“Why must you ask precisely this—this one only favor which it is no longer in my power to bestow?” she sadly said. “There are so many offices, so many influential positions—ah, I could prove my gratitude to you in so many ways! Ask for money, treasures, landed estates—all these it is in my power to give. Why must you demand precisely that which is no longer mine!”
Munnich stared at her with widely opened eyes, trembling lips, and pallid cheeks. His head swam, and he thought he could not have rightly heard.
“I hope this is only a misunderstanding!” he stammered. “I must have heard wrong; it cannot be your intention to refuse me.”
“Would to God it were yet in my power to gratify you!” sighed the regent. “But I cannot give what is no longer mine! Why came you not a few hours earlier, field-marshal? then it would have been yet possible to comply with your request. But now it is too late!”
“You have, then, appointed another generalissimo?” shrieked Munnich, quivering with rage.
“Yes,” said Anna, smiling; “and see, there comes my generalissimo!”
It was the regent’s husband, Prince Ulrich von Brunswick, who that moment entered the room and calmly greeted Munnich.
“You have here a rival, my husband,” said the princess, without embarrassment; “and had I not already signed your diploma, it is very questionable whether I should now do it, now that I know Count Munich desires the appointment.”
“I hope,” proudly responded the prince, “Count Munnich will comprehend that this position, which places the whole power of the empire in the hands of him who holds it, is suitable only for the father of the emperor!”
Count Munnich made no answer. Already so near the attainment of his end, he saw it again elude his grasp. Again had he labored, struggled, in vain. This was the second revolution which he had brought about, with this his favorite plan in view: two regents were indebted to him for their greatness, and both had refused him the one thing for which he had made them regents; neither had been willing to create him generalissimo!
In this moment Munnich felt unable to conceal his rage under an assumed tranquillity; pretending a sudden attack of illness, he begged permission to retire.
Tottering, scarcely in possession of his senses, he hastened through the hall thronged with petitioners. All bowed before him, all reverently saluted him; but to him it seemed that he could read nothing but mockery and malicious joy upon all those smiling faces. Ah, he could have crushed them all, and trodden them under his feet, in his inextinguishable rage!
When he finally reached his carriage, and his proud steeds were bearing him swiftly away—when none could any longer see him—then he gave vent to furious execrations, and tears of rage flowed from his eyes; he tore out his hair and smote his breast; he felt himself wandering, frantic with rage and despair. One thought, one wish had occupied him for many long years; he had labored and striven for it. He wished to be the first, the most powerful man in the Russian empire; he would control the military force, and in his hands should rest the means of giving the country peace or war! That was what he wanted; that was what he had labored for—and now. . . .