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A Prince Who Would Not Stay Dead
by [?]

During the autumn of the year 1604, this new Dmitri began his invasion at the head of a small army made up of Poles and Don Cossacks. On his march his force was swelled by accessions, and a number of towns declared in his favor. Boris sent an army four times as great as his own, to destroy him; and battle was joined on the last day of December. Dmitri’s case seemed utterly hopeless; but he was both able and brave. He fought with the resolution and courage of a hero, the skill of a consummate tactician, and the fury of a demon. And in spite of the terrible odds against him, he won a great victory. In a military way, its results were neutralized by the withdrawal of his Poles, and by some other circumstances which forbade his pushing forward towards the capital; but the moral effect was altogether in his favor. The superstitious Russians saw in his marvellous success a miracle, and accepted it as proof positive that this was the true prince, to oppose whom was sacrilege. By dint of great energy Boris was able to maintain the war till the time of his own death, which happened during the spring of 1605. His son Feodor was crowned as his successor; but a few weeks later he was deposed and strangled, and the new Dmitri came to the throne.

For a time his wisdom as a statesman promised to equal his skill and courage as a soldier, but his manifest preference for Poles to Russians soon created jealousy; and imagining that he could overcome prejudices by violent measures, as easily as he had conquered a throne, he spared no pains to insult the Russian national feeling. He appointed only Poles to high office, and lavished upon foreigners so much attention as to breed discontent in his own capital. His apostasy from the Greek to the Roman faith, also, was suspected, and the clergy became his implacable enemies. The disaffection grew daily, and the efforts Dmitri made to overawe his enemies only exasperated them. Finally, on the occasion of his marriage with Marina, the Polish princess–which was celebrated with great pomp by a throng of Polish soldiers and others, invited to Moscow for the purpose–a mob, headed by Shuiski, or Schnisky–for the name is spelled in both of these and half a dozen other ways–stormed the palace, butchered the Poles, and impaled Dmitri on a spear. To leave no doubt of his death this time, they kept his body transfixed with the spear, in front of the palace, for three days, that the people might wreak their vengeance upon the dead czar by insulting his corpse.

Schnisky profited by his victory, and while the blood of the populace was still hot was chosen czar, as successor of the impostor he had overthrown. His popularity was short-lived, however. His fellows among the nobles resented his elevation above themselves, and ere long the desire for his removal was as unanimous as his election had been. This seemed a good time for the doubly dead Dmitri to come to life again; and so it was presently rumored that after all he had not been killed; that the corpse the people had spat upon and insulted was not his; that he was alive, in Poland, and ready to claim his own. This report was industriously circulated by the nobles; but as the people had not yet forgotten their hatred for the usurper, he was permitted to lie down in his grave again.

To prevent his coming to life for a third time, the dead czar’s remains were disinterred and burned. The ashes were collected and fired from a piece of artillery, and it was supposed that further resurrection on his part was impossible. But, as we have seen, Dmitri had a most astonishing genius for coming to life after being thoroughly killed; and presently he appeared again in Poland. This time, history says, he was either a Russian schoolmaster or a Polish Jew; but however that may be, certain it is that he so closely resembled the other two Dmitri’s in personal appearance, even to the two warts and unequally long arms, that he imposed on everybody around him with his story. Even the Princess Marina accepted him, and actually lived with him as his wife.