
longed to the Turks. The dream of one or both
was human to the sons of rowers.

In the Kreml, Sophia dreamed not of the sea
but of the sceptre. She wanted it one and in-
divisible in her hand. She wanted to be auto-
crat. She became a prisoner. Those who had
wanted for her what she wanted were put in
cages and burned alive. Shortly and silently



54 The Imperial Orgy

Ivan disappeared. Peter was sole monarch,
lord absolute of everybody, proprietor of Rus-
sia, despot of her denizens and destiny, alone on
the two-seated throne.

From it he stared at the sea which no other
tsar had seen. He determined to cross it, which
no other Russian had done. Gautier declared
it indecent for a young man to enter the draw-
ing-room of life without a book of verse for bou-
tonniere. Peter felt it unfitting to enter the
drawing-room of the world without a victory
in his buttonhole. At the time he lacked even
a yawl. From abroad he beckoned craftsmen,
made a fleet, sailed the Don, attacked Azov,
took it.

Then, to see the sights, there started forth a
savage, young, tall, dark, grimacing, neurotic,
always in a hurry; a lout whom a napkin em-
barrassed; an oaf whom corsets surprised; a
monarch who was a rustic; a potentate who was
a clown; a tsar crassly ignorant and aware of
it; a man vital, violent, elemental, bestial,
drunk every night of his life.

On the part of a Russian subject, travelling
was treason. A junketing prince was sac-
rilegious. Peter who was to kill men with his
bare hands, who, while he drank and looked on,



Peter the Great 55

was to order heads off for his amusement, left
clandestinely, incognito t disguised.

Simianly inquisitive, seeing a thousand
things that amazed him, seeing civilisation
which amazed him most, learning in Saardam
how to handle a ship, in London how to handle
a scalpel, in Vienna how to use a fork, assimi-
lating every "idea and forgetting none, he learned
how to recruit an army, build a navy, create a
nation and supply it, off hand, by force of edicts,
with a veneer of civilisation that could crack
and did and with a report that startled the world.

The bolshevist was an ape, but ape-artificer.
In occult circles it is said that Victoria R. I. was
formerly Alfred the Great. If that be true,
Peter, prior to becoming a Tatar khan, may
have been Nero, though in that case he had de-
generated in the progression.

At Kcenigsburg he asked to see somebody —
anybody — broken on the wheel, a variety of tor-
ture which he thought might do for Moscow.
The authorities regretted that they had no avail-
able criminal.

"Here," said Peter, "take one of my suite."

Voltaire had it from Frederick, who had it
from a former envoy, that, one night in Moscow,
Peter amused himself by decapitating twenty
men, drinking flagons of brandy between each



56 The Imperial Orgy

stroke, after which he invited the Prussian rep-
resentative to try his hand at it. Nero would
not have done that; he lacked the energy, lacked
the brandy. For the greater glory of Jupiter,
he lacked, too, the Prussian.

Subsequently, Peter acquired an interest, un-
platonic and brief, in Mary Hamilton, a young
woman of Scotch descent, related more or less
vaguely to the dukes of that name. Shortly he
threw her over. Afterward, as the result of an-
other interest, she had a child and killed it, a
very customary proceeding, but to which, in
this instance, Peter objected on the ground, per-
haps valid, that the child might have become a
man whom he could decapitate.

The theatre was prepared. That theatre, the
scaffold, was a stage, carpeted with red, hung
with black, about which an avid crowd col-
lected.

Mary Hamilton, in white, dressed like a bride,
but, in honour of the groom, with black rib-
bons, was brought there. She was fainting.
Peter carried her up the steps, forced her to
kneel, looked on at the operation, picked up the
bloody head that had rolled on the crimson car-
pet, gave a lecture on anatomy and the spinal
column, eyed the pallid lips which so often had



Peter the Great 57

kissed his own, dropped the head, descended
the steps, strolled away.

A pleasant person. In the alcove he was
equally attractive. There Villebois etched him.
"II etait un vray monstre de luxure. II s'aban-
donnait a des acdes de iureur erotique dans
lesquels l'age et le sexe meme luy importait me-
diocrement."

That was Peter, afterward the Great. At the
time he was merely horrible. In the course of
the foreign junket, tiresome news reached him
from home. Sophia, weary of her prison, but
wearier of her demon brother, was urging Mos-
cow to rebel. The budding mutiny was hushed.
You might have thought the matter at an end.
It had not begun. On Sophia, on Moscow, the
gorilla pounced. Corridors of ardent chambers,
perfectly equipped with every form of fiendish-
ness, functioned night and day. After prelimi-
nary and very agonising delays, those who en-
tered there were burned alive. For others,
death was quicker. Ordinary persons were de-
capitated in coils, at the rate of fifty at a time.
Their bodies, carted in thousands beyond the
walls, were left to rot. From the balconies of
Sophia's prison two hundred hung, as grapes
hang, in bunches.

For the greater glory of God, Torquemada



58 The Imperial Orgy-

resurrected Moloch and set Castille on fire. For
the greater awe of Peter, Moscow was turned
into a gehenna. There were groves of gibbets,
blood in lakes, hills of dead, tortures vaster than
Carthage knew, than Castille beheld. Peter's
deputies sank outwearied. Peter was tireless.
Axe in hand, he stalked knee-deep in the hu-
man abattoir. That axe, dented each night, each
morning was resharpened.

Years later, his son confessed a mortal sin.
He had hoped his father would die. Com-
miserately the priest raised a hand. "We all
wish it."

Yet no sooner had he gone, than he became
Peter the Great, a nation's idol. In Greece,
Heraklitos died of laughing, literally of laugh-
ing, at the folly of his contemporaries. Herakli-
tos was then an old man. In Russia, he might
have died younger but he would have laughed
more.

Peter was a butcher. Also he was tsar. The
terms are synonymous. In addition, he was den-
tist. If you so wished he pulled your teeth.
He was quite capable of pulling them any way.
He pulled a woman's who did not want him to
and who died of it. He attended her funeral.
Bon prince, he was practical. He gave Mos-
cow her first hospitals, her first pharmacies and



Peter the Great 59

kept them busy. In his leisures, which occa-
sionally were spacious, he presided at the Bez-
pietchalnyi sobor — the council that knows no
sadness — an assembly of phallicists whose cere-
monies exceeded anything that even the lost
books of Elephantis may have told.

From the council that knew no sadness, Peter
passed to the council that knew nothing else.
Over that also he presided, as over all matters
he presided as well. He was the state. He was
the living law. Death was his servant. He
ordered. Death obeyed.

In the hideous night when Domitian ruled
old Rome, informers were at work. Any de-
nunciation, false or true, meant death. On the
burg of Peter that night descended. As in Rome,
informers were rewarded. For anything, for
nothing, the heedless were denounced. On a
cellar wall a woman saw, or said she saw, let-
ters traced by an unknown hand in an unknown
tongue. The knout! A student in his cups bab-
bled fretfully. The rack! Before the tsar as
he passed a drunken peasant lurched. The axel
The arrest of one usually involved the arrest
of a dozen. The original culprit, put to the
question, shrieked whatever names he could
think of. When he could think of no more he
was masked, led through the streets, made to



fio The Imperial Orgy

point out this one, that one, any one. At sight
of him, a cry went up :— 'The mask! The mask!"
Instantly the streets were empty. In Rome an
accused accused his accuser. The latter went
mad. That breath of madness blew through
the burg that Peter built. "Near the tsar, near
death," a Russian proverb runs, and the reign,
which was a reign of terror, taught many things,
but chiefly how to die — with your nostrils torn
out, your eyes extracted, your ears severed, your
body beaten into a bag of pulp, or, in the ardent
chambers, cremated while yet you lived. God
save the tsar!


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