“Oh, Biron, Biron,” he faintly groaned, “why must I overthrow you? You loved me, and perhaps would one day have accorded me what you at first refused! Biron, I have betrayed you with a kiss. It is your guardian angel who is now avenging you!”
Thus he reached his palace, and the servants who opened the door of his carriage started back with alarm at the fearful expression of their master’s face. It had become of an ashen gray, his blue lips quivered, and his gloomily-gleaming eyes seemed to threaten those who dared approach him.
Alighting in silence, he strode on through the rows of his trembling servants. Suddenly two of his lackeys fell upon their knees before him, weeping and sobbing; they stretched forth their hands to him, begging for mercy.
“What have they done?” asked he of his major-domo.
“Feodor has had the misfortune to break your excellency’s drinking-cup, and Ivanovitch bears the blame of suffering your greyhound Artemisia to escape.”
A strange joy suddenly lighted up the brow of the count.
“Ah,” said he, breathing more freely, and stretching himself up—“ah, I thank God that I now have some one on whom I can wreak my vengeance!”
And kicking the unfortunate weeping and writhing servants, who were crawling in the dust before him, Munnich cried:
“No mercy, you hounds—no, no mercy! You shall be scourged until you have breathed out your miserable lives! The knout here! Strike! I will look on from my windows, and see that my commands are executed! Ah, I will teach you to break my cups and let my hounds escape! Scourge them unto death! I will see their blood—their red, smoking blood!”
The field-marshal stationed himself at his open window. The servants had formed a close circle around the unhappy beings who were receiving their punishment in the court below. The air was filled with the shrieks of the tortured men, blood flowed in streams over their flayed backs, and at every new stroke of the knout they howled and shrieked for mercy; while at every new shriek Munnich cried out to his executioners:
“No, no mercy, no pity! Scourge the culprits! I would, I must see blood! Scourge them to death!”
Trembling, the band of servants looked on with folded hands; with a savage smile upon his face, stood Count Munnich at his window above.
Weaker and weaker grew the cries of the unhappy sufferers—they no longer prayed for mercy. The knout continued to flay their bodies, but their blood no longer flowed—they were dead!
The surrounding servants folded their hands in prayer for the souls of the deceased, and then loudly commended the mild justice of their master!
Retiring from the window, Count Munnich ordered his breakfast to be served!(*)