BY C. NEGRUZZI
JACOB ERACLID, surnamed the" Despot;" perished by
the hand of Shtefan Tomsha, who then proceeded to govern the
land, but Alexandru Lapushneanu, after two successive defeats at
the hands of the tyrant's forces, fled to Constantinople, succeeded
in securing aid from the Turkish army, and returned to drive out
the rapacious Tomsha, and seize for himself the throne which he
never would have lost had the boyars not betrayed him. He entered
Moldavia accompanied by seven thousand spahees and three
thousand mixed troops. He also brought with him imperial orders
for Han Tatar Nogai to collect some troops with which to came to
Lapushneanu rode with Vornic Bogdan by his side, both
were mounted upon Turkish stallions, and were armed from head
"What think you, Bogdan," he said after a short pause,
"shall we succeed?"
"How can your Highness doubt it," replied the courtier," the
country groans under the harshness of Tomsha. The whole army
will surrender when you promise them higher pay. Those boyars
who are still left alive are only held back by fear of death, but
when they see that your Highness comes with force they will at
once flock to you, and desert the other."
"Please God we shall not be obliged to do what Voda Mircea
did in Muntenia ; but as I have told you I know our boyars, for I
have lived among them"
"This matter must be left to your Highness's sagacity."
Thus speaking they drew near to Tecuci where shay halted by a
"Sire;" said a messenger approaching," some boyars have
arrived, and crave an audience of your Highness.
"Let them come," replied Alexandru.
Four boyars soon entered the tent, where he was sitting
surrounded by his boyars and officers ; two of them were elderly
men but the other two were young. They were Vornic Motzoc,
Postelnic Veveritza, Spancioc, the noble, and Stroici. They
approached Veda Alexandru and bowed to the ground, but without
kissing the hem of his garment as was the custom.
"Welcome, boyars!" said Alexandru, forcing himself to smile.
"Good health to your Highness;" replied the boyars.
"I have heard," pursued Alexandra," of the affliction of the
land, and I have come to deliver it ; I know the country awaits me
"Do not imagine that it is so, your Highness," said Motzoc.
"The country is quiet; it may be your Highness has heard things
that are not really facts, it being the habit of our people to make
stallions out of mosquitoes. For this reason the community has sent
us to tell you that the people do not want you, no one loves you,
and your Highness has only to turn back"
"You may not want me, I want you;' replied Lapushneanu,
and his eyes flashed like lightning." You may not love me, I will
love you, and will come among you with your consent or without
it. I turn back? Sooner may the Danube change its course! Ah!
The country does not want me. Do I understand that you do not
"One dare not behead ambassadors," said Spancioc." We
are bound to tell you the truth. The boyars have decided to take
their way to Hungary, to Poland, and to Muntenia, where they all
have relations and friends. They will come with foreign armies,
and woe betide the poor country when we have war between us,
and maybe your Highness will not do well because Shtefan
"Tomsha! Has he taught you to speak with such temerity? I know not what prevents me from smashing the
teeth in your jaw with this club," he said, seizing the weapon from
Bogdan's hand." Has that wretched Tomsha taught tout"
"He who is worthy to be named the Anointed of God
cannot be wretched," said Veveritza.
"Am not I, too, the Anointed of God? Did you not swear
fealty to me when I was only Petre Stolnic? Did you not choose
me? What was my reign like! What blood have I shed? Whom
have I turned from my door without due reward and help? And yet
you do not want me, do not love me? Ha, ha, ha I"
He laughed; a laugh that distorted the muscles of his face,
and his eyes blinked incessantly.
"With your Highness's permission," said Stroici" we see that
our country will once more be under the heel of the heretics. When
these hordes of Turks have robbed and devastated the land, over
whom will your Highness reign?"
"And with what will you satisfy the greed of these heretics,
whom your Highness has brought with you?" added Spancioc.
"With your possessions, not with the money of the peasants
whom you fleece. You milk the country dry, but now the time has
come when I will milk you dry. Enough, boyars! Return and tell
him who sent you to be on his guard lest I catch him, if he would
not have me make flutes out of his bones, and cases for my drums out of his skin."
The boyars retired sadly ; Motzoc remained.
"Why do you stay?" asked Lapushneanu.
"Sire! Sire!" said Motzoc, falling on his knees." Reward us not after our iniquities Remember this is your native land, remember the scriptural admonition to forgive your enemies! Have pity on the poor land. Sire! dismiss these pagan armies ; come with only a few Moldavians with you, and we will guarantee that not a hair of your Highness's head shall be touched ; and if you need armies we will arm our women and our children, we will raise the country, we will call up our retainers and our neighbours. Trust yourself to us!"
"Trust myself to you?" said Lapushneanu, comprehending his plan." Perchance you think I do not know the Moldavian proverb: 'The wolf may change his skin, but never his habits'? Perchance I do not know you, you especially? Do I not know that when my army was outnumbered, when you saw that I was defeated, you abandoned me? Veveritza is an old enemy of mine, but he has never concealed the fact ; Spancioc is still young, his heart is full of love for his country ; it pleases me to see his pride which he does not attempt to conceal. Stroici is a child, who does not understand men yet, and does not know the meaning of flattery, or a lie ; to him it seems that all birds that fly are fit to eat. But you, Motzoc, seasoned veteran of hard times, accustomed to fawn on every ruler, you have sold the Despot; you have sold me too, and will now sell Tomsha ; tell me, should I not be an arch fool to put my trust in you? Still, I pardon you for daring to think that you could cheat me, and I promise you my sword shall not stain itself with your blood ; I will spare you, for you are useful to me and will help to hear my blame. The others are all drones, and the hive must be freed from them."
Motzoc kissed his hand, like the dog which, instead of biting, licks the hand that beats him. He was grateful for the promise given him. He knew that Voda Alexandria would have need of an intriguer like himself. The deputies had been commanded by Tomsha, in the event of their being unable to turn Lapushneanu from his path, to take the road to Constantinople, where by means of petitions and bribes they were to try and compass his overthrow. But seeing that he came with the good will of the Porte itself, and, moreover, fearing to return without any success to Tomsha, he begged leave to remain in his company. This was Motzoc's plan that he might himself adhere to Lapushneanu.
Leave was granted him.
Tomsha, not finding himself in a position to offer resistance, fled into Valahia, and Lapushneanu found no obstacle in his path. The people round
met him with joy and hope, reminding themselves of his first reign, during which he had not had time to develop his odious character.
But the boyars trembled. They had two great reasons to be anxious : they knew that the people hated them, and the monarch did not love them.
Immediately upon his arrival Lapushneanu gave orders that all the Moldavian towns, except Hotin, should be piled high with wood and burnt, wishing thus to destroy the refuge of the discontented, who many times, under the protection of their walls, hatched plots and attempted rebellion. In order to undermine the influence of the boyars, and to root out the feudal communities, he despoiled them of their estates under every kind of pretext ; in this way he deprived them of their only means of reducing and corrupting the populace.
But not deeming this plan sufficient he put persons to death from time to time. For the smallest official mistake, upon the utterance of the slightest complaint, the head of the culprit was spiked upon the gates of the churchyard, with a placard setting forth his fault, real or imaginary; the rotting head was only removed to make room for another.
No one dared to speak against him, much less plot. A numerous guard of mercenaries, Albanians, Serbs, Hungarians, driven out on account of their misdeeds, found shelter with Alexandru, who bribed them with high pay ; the Moldavian army, under captains who were his own creatures, he kept on the frontiers, he gave the soldiers leave to go to their own homes, retaining only a small number.
One day he was walking alone in the saloon of the royal palace. He had had a long talk with Motzoc, who was in great favour, and who had departed after devising a scheme for some fresh tax. He seemed restless, he talked to himself, and was evidently meditating another death or some fresh persecution when a side door opened, and admitted the Princess Rucsanda.
At the death of her parent, the good Petro Raresh, who--says the chronicle-was buried amidst much lamentation and mourning in the sacred Monastery of Probota, erected by himself, Rucsanda remained, at a tender age, under the guardianship of her two elder brothers, Iliash and Shtefan: Iliash, succeeding his father upon the throne, after a short and stormy reign, retired to Constantinople where he embraced Mohammedanism, and Shtefan took his place upon the throne. This man was more cruel than his brother; he began by compelling all strangers and Catholics to renounce their religion, and many rich families settled in the country went into exile on this account, giving as a pretext the poverty of the land and the decline in trade. The boyars, many of whom were related by marriage to the Poles and Hungarians, took offence, and entering into communication with the exiled boyars decided that Shtefan should perish. Perhaps they would have
delayed to put this plan into execution if his excesses had not hastened it on.
"No woman was safe from his lust if she were fair," says the chronicler in his naive fashion. One day when he was at Tzutzora, instead of waiting for the arrival of the exiled boyars, the boyars who were with him cut the ropes of the tent under which he was seated, in order to prevent his escape, and rushing upon him murdered him.
After this Rucsanda alone remained of the family of Petru Raresh, and the murderous boyars decided to give her as wife to one of their number called Jolde, whom they had chosen to be their ruler. But Lapushneanu, chosen by the exiled boyars, met Jolde, whom he defeated, and seizing him he cut off his nose, and turned him into a monk; in order to win the hearts of the people, who still kept a lively recollection of Raresh, he married, and took to himself Raresh's daughter. Thus the gentle Rucsanda found herself the partner of the conqueror.
When she entered the hall she was clothed with all the magnificence due to the wife, daughter and sister of a king. Above a long garment of cloth of gold, open in front, she wore a tight coat of blue velvet trimmed with sable, and with long sleeves filling back ; she wore a girdle of gold which fastened with big clasps of jasper surrounded by precious stones ; round her neck hung a necklace of many rows of pearls. A cap of sable, placed rather on one side, was ornamented with a white aigrette studded with jewels and held in place by a big emerald flower. Her hair, according to the fashion of the day, was parted and hung in braids over her back and shoulders. Her face was of that beauty which once made famous the Roumanian women, but which is rarely found today, for it has degenerated through the mingling of foreign blood. She was also sad and languishing, like a flower exposed unshaded to the burning heat of the sun. She had seen her father die, had witnessed the abdication and withdrawal of one brother and the murder of another. She had first of all been destined by the community to be the wife of Jolde-whom she did not know-then she was forced by that same community, who disposed without question of her heart, to give her hand to Alexandria Veda whom she honoured and obeyed as her husband, and whom she would have been ready to love had she found in him the least trace of human feeling. Drawing near, she bent and kissed his hand. Lapushneanu took her by the waist, and lifting her as though she were a feather placed her upon his knee.
"What tidings, my fair lady?" he said, kissing her on the brow." For what reason have you today, which is not a feast day, deserted your spinningwheel? What has roused you so early?"
"The tears the widowed women shed at my door, and which cry to the Lord Christ and the Holy Virgin for vengeance for all the blood you shed,"
Lapushneanu's face grew dark, and he unclasped his hands ; Rucsanda fell at his feet.
" Oh, good my Lord! my brave husband!" she continued." It is enough! You have spilt so much blood, made so many widows, so many orphans. Consider that your Highness is all powerful, and that a few poor boyars cannot harm you. What does your Highness lack! You are not at war with anyone; the land is quiet and submissive. I-God knows how much I love you! Your Highness's children are fair and young. Reflect that after life comes death, and that your Highness is mortal and must give account of his deeds, for blood is not redeemed by building monasteries ; especially is it tempting and insulting God to deem that you can propitiate him by erecting churches and--"
"Thoughtless woman!" cried Lapushneanu, jumping to his feet, and from force of habit he put his hand to the dagger at his belt; but instantly controlling himself, he bent forward, and raising Rucsanda from the floor he said :" My wife, do not let such foolish words escape your lips, for God only knows what might happen. Be thankful to the great saint and martyr, Dimitric Isvoritor, of blessed memory, to whose honour we dedicate the church which we have built at Pangaratzi, that he has hindered us from committing a great sin, and caused us to remember that you are the mother of our children."
" Even though I know you will murder me I cannot keep silence.
Yesterday when I wished to came in, a woman with five children threw herself in front of my carriage and stopped me to show me a head fastened to the courtyard gate. `You will have to answer for it, Madam; she said to me, `if you allow your husband to behead our fathers, husbands and brothers. See, Madam, that is my husband, the father of these children who are left orphans! Look well.' And she showed me the gory head, and the head looked terribly at me! Ah, Sire, since then I see that head incessantly, and l am afraid! I cannot rest!"
" What will you?" asked Lapushneanu, smiling.
" I will that you spill no more blood, that you cease to kill, that I may see no more decapitated heads which make my heart break,"
" I promise you that after the day after tomorrow you will see no more;' replied Alexandra Voda" and to-morrow I will give you a remedy for fear."
" What? What does that mean?"
'Tomorrow you will see. Now, sweet lady, go and see your children, and attend to your house like a good mistress, and see to the preparations for a feast, for to-morrow I give a great dinner to the boyars."
The Princess Rucsanda departed after once more kissing his hand. Her husband accompanied her to the door.
" Ah, have you arranged everything?" he asked, moving quickly towards his esquire who entered at that moment.
"Everything is ready."
But will they come?"
"They will come."
At eventide. came the news that on the next day, being Sunday, all the boyars were to assemble at the Metropolitan Church, where the Prince would be present to attend the Liturgy, and afterwards were to feast at the court.
Upon the arrival of Alexandru Voda divine service began ; the boyars were all assembled. Contrary to his usual custom, Lapushneanu was dressed with regal splendour that day. He wore the crown of the Paleologs ; over his long Polish tunic of crimson velvet, he wore a Turkish royal cloak. He carried no weapon except a small dagger, inlaid with gold ; but between the fastenings of the tunic could be seen a shirt of mail.
After listening to divine service he descended from his stall, prostrated himself before the Icon, and approaching the shrine of St. John the New, bent forward with great humility and kissed the sacred relics. It is said that at that moment his face was very yellow, and that the saintly shrine shook.
Then once more ascending his stall, he turned to the boyars and said:
" Most noble boyars! From the time I assumed kingship until this day, I have shown myself harsh towards many; I have been cruel, severe, shedding much blood. Only God knows how hard this has been for me, and how I regret it, but you, boyars, know that I have only been constrained thereto by the desire to end the various quarrels and disputes which aimed at the disturbance of the country and my destruction. To-day the state of affairs is different. The boyars have come to their senses ; they have realized that the flock cannot exist without a shepherd as the Saviour said: `They were distressed and scattered as sheep not having a shepherd.' Most noble boyars! Let us henceforth live in peace, loving one another like brothers, for this is one of the ten commandments : ` Thou shah love thy neighbour as thyself,' and let us pardon one another, seeing that we are mortal, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ" -here he made the sign of the cross-" to forgive us our daily trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us."
Having finished this disjointed speech, he passed to the centre of the church, and after prostrating himself once more turned towards the people in front, and to the right and to the left of him, saying:
"Pardon me, good people, and you also, most noble boyars!"
" May God forgive you, pour Highness!" they all replied, except two young boyars who were standing lost in thought, hidden by a tomb near the door, where no one paid heed to them.
Lapushneanu left the church, bidding the boyars come and dine together with him ; he mounted his horse and returned to the palace.
The people dispersed.
" What do you think of it?" said one of the boyars, who, we have seen, did not extend his pardon to Alexandru Veda.
"I advise you not to dine with him to-day;" replied the other.
And they mixed with the crowd. They were Spancioc and Stroici.
At the court great preparations had been made for this feast. The news had spread that the Prince had made his peace with the boyars, and the boyars rejoiced at the change, in the hopes they would once more occupy positions whence they could amass fresh wealth at the expense of the sweating peasants. As to the people, they were indifferent ; they neither expected good nor feared evil from this reconciliation. The people were reconciled to the rule of Alexandru Voda. They only grumbled about his Minister, Motzoc, who took advantage of his credit with the Prince to cheat the mass of the people. Thus, although the complaints of the community were continual about the thefts of Motzoc, Lapushneanu either would not answer them or would not listen to them.
As the hour of the feast drew near, the boyars arrived on horseback, each accompanied by two or three retainers. They noticed that the courtyard was full of armed mercenaries and that four guns were trained upon the doors, but they concluded they were placed there to fire the usual ceremonial salute. Perhaps one or two suspected a trap, but once inside it was impossible to return, for the gates were guarded and the sentries had orders to let no one pass out.
Lapushneanu joined the boyars, forty-seven in number, and placed himself at the head of the table, placing the Chancellor, Trotushan, upon his right, and Home Secretary, Motzoc, upon his left. The pipes began to play, and the viands were placed upon the table.
In Moldavia at that period there was nothing remarkable in the fashion of the food. The banquet only comprised a few varieties of dishes. :after the Polish soup came Greek dishes of boiled vegetables floating in butter, then Turkish rice and finally a roast. The table-cloth was of home-spun huen. The dishes containing the food, the plates and the goblets, were of silver. Along the wall stood a row of earthenware jars full of wine from Odobeshti and from Cotnari, and at the back of each boyar waited some servant who poured out the wine.
In the courtyard by the side of two roast oxen and four roast sheep, three casks of wine had been broached; the retainers ate and drank, the boyars ate and drank. Soon brains began to get inflamed the wine began to do its work. The boyars saluted, and congratulated the Prince with loud applause, to which the mercenaries responded with shouts and the guns with salvos.
They were on the point of rising from the table when Veveritza raised his glass, and bowing, said:
"May your Highness live for many years! May you rule the land in peace and may a merciful God strengthen the desire you have shown to no longer molest the boyars or afflict the people--"
He did not finish for the dagger of an esquire struck him right on the forehead and felled him to the ground.
"Ah, you would insult your Prince!" cried the esquire." Upon them!"
In a second, all the servants behind the boyars drew their daggers and struck them ;other soldiers under the captain of mercenaries entered and slashed at them with their swords. In the meanwhile Lapushneanu took Motzoc by the hand and drew him to the open window whence to watch the butchery which began. He laughed ; but Motzoc, forcing himself to laugh, felt the hair rising upon his head, and his teeth chattering. And, in truth, it was horrible to watch that bloody scene. The fancy must picture a hall 33 ft. long and 30 ft, wide, a hundred and more desperate men, determined to kill, executioners and victims, some fighting with the fury of despair, others with drunken rage. The boyars had had no suspicions, thus treacherously attacked from behind, and unarmed, they fell unable to defend themselves. The older men died making the sign of the cross ; but many of the younger ones defended themselves with desperation ; chairs, plates, the implements upon the table became weapons in their hands ; some of the wounded gripped with fury the throats of the assassins, and in spite of the injuries they received they squeezed them till they suffocated. If one among them found a sword he sold his life dearly. Many a mercenary perished, but finally not a boyar remained alive, Forty-seven corpses lay upon the floor! In the struggle and turmoil the table was overturned ;the jars were broken and the wine mixed with blood made a pool upon the boards of the hall.
Simultaneously with the murder upstairs began the massacre in the courtyard.
The boyars' servants, finding themselves set upon without warning by the soldiers, tried to flee. Only a few escaped with their lives ; they succeeded in scaling the walls and gave the alarm in the boyars' homes: they called out others of the boyars' retainers and men, and roused the populace. The whole city flocked to the gates of the courtyard, which they began to destroy with axes. The soldiers, stupid with drink, made little resistance. The crowd grew stronger and stronger.
Lapushneanu, when he recognized the strength of the crowd, sent an esquire to inquire what they Wished. The esquire went out.
"Well, Vornic Motzoc," he said, turning awards that person," tell me, have I not done well to rid myself of this rabble, to free the land from this sore?"
"Your Highness has acted with great wisdom;' replied the obsequious courtier ;" I have long had it in my mind to advise your Highness to do this, but I see your Highness's sagacity has anticipated me, and you have done well to destroy ; because why-it was--
"I see the esquire tarries," said Lapushneanu, cutting short Motzoc, who was becoming involved in his speech." I think we will give orders to fire a round into the mob. Ha! what think you?"
"Certainly, certainly, let us turn the guns on them ;there is not much loss in a few hundred churls dying when so many boyars have perished. Yes, let us destroy them root and branch:
"I expected just such an answer," said Lapushneanu with irritation," but we will see first what it is they ask."
At that moment the esquire stepped through the door into the courtyard, and making a sign, cried:
"Good people! His Highness sends to inquire what it is you want and ask, and wherefore you are come with so much noise?"
The crowd stood open-mouthed. They had not expected such a question. They had come without knowing why, or what they wanted. They collected quietly into little groups and asked one another what it was they did want. At last they began to shout
"Remit the taxes!" " Cease to harass us!" " Do not kill us!"" Do not rob us!"" We remain poor!"" We have no money!"
"Motzoc has taken our all!" " Motzoc! Motzoc!"" He fleeces us and ruins us!"" He advises the Voda!"" Let him die!"" To death with Motzoc!" " We want the head of Motzoc!"
The last words found an echo in every heart, and were like an electric spark. All the voices rang together as one voice, and this voice cried
" We ask for Motzoc's head!"
"What do they ask for?" asked Lapushneanu, as the esquire entered.
"The head of Vornic Motzoc," replied the esquire.
" How? What?" cried Motzoc, jumping like a man who has trodden on a serpent." You did not hear aright, fool! You try to jest, but this is no time for jesting. What words are these I What would they do with my head? 1 tell you, you are deaf, you did not hear well."
"But very well," said Alexandru Voda," just listen. Their cries are audible here."
In fact, as the soldiers no longer resisted them, people had begun to clamber up the walls hence they shouted at the top of their voices:
" Give us Motzoc!"" We want Motzoc's :ad! '
"Oh, miserable sinner that I am!" cried the retched man," most Holy Mother of God, do not et me be destroyed. What have I done to these men? Holy Virgin save me from this danger, and f swear to build a church to pray for the rest of my days, I will enshrine with silver the miracle-working Icon from the Neamtzu Monastery. But gracious Prince, do not listen to these common people, to these churls. Command that the guns decimate them. Let them all die! I am a great boyar, they are only churls!"
"Churls, but many of them," replied Lapushneanu coldly :" would it not be a sin to murder many men for the sake of one? Only reflect. Go and sacrifice yourself for the good of the realm, as you yourself said when you told me that the country neither wanted me nor loved me. Rejoice that the people repay you for the service you rendered me, betraying to me the army of Anton Sechele, then destroying me, and taking Tomsha's side."
"Oh, unfortunate man that I am!" cried Motzoc, tearing his beard, for he realized from the tyrant's words that there was no escape for him," At least let me go and put my house in order!
Have pity upon my wife and children! Give me time to confess!" And he cried and screamed and groaned.
"Enough!" cried Lapushneanu." Do not wail like a woman. Be a brave Roumanian. What can you confess? What can you say to the priest? That you are a thief and robber? All Moldavia knows that. Come! Take him and give him to the people and tell them that this is the way Alexandru Veda serves those who rob the country."
The esquire and the captain of mercenaries immediately laid hands upon him.
The wretched boyar yelled as loudly as possible, trying to protect himself, but how could his old hands shield him from the four strong arms that carried him? He tried to stand upon his feet, but they caught in the dead bodies of the victims and slipped upon the blood which had congealed upon the boards. As last his strength became exhausted, and the tyrant's satellites carried him more dead than alive to the door of the courtyard, and thrust him out among the crowd.
The miserable boyar fell into the arms of the many-headed Hydra, which in a second tore him to pieces.
" See how Alexandru Veda rewards those who rob , the land!" said the tyrant's emissaries.
"Long live His Highness the Voda!" replied the crowd. And they dispersed, rejoicing over their victim.
While the unhappy Motzoc was being thus treated, Lapushneanu ordered that the table should be replaced, and the utensils collected ; the heads of the murdered were then cut off, and the bodies thrown out of the window. After which, he took the heads and quietly and methodically set them in the middle of the table ; he placed the less important boyars below, and the more important above, according to their family and rank, until he had made a pyramid of forty-seven heads, the top of which he crowned with the head of an important Logofat. Then after washing ',his hands, he went to a side door, withdrew the bolt and wooden bar which secured it, and entered the Princess's apartment.
From the beginning of this tragedy, the Princess Rucsanda, ignorant of what was taking place, had been anxious. She did not understand the cause of the noise she heard, for, according to the custom of the time, women could not leave their apartment, and the servants could not risk going amongst soldiers of whose discipline they knew nothing. One among them, bolder than the others, had gone cut, had heard it said that an attack had been made upon the Voda, and had carried these tidings to her mistress.
The gentle Princess was terrified, fearing the fury of the mob, and when Alexandra entered he found her praying before the loon, with her children by her side.
"Ah," she cried," our Lady be praised that I see you again! I have been greatly- frightened."
"Wherefore? Because I promised I would prepare you a remedy for fear? Come with me, Madam."
"But those cries, those shouts we heard? "
"Nothing. The servants began to wrangle, but they are quiet now."
So saying he took Rucsanda by the hand, and led her to the dining-hall. She gave a cry of horror at the terrible sight and fainted.
"A woman is always a woman;' said Lapushneanu, smiling," instead of rejoicing, she is horrified."
He lifted her in his arms, and took her back to her apartment. Then he returned again to the hall where he found the captain of mercenaries and the esquire awaiting him.
"You can throw these corpses over the wall to the dogs, but set their heads upon the wall;' he said to the mercenary." And you;" he said, addressing the esquire," are to lay hands upon Spancioc and Stroici."
But Stroici and Spancioc were already close to the Dniester.
Their pursuers only caught up with them when they had crossed the frontier.
"Tell him who sent you," Spancioc shouted back," that he will not see us till he is about to die!".
Four years passed since this scene, during which time Alexandru Lapushneanu, faithful to the promise made to the Princess Rucsanda, did not execute a single boyar. But, because he was unable to stifle his overmastering desire to witness human suffering, he invented various forms of torture.
He had eyes put out, noses cut off, he mutilated and maimed any person he suspected ; even his suspicions were imaginary, for no one ventured to make the slightest complaint. All the same he was not at ease, for he could not lay hands on Spancioc and Stroici, who remained at Kamenitza, waiting, abiding their time. Although he had two highly-placed sons-in-law with great influence at the Polish court, he was anxious lest these two boyars should solicit the aid of the Poles, who were only seeking a pretext to invade Moldavia ; but these two Roumanians were too good patriots not to reflect that war and the arrival of foreign soldiers would be the ruin of their native land.
Lapushneanu wrote to them many times in succession that if they would only return he would pledge himself, by the most sacred oath, to do them no harm ; but they knew the value of his oath. In order to observe them more closely, he moved to the town of Hotin which he fortified with care, but he became ill from spleen here. The disease made rapid strides, and the tyrant soon saw himself at the portal of the tomb.
In the delirium of his fever he seemed to see all the victims of his cruelty, terrifying and admonitory, threatening him and calling to the most just God for justice. In vain he tossed upon his bed of sickness, he could not find relief.
Summoning Teofan, the Metropolitan, the Bishops and boyars, he informed them that he felt the end of his life to be approaching ; he humbled himself, and implored pardon for all the wrong he had done. Finally, he begged for consideration for his son, Bogdan, to whom he left the throne of the realm if they would assist him. Being of tender gars, and surrounded by powerful enemies, he would be unable to protect either himself or his country unless the boyars preserved unity among themselves and affection and loyalty to the Ruler.
"As for myself," he proceeded to say," if I recover from this sickness, I am determined to become a monk in the Monastery of Slatiua, where I may repent for the rest of the days that it pleases God to leave me. Therefore, I beseech you, lathers, when you see me at the point of death to shave me like a monk--
He was not able to say much more. He was seized with convulsions, and a terrible coma like ,loath itself stiffened his body, so that the Metropolitan and the Bishops, believing him to be expiring, canonized him, bestowing upon him the name of Paisie after that of Peter, which name he had borne previous to becoming Prince. After this they paid homage to the Princess Rucsanda as regent during,
the minority of her son, and proclaimed Bogdan king.
Immediately after they sent envoys to all the boyars within the country and to the exiles, and to the captains of the army.
The twilight was approaching when Stroici and Spancioc arrived.
Dismounting at an inn, they approached the castle with haste. The town was silent and dreary like some gigantic tomb. Only the murmuring waters of the Dniester were audible as they continually washed the slopes of the grey bare banks, and the monotonous cry of the sentries who examined each other by the evening light along the length of their lances, Pursuing their way into the palace, they experienced no small surprise at meeting no one ; at last a lacquey showed them the sick man's room. As they were about to enter they heard a loud noise, and paused to listen.
Lapushneanu was rousing from his lethargy. Upon opening his eyes he saw two monks standing, the one at his head, and the other at his feet, motionless, like two statues of bronze ; he glanced at himself, and found himself clothed in the habit of a monk ; round his head was a cowl. He tried to raise his hand, but was prevented by the strings of a rosary. It seemed to him as though he dreamed, and he closed his eyes again ; but opening them once more after a little while he saw the same thins, the rosary, the cowl, the monks.
"How are you feeling now, Brother Paisie :" one of the monks asked him, seeing that he was not sleeping.
This name brought back to his mind all that had taken place. His blood began to boil and halt rising himself he cried:
"What are these? Ah, you are making fun of me! Avaunt, foul creatures! Go, or I will murder you all!"
He sought a weapon with his hand, but finding nothing but the cowl he flung it with his hand at the head of one of the monks.
At the sound of his shouting, the Princess, with her son, the Metropolitan, the boyars and servants, all entered the room.
Meanwhile the other two boyars arrived and stood by the door listening.
"Ah, you wanted to turn me into a monk," cried Lapushneanu in a raucous and terrible voice." You thought to get rid of me? But you can dismiss that idea! God or the devil will make me well again, and-"
" Unhappy man, do not blaspheme," said the Metropolitan, cutting him short." Do not forget you are in the hour of death! Reflect, sinful man, that you are a monk, you are no longer Ruler! Reflect that such ravings and yells are frightening this innocent woman, and this child in whom rests the hope of Moldavia,"
"Infernal hypocrite!" added the sick man, endeavouring to rise from his bed." hold your tongue ; it was I who made you Metropolitan, and I unfrock you. You tried to make me a priest but I will put that right. There are many I will make into priests. But as for that bitch, I will cut her into four pieces with her pup so that they may never again listen to the advice of hypocrites or to my enemies. He lies who says I am a monk. I am no monk-I am Ruler. I am Alexandru Veda! Help I Help! Where are my soldiers? Fetch them! Fetch them all! I will command them. Kill all these people. Let none escape. Ah! I am choking! Water! Water! Water!" And he fell back exhausted, gasping with excitement and fury.
The Princess and the Metropolitan retired. At the door they came face to face with Stroici and Spancioc.
"Madam," said Spancioc, seizing Rucsanda's hand," that man must die at all costs. See this powder, pour it into his drink."
"Poison," she cried with a shudder.
" Poison!" pursued Spancioc." Unless this man dies at once, the lives of your Highness and your son are in danger. The father has lived long enough and done enough. Let the father die that the son may live,"
A servant came out of the room.
" What is it?" asked the Princess.
" The sick man has roused and asks for water and his son. He bade me not to return without him."
"Oh, they wish to kill him;" groaned the wretched mother, pressing her son passionately to her breast.
"There is not time for hesitation, Madam;' added Spancioc." Think of the wife of Voda Shtefanitza and choose between father and son."
" What say you, Father?" said the poor woman, turning towards the Metropolitan, with her eyes full of tears.
"This man is cruel and fierce, my daughter; may the Lord God give you counsel. As for me, I go to prepare for our departure with our new Ruler ; for our late Prince, may God pardon him, and also forgive you."
With these words the holy Teofan departed.
Rucsanda took a silver cup full of water, which was handed to her by the servant, and then, amid the entreaties and arguments of the boyars, poured the poison into it. The boyars pushed her into the sick man's room.
" What is he doing?" asked Spancioc of Stroici, who pushed open the door again and looked in.
"He asks for his son-he says he wishes him to come to him-he asks for a drink-the Princess trembles-she gives him the cup-he will not take it!"
Spancioc starts and draws his dagger from his belt.
"But yes, he takes it, he drinks. May it do your Highness good!"
Rucsanda emerged shaking and livid, and supporting herself against the wall.
" You must render account before God;' she said, sighing," for you have caused me to commit this sin."
The Metropolitan arrived.
" Let us go;" he said to the Princess.
" But who will tend to this wretched man?"
" We will," replied the boyars.
"Oh, Father, what have you made me do!" said the Princess to the Metropolitan, and she went sobbing with him.
The two boyars went into the sick man. The poison had not yet begun to do its work. Lapushneanu lay stretched out, his face uppermost, calm but very weak. When the two boyars entered, he looked at them for some time, but not recognizing them he asked who they were, and what they had to say.
"I am Stroici, replied one.
"And I am Spancioc," added the other," and our wish is to see you before you die as we promised you."
"Oh, my enemies!" sighed Alexandru.
"I am Spancioc,' continued that person," Spancioc whom you would fain have beheaded when you murdered the forty-seven boyars, and who escaped from your clutches! Spancioc, whose property you have destroyed leaving his wife and children to beg for alms at the doors of Christian houses."
" Ah, I feel as though a fire burnt me!" cried the sick man, grasping his stomach with both hands.
"To-day we free ourselves, for you must die. The poison works."
"Oh, you have poisoned me, infamous Creatures! Oh, what a fire! Where is the Princess? Where is my son?"
"They have gone away and left you to us."
"They have gone away and left me! Have left me to you! Oh, kill me and let me escape from suffering. Oh, stab me, you are still young, have pity, free me from the agony that rends me, stab me!" he said, and turned towards Stroici.
" I will not desecrate my noble dagger with the blood of such a worthless tyrant as you."
The pains increased. The poisoned man writhed in convulsions.
"Oh" he cried," my very soul burns me! Oh, give me water-give me something to drink."
"Look;" said Spancioc, taking the silver cup from the table," the dregs of the poison are left. Drink and quench your thirst!"
"Nay, nay, I will not;' said the sick man, setting his teeth.
Then Stroici seized him and held him tight while Spancioc, drawing a knife from its sheath, unclenched his teeth with its point and poured down his throat the poison which had remained at the bottom of the cup.
Lapushneanu, roaring like a bull which sees the hand and axe which is about to strike him, tried to turn his face towards the wall.
"What, you do not want to see us?" said the boyars." No, but it is meet that you should see in us your punishment ; learn to die, you who have only known how to kill." And seizing him both together, they held him inflexibly, staring at him with devilish delight and reviling him.
The unhappy Prince writhed in spasms of agony, he foamed at the mouth, he gnashed his teeth, and his bloodshot eyes protruded out of his head ; an icy sweat, sad forerunner of death, broke out in drops upon his brow. After a torture of half an hour, he finally yielded up the ghost in the hands of his judges.
Such was the end of Alexandra Lapushneanu, who leaves a bloody page in the history of Moldavia.
A portrait of himself and his family may be seen
to this day in the Monastery at Slatina, which he built and where he is buried.
Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents