His royal cousin tells the strange and thrilling story of the
great opportunity and unrealized hopes of Nicholas of Russia
Women's Home Companion, 20 July 1920

His royal cousin tells the strange and thrilling story of the
great opportunity and unrealized hopes of Nicholas of Russia

HE IS dead. Czar Nicholas is dead!  They killed him, they put an end to his life, violently, shamefully, without any mercy, because he was in their power, because they were afraid someone might try to save him—so one early morning they shot him dead.

He was no more a symbol, and they would not allow him to be a man.

All his life he wanted to be a man; that was his mistake. A sovereign must be more than a man; and when at last he could have been a man, they would not let him be one—they shot him dead.

Exact details about his death are not yet to be had. Conflicting rumors reach us; anyhow, he is dead; they murdered him one early morning, for the death that they made him die can have no other name. It was a useless and an ugly deed, a bloodstain that nothing will ever wipe off their hands.

Czar Nicholas is dead!

The man whose voice could move over one hundred and forty million subjects to fear or to joy is dead. He was killed one early morning, hurriedly, secretly, as criminals are put to death. His soul has gone to be judged by Him who makes no difference between beggars and kings. We shall never know what was the judgment of that King of Kings; but having been an ardent mystic and believer, I do not think that Czar Nicholas will have been afraid of meeting his God. . . .

He Was the Symbol of a Great Force

THE WORLD at large will not judge him kindly, though it is indignant at the way he was killed; he was a failure, and failures arouse the world's contempt. Besides, we are in an age of democracy, when those who sit upon thrones are allowed but small mercy.

Yet this man's name once held a great realm together; no one doubted his power—he was the symbol of a force in which all believed. In an hour of madness, when a few "enlightened" imagined that they were moving toward truth, that man was suppressed, the symbol was overturned, and with it the realm's unity. The great country fell to pieces. The Czar's name was the thread upon which the many pearls in his realm were threaded—the thread was snapped and the pearls all rolled away—the great dominion was a thing of the past!

It is not as judge that I mean to speak about Czar Nicholas II, Russia's last ruler, but as his cousin, as one who loved him, as his kith and kin, who knew him even in childhood's happy days. Being myself hard hit by the world's great tragedy, I feel that I owe to the man I consider a martyr, to speak of him kindly at an hour when the official world dare not rise up in his defense.

Can a fate be more tragic than to have been possessor of all, to have stood as high as man can stand, to have had the power of good and evil in one's hand, and to have made nothing of it, not to have known how to be a leader in a country that was ready, was trembling with eagerness, to follow him toward light?

When I say that he had the power of good and evil in his hand, it is not an idle word. In Russia, the Czar had the actual power over good and bad. His name alone could fire millions; he was the despotic ruler, the symbol, the head of the Church; he was also the "Little Father," that mystic and yet familiar being who belonged to everyone, who was the house god of every hearth, who was the mighty empire's very reason of being!

Real power was his, and it came to him when he was young; he had all his life before him to fulfill his ideal, to search for light; but in an age when all is striving toward progress, this man only knew how to retrograde! There lies the tragedy, the mystery of his failure, his extraordinary mistake, amounting almost to a crime!

Yet he was a man of ideals; his heart was soft, his desire toward all that was good and great. If he had had sound advice, the right men around him, if he had been married to a woman with a clear sight, with wide views and modern conceptions, if he had been pushed forward instead of being steadily pushed back by those who influenced him, he might have become a splendid instrument for the good of his people—but this was not to be. . . .

The outward events of his life are known, these I am not especially going to relate; more intimate pictures would I call back to life, those that I personally remember, that I have seen with my own eyes, felt with my heart. Our roads did not cross very often; but, being closely related, I have known him always, ever since I was a child.

The Magnificent Russian Court

MY MOTHER was the only daughter of Czar Alexander II. The Russian court was one of the most brilliant courts of Europe. My mother came from there and, as far back as I can remember, everything belonging to that court was surrounded for us children with extraordinary prestige—and the Czar was the central figure.

When I think of the atmosphere that surrounded the Czar of all the Russias, a strange awe still takes hold of me.

I see huge palaces and soldiers and courtiers without end, broad, silent corridors with guards in quaint uniforms, and before the imperial doors giant Cossacks in red dress, wild-looking men, their belts bristling with daggers and pistols, and with huge fur caps on their heads.

Churches play a great part in these imperial visions, churches, chapels and priests. I hear wonderful chants that mount to domed roofs; voices deep like bronze bells fill the ecstatic silence with almost supernatural emotion. I see the glint of gold and of precious stones, the dull shine of old icons and of giant columns hewn from rare blocks of porphyry, malachite, or lapis. And, in the mystic half-light, where many tapers are burning, I perceive old and young priests in vestments of heavy golden brocade, performing strange rituals that fill my childish soul with awe, but that my dawning intelligence does not comprehend.

And I see faces, many faces, fair women crowned with glorious tiaras, almost bending beneath the weight of their jewels, and beside them tall men in uniforms, some with kind, some with severe faces, but one and all profoundly and reverently absorbed by the holy service, kneeling down at certain moments, bending low their foreheads, with contrite gestures making the sign of the Cross.

When I was a very small child it was Czar Alexander II's court to which we used to go; but he was killed in 1881, and was succeeded by Alexander III, whose wife was gay and popular, whose brothers had just married young and beautiful wives.

My mother, brothers, and cousins were extraordinarily tall, and some of them exceptionally handsome. I remember as a child looking up at them, and wondering how men could be quite so big! I remember all their faces and their different characters; I could fill pages and pages about them. They all rise up before me again as I look back, and appear to be enwrapped in a haze of sunshine. A brilliant, an extraordinarily brilliant picture, seen through the wondering and uncomprehending eyes of a child!

My Earliest Memory of the Czar

THE younger generation, my generation, was less tall, the almost brutal vigor of their parents was not given to them; the inclination toward the ways of tyrants was still there, but the masterful strength of the older generation was wanting. Their bodies seemed shaped for more modern times, but their mentality had been but slightly modified, thereby producing a certain want of balance that was evident in more ways than one.

My first remembrance of Czar Nicholas, or of Nicky, as we all called him, was when he was quite a lad. Already, at an early age, he was surrounded with the glamour of being the future ruler, the future great tyrant to whom all one day would bow down. He was about eight years older than I. He was inclined to be timid, had kind gray-brown eyes, with a dreamy, searching expression and a shy smile upon red lips that seemed to have been shaped for soft words only.

I can still see him, in a white summer uniform, coming toward us, riding down the wooded avenues of their country residence, seated upon an ambling Cossack horse with long tail. A dozen borzois following, frisking in and out between the trees, leaping up at the horse's head, lithe, graceful almost legendary-looking creatures, their eyes all watching that fair, gentle-faced youth who was heir to such a mighty inheritance. After a few joking words with us children, he would set his horse at a gallop and, followed by his white hounds, he would soon be lost from sight—and we would stare after him, wishing that he would come back, that he would talk to us again and look at us with those dreamy gray-brown eyes, that were so kind and caressing. That is how I see him first. . . .

In 1894 Alexander III died and Nicholas came to the throne. He was then only twenty-six, and a few weeks later married Alice, Princess of Hesse, who was slightly his junior, a very beautiful and serious girl, who in going over to the Orthodox Church took the name of Alexandra.

I saw Nicholas at his coronation, at that moment of his supremest glory, when his earthly power was exalted to the utmost; a moment when he stood before his people the incarnate symbol of all the Czar meant in those days to the great empire.

A series of almost fantastically gorgeous pictures rise before my eyes when I look back upon those coronation days. It was a ceremony that had been handed down from generation to generation, with that touch of mysticism in it that was inherent to all things Russian, so that the figure of the Czar and his beautiful young Empress stood out almost as deities.

How well I can see them both! It is their solemn entry into Moscow, into that legendary city where from all times the Czars have been crowned; and to-morrow the mystic symbol of power, with many prayers and much pomp, will be placed on their heads for better, for worse.

On a great white stallion Nicholas comes riding down the principal street, the central figure of the whole procession. He is not clad in gorgeous robes, but wears the simple dark green uniform all are accustomed to see him in. On his head he wears the round, tight-fitting astrachan cap characteristic of the Russian army. His breast is barred by the light-blue ribbon of the St. Andre; on the dark cloth one or two stars shine in precious stones. There is nothing magnificent about his attire, nor anything particularly imposing in his bearing; he has the same dreamy, soft eyes, the same gentle lips, I knew when I was a child, those lips shaped for kind words only. But in his bearing there is the quiet dignity of one deeply conscious of all he represents at this solemn hour, deeply conscious, too, of the heavy duties that lie before him on his road of life. . . .

He salutes from right to left, and the ghost of a very sweet smile hovers on his mouth.

Two golden coaches follow him at a small distance, magnificent vehicles, like those children picture to themselves in fairy stories. In the first sits his mother, in the second his wife.

On the top of the Dowager Empress's closed carriage shines a great crown, a sign that she has already stood, a crowned woman, before her people. On her head she wears an almost fantastically glorious tiara; her neck and bosom are one mass of glittering jewels; her dress and her mantle are of shining gold. Still immensely popular, still good to look upon, she bows right and left with that great charm that she shares with her sister, Queen Alexandra, whom England loves.

The second coach is not crowned, and the woman who sits within, though gorgeously attired, has no crown on her head, for only after the sacrament does she enter into her rights; it is the Dowager Empress who still has precedence.

The Two Empresses

VERY different is this young woman who drives in the uncrowned coach. . . . Infinitely more handsome than the older woman has ever been, she sits very upright; there is no smile on her lips, but an almost painful earnestness. The line of her mouth is set with something almost akin to hardness, which is astonishing in one so young. There is no happiness in the steady gray eyes, but a certain searching distrust, as though she were meeting life rather as a foe instead of as a friend. She is fully aware of the solemnity of the moment, of all she represents, but it seems to awaken dread in her rather than joy.

Beautiful she is, young and stately; but something is wanting in her, even then, when a glorious way was just opening out before her. Was it a lack of confidence in her people? a lack of that love, that intuitive sympathy, which can bind great and small together, however great the distance placed between them? I cannot say; but in spite of her beauty, her youth, in spite of the almost solemn consciousness she has of her future duties, there is something missing, some spark, some warming flame.

The golden coach passes, uncovered heads greet that uncrowned brow; she bows very low an response to the homage offered her; but there is no welcoming smile on her tight-shut lips; she looks into no one's face, but straight before her, as one jealously guarding her visions for herself.

Even then she was on the defensive against life and against all that might come. . . .

A day later Nicholas and his beautiful companion are crowned in the old Kremlin Cathedral and become the anointed sovereigns of the greatest realm in the world.

A long, an endlessly long ceremony, but one of extraordinarily fascinating beauty in a setting so legendary, so magnificent, that it seems almost unreal; one wonders if one has gone back to the days of which one reads in ancient script.

The church is high, domed, and dim; its walls are of gold with archaic frescoes. Time has softened the whole to a marvelous tone; the sanctuary seems filled with golden dust—each face takes on a new meaning, becomes alien and mysterious; a solemn expectation lies over everything and everyone; there is a tenseness in the atmosphere as though giant wings were hovering somewhere in the shade.

All eyes are centered on the two figures of the man and the woman that all have come to honor, of the man and the woman who are to be the fate of this great land.

The Coronation

NICHOLAS'S face is pale; the prodigious crown of his ancestors seems to crush him, his golden cloak to be too heavy for his shoulders; involuntarily one thinks of the giant stature of those gone before him; but there is the light of the mystic in his eyes.

She is taller, she seems more easily to bear the weight of the imperial insignia; but her cheeks are flushed, her eyes feverish, her lips form but a straight line, there is no softness in her expression; even here in this golden cathedral she seems to be defying some unknown and invisible foe that might creep toward her from out of the dark. . . .

The ceremony is over; the crowned couple step out of the dim sanctuary, step into the blazing glare of the spring sunshine. Followed by the priests and their highest dignitaries, they slowly mount an open stairway of stone over which scarlet carpets have been spread, till they reach a wide terrace overlooking the immense crowd which is waiting to acclaim them. Their heavy mantles are carried by pages in scarlet and silver.

Having reached the terrace, they turn around to face their subjects. The sun pours down upon them from above, making their fantastic jewels glitter and sparkle with a thousand lights, whilst from beneath a great cheer mounts toward them, like dull rolling thunder, from the many thousand voices of the crowd.

As though moved by some irresistible emotion the entire crowd falls upon its knees, gazing with rapt faces at those two shining figures that stand immovable, like two strange deities that are seen but once in a lifetime.

Overhead the sky is blue with the blueness of early spring when the year is new, the entire world seems smiling down upon those human beings whom Fate has marked out to be the leaders of a people yearning toward light. . . .

Now I see them seated in solitary grandeur at a table covered with golden dishes, tankards, and goblets—a priceless collection of treasures, brought from many countries in many centuries as offerings to the rulers of the land.

For several days before the ceremony the newly crowned couple have kept a severe fast in a convent on the skirts of the town, so that their spirits might be worthy of the great sacrament that has just come to pass. Now, on this day of days, they must bear the burden of their grandeur all alone, and no one has the right to sit at the same table; and they are to be served by those with the greatest names.

Their board is spread in a chamber with golden walls, a small Byzantine marvel, half hall, half crypt. Stout columns support the low-domed ceiling, archaic saints with impassive faces look down from the golden background upon which they were painted long ago, look down, and are indifferent to the transient glories of these two solitary human beings who have come for an hour to disturb the silence of the sanctuary they guard.

From an opening hewn out of the thick ancient walls, some have a right to watch the sovereigns at their lonely meal. . . .

One cruel event marked with bloody streak these days of rejoicing. A great popular feast had been prepared upon an immense field just outside the town, where many village-folks were to be fed and clothed. Souvenirs with the Czar's portrait were to be given them, so as to carry his face into the farthest part of his realm.

The newly crowned couple, followed by their many royal guests, were to go in great pomp to look on at the distribution of these gifts to thousands and thousands of peasants, who had been called together from the four corners of the great country.

By some fault of organization a fearful crush took place, and many hundreds of men, women and children, who had come to rejoice, lost their lives in a bloody disaster more sinister than any battle.

This mournful event very naturally cast a shadow over all the ceremonies and festivities that were to follow. The Czarina, always inclined to melancholy, was cruelly impressed by this tragic happening, and voices were heard whispering that it was a bad omen for the reign that had just begun.

Having begun in blood, they said, it would end in blood. . . .

Their Rulers Disappoint Their People

SEVERAL times in later years I came in contact with Czar Nicholas and his wife; but, although we were first cousins, no intimacy could ever be established, owing to the Czarina's strangely unwelcoming manner, though the affectionate feelings Nicky and I had always felt toward each other underwent no change.

It was from members of the family, and from voices of all classes of society, that I learned that the Czar and Czarina had not come up to the hope their people had put in them. Each time I heard these rumors I was filled with distress.

Patience was shown for long years, while hope still reigned in many hearts; then murmurs began to be heard against the court and its way of living.

In former reigns the sovereigns had always taken part in all public events. They had been the central figures of every ceremony. No great festivity could take place without them; the extraordinary glamour that surrounded their persons was needed and counted upon as a rallying point for great and small.

Little by little, on one pretext or another, they dropped out of public life. The Czarina had bad health, and loving her husband jealously she could not bear to see him go anywhere without her, so when she could not take part in a ceremony she would try to keep him, also, away from it. Four daughters were born before she had the joy of giving an heir to the throne. Being intensely, but morbidly ambitious, these disappointments aggravated her distrust of life, and when at last the long-expected son was born, he was delicate; some stealthy and uncanny malady made his hold upon life precarious. This was, indeed, too much for a woman inclined to melancholy.

There is no doubt but that the Czarina was heavily responsible for the way her husband behaved; she discouraged him instead of encouraging him; she used her influence in the wrong sense; she held him back instead of leading him forward; she filled him with her own distrust. But it must in fairness be recognized that she imagined that she was in the right; she never doubted the excellence of her judgment, nor that all she did was for the good of her husband, country, and people. He was weak. She had the stronger will of the two, therefore she led him toward a darkness she considered light.

The Czarina was one of these strange personalities that rise up in history from time to time. Perhaps Alexandra loved her husband; she certainly adored her son, but her attitude toward humanity in general was one of mistrust mixed with resentment, an attitude curiously wanting in love. She held a fearful power in her hands; if love had lived in her heart, she could have done wonders; but she looked on and doubted others, kept great and small at bay, as though each wanted to steal some right from her. Considering herself vastly superior to others, she imagined she had been placed in a high position in order to teach others their mistakes. And because her ways did not attract love to her, she began to hate.

The Morbid and Unhappy Czarina

IN LATER years her curious tendency toward morbidity became so pronounced that some considered her not quite in her right mind. But those who knew her intimately declare that in most things she was clever and sensible; but because of her unshakable conviction that she was called upon to enlighten others, she would never listen to any warning, believing solely in her own erroneous judgment, and falling, therefore, a natural prey to the impostors who lie in wait for souls that have become dark in their lonely distrust.

What gave her her power over her husband was never fully understood. Did he deeply love her? Did his weaker will quake before hers? Did she hold him by the mystic side of his nature? None ever quite understood. But one thing is certain: her influence was paramount, and instead of its lessening, it became ever stronger and, alas! always more fatal, till at last the unfortunate sovereign was dragged down into a darkness from which he was destined never more to rise into light.

In the spring of 1914 we went for the last time to Russia, especially invited to Tzarskoe by the Czar and his wife.

An official and yet warm reception was given us; we were surrounded with every honor, everything was done to make our stay agreeable, yet there was something about the atmosphere of their palace that excluded any real feeling of well-being. Outwardly it was still the brilliant court of yore: the same guards, the same officers and court officials; but they seemed a screen behind which other figures were moving—stealthy, dark figures, unavowed influences that had nothing to do with the light of day. One had the impression that something invisible and yet weighty was breathing in the house—some occult power that held the court in sway.

The hours spent with the Majesties seemed quite natural, and talk was about natural subjects—but the Empress had become thinner, her face more austere, her narrow lips were now but a straight compressed line.

The Hidden Influence at the Court

RASPUTIN was breathing behind this outward semblance of a court, behind this outwardly calm and united family life! The young girls were gay, simple, hearty; their laugh was guileless, their eyes looked straight into yours. The heir to the throne was a mischievous boy, much spoilt, his manners very neglected, because, on account of his delicate health, exaggerated leniency was shown him by his parents.

The Czar was the same gentle, rather timid man I had always known, with the dreamy gray-brown eyes and those soft lips that seemed formed for kind words only; but this change there was in him: he was like one who is gradually falling asleep under some hypnotic influence against which he struggles no more.

As central, ruling figure, with her tight-shut lips, sat the Czarina, jealously guarding the power she had secured, her watchful eyes observing with distrustful aloofness each face that sat at her table.

Something curiously frigid and shriveling emanated from her whole personality; never did a spark of warmth nor geniality relieve the oppression one felt in her presence. She never ate of the food served to others, but of dishes monastically simple, as though she had become so detached from things earthly that she could no more touch the food commoner mortals partook of.

But behind that detached air of living an almost monastic life lay an overpowering ambition to rule, to interfere in all matters concerning the State. Advised by the occult voices she believed in, she insisted upon the making or unmaking of ministers, about the changing of generals and court dignitaries, the overthrowing of and replacing of men who held important positions. Time-tried friends and devoted servants were banished at her bidding, and all voices raised in protest against what was going on were silenced, or punished for having spoken.

Each time I contemplated her, seated so calm and stiff in our midst, despising aloofness in each fold of her gown, I kept wondering if she had come straight from the presence of her strange and awful adviser; and I felt appalled at the shadows that lay so close behind her. Still handsome, her face had nevertheless taken a different expression. There was something of the inquisitorial about it, something of the fanatic who would rather destroy than forgive. . . .

One picture kept rising before my mind: the vision of a wondrous crypt beneath a church the imperial couple had but recently erected in their park. With great pride their daughters had shown me over it.

From all times, church art has fascinated me above all others, and this little sanctuary was an absolute treasure of its kind.

The actual church was an uncommon and beautiful building; but it was the crypts beneath that particularly attracted me. In a series of low-domed, quaintly painted chapels that led one into another, a wondrous collection of treasures had been hoarded: objects of priceless value and of the kind that are strangely attractive to me—old icons painted upon golden backgrounds, framed in precious embossed metals; beautiful hanging lamps in. silver and gold of exquisite workmanship: mellow-tinted brocades, heavy with embroidery or glorious woven designs, harmonious in color as only ancient stuffs can be. There were also curious crosses and candlesticks of unexpected and weird shapes, the whole bathed in a mysterious half-light that filled the soul with awe, and made the heart beat as though some sacred revelation were near. It was a dream of Byzantine perfection.

The artist within me reveled in this wonderful resurrection of another age; but strange rumors had reached me about this place, where I longed to let myself go to holy thoughts only. It was murmured that in these chapels of mystic beauty Alexandra came together with Rasputin. It was said that whilst prayers were being sung in the big church above, the Czarina, alone in the strange half-dark of the wonderful crypt faced her sinister adviser and master, who made her undergo fearful penances that were supposed to be a mortification of the flesh. These visions haunted the shadows of these sanctuaries, and although my soul could not accept them, they seemed to press upon me like ghostly faces that will intrude.

Often I sat with Alexandra at her family tea-table, of which she was the predominant and central figure. Draped in loose silken robes of delicate tints she wore many jewels, ropes of magnificent pearls hanging to her feet, for although she rarely appeared in public, she had kept a strange passion for gems. In spite of the ostentatiously simple life she led, her love of luxury and precious stones was paramount. But, unlike her forerunners, the proverbial Russian generosity was not hers.

And yet this haughty, unapproachable woman was the same who was supposed to bow down in awful humility before the will of a simple peasant, around whose name a series of ghastly legends had been woven, legends so black they fitted rather into the Middle Ages than into our days of prosaic reason.

Yes, such was the woman at whose table I sat, for indeed it was more the Czarina's table than the Czar's. He took the place that was designated to him, and was gradually being hypnotized into the conviction that it was his right place, the only place he could take.

The Last Time I Ever Saw Nicholas

THE last time I saw the Czar was at Constantza, on that glorious summer's day in 1914, when in pomp he came to visit our country and old King Carol.

Over the Black Sea he came, the Black Sea that was brilliantly blue that day. He came on his gorgeous yacht, surrounded by ships of war, and with joy our people greeted him as the great ruler of the greatest Empire in Europe; and this great ruler had come to try and win this small country as an ally!

With all honor was he received, and with great delight. My heart was light that day, and I, too, rejoiced.

Alexandra was my guest, which modified our positions. I was leader, and to a certain degree she had to comply with whatever was offered her. A faint tinge of condescension lay, no doubt, in all her words and gestures, but, being our guest for twelve hours, she made laudable efforts to come down from her heights to our humble midst!

A festive atmosphere pervaded our white little seaport that day. The sunshine lay bright over all things, and there was also sunshine in my heart, and with it an extraordinary feeling of good will toward all-men.

I was happy that the Czar had come to honor our country, and I knew that the old King was pleased. and that he looked to me to see that all went well that day.

And all went as it should. Perfect order was maintained; the reception the great ones received was both warm and enthusiastic; the sky, although gloriously brilliant, did not pour down too merciless a heat upon us; the ceremonies were not too long.

Constantza was one mass of roses, and at the end of each street the sea shone blue as a sapphire.

No disturbing incident marred that day, and when finally our guests steamed out of our harbor, they were accompanied by the lusty cheers of those who with joy had seen them arrive in the morning.

Like a somber map upon which the stars had drawn myriad intricate designs, the sky looked down upon them from above, and beneath them was the sea, dark and still, breathing like a huge monster that has fallen asleep.

Long did I stand, watching the great vessel moving away. A giant shadow with shadows moving upon it. Thus it glided away from our shores, glided like an illusion out of my day—out of my life.

That was the last time I saw Czar Nicholas in the flesh—in thought I have still seen him many a time.

The great European war broke out in August of that same year, and the Russian mobilization was one of its wonders that filled Allied hearts with superlative hopes.

Two Pictures

THE Czar was still—officially at least—the idol of his people, and there is a picture I saw of him, a picture that fascinated me, its beauty and mystical meaning seemed so deep.

The Czar is riding through rank upon rank of kneeling troops. As far as the eye can reach, soldiers are kneeling with bended heads.

Upon a black charger Nicholas is moving slowly through the armed crowd.

He is dressed in the same dark green uniform and wears the same small close-fitting astrachan cap that he wore the day of his solemn entry into Moscow what now seems so many, many years ago.

His face has changed but little; it is hardly noticeable how many seasons have passed over his head. His lips have the same gentle expression, his eyes are filled with the same dreamy light. In his hand he is holding a sacred icon, and all the soldiers cross themselves, hardly knowing if it is before the holy picture they are bending their knees, or before this gentle-visaged, kind-eyed man who represents power upon earth.

Deeply did that picture of the Czar passing through the ranks of his kneeling troops with a blessed image in his hand, impress me; it was a picture taken from life, and it was the symbol of Russia's attitude toward its master, of Russia's mystic belief in the "Little Father" who was ruler of their fates and their hearts.

Two years and a half later another picture of the Czar moved me to extraordinary emotion; this was also a picture taken from life. . . .

The Czar is sitting in his own garden—a prisoner—sitting upon the stump of a cut-down tree. His hands are folded between his knees, as though heavy chains were holding them together; his eyes are haunted, and have a desperate look; his cheeks are sunken and the gentle lips are twisted in pain.

As one who has seen horror and grief in a form it was above his strength to face, he is staring into space, and yet he has also an inward look, as though his thoughts were leading him back to days of an impossible glory that once used to be his.

Behind him, three Bolshevik soldiers stand leaning on their guns. Dogged, surly, their eyes are fixed, with a mixture of contempt and indifference, upon the man they are guarding, the man who once was ruler of their fates and their hearts.

A tragic and fearful picture from which I could not detach my gaze.

I felt as though I must call out words of comfort to that lonely prisoner, stretch out both my hands in a gesture of friendship and understanding—and yet I could do nothing, nothing at all!

It made his downfall so fearful that none stood up for him, not one! That none tried to save him, that in one day he saw everything crumble away—power and glory, position and fortune, hopes and dreams, loyalty and friendship, his army and servants, and even those who were of his kith and kin. . . .

Yet he had been a good man with clean ideals, and once he had had visions of peace upon earth. . .

And his haunted eyes seemed to be asking why? What did it all mean?

I, too, with probably many another have been asking the same question. Why? What does it mean?

But it is not in these pages that I want to dig down into obscure depths in search of truth. Nor is it as preacher, or philosopher, that I traced these lines, but as one who loved and remembers the man who now belongs to the past. Rather would I quote what once was said by a king of old, who, looking back upon the long road he had made, pronounced these words, that, in their hours of bitterness, each sovereign is inclined to repeat:

"What profit bath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

"One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever. . . .

"I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. . . .

"I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

"For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. . . .

"For man also knoweth not his time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them."

And yet that same wise king finished his long discourse upon the vanities of this world with these words:

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

"Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Amen."