“Ah, that means, I am to give you unlimited power, and thus place you at the head of all affairs!” Then, suddenly rising from his reclining position, and striding directly to Munnich, the duke threateningly said: “In my first observation I forgot to interpret a few of your thoughts and plans. I will now tell you why you wished for my appointment as regent. You desired it for the advancement of your own ambitious plans. You knew Biron as an effeminate, yielding, pleasure-seeking favorite of the empress—you saw him devoted only to amusement and enjoyment, and you said to yourself: ’That is the man I need. As I cannot myself be made regent, let it be him! I will govern through him; and while this voluptuous devotee of pleasure gives himself up to the intoxication of enjoyments, I will rule in his stead.’ Well, Mr. Field-Marshal, were not those your thoughts!”
Munnich had turned very pale while the duke was thus speaking, and a sombre inquietude was depicted on his features.
“I know not,” he stammered, with embarrassment.
“But I know!” thundered the duke, “and in your terror-struck face I read the confirmation of what I have said. Look in the glass, sir count, and you will make no further attempt at denial.”
“But the question here is not about what I might have once thought, but of what you promised me. Your highness, I have made my first request! It is for you to grant it. I implore your on the strength of your ducal word to name me as the generalissimo of your troops!”
“No, never!” exclaimed the duke.
“You gave me your word!”
“I gave it as Duke of Courland! The regent is not bound by the promise of the duke.”
“I made you regent!”
“And I do not make you generalissimo!”
“You forfeit your word of honor?”
“No, ask something else, and I will grant it. But this is not feasible. I must myself be the generalissimo of my own troops, or I should no longer be the ruler! Ask, therefore, for something else.”
Munnich was silent. His features indicated a frightful commotion, and his bosom heaved violently.
“I have nothing further to ask,” said he, after a pause.
“But, I will confer upon you a favor without your asking it!” proudly responded the duke. “Count Munnich, I confirm you in your offices and dignities, and, to prove to you my unlimited confidence, you shall continue to be what you were under the Empress Anna, field-marshal in the Russian army!”
“I thank you, sir duke,” calmly replied Munnich. “It is very noble in you that you do not send me into banishment for my presumptuous demand.”
Clasping the offered hand of the duke, he respectfully pressed it to his lips.
“And now go, to kiss the hand of the young emperor, that you may not be accused of disrespect,” smilingly added Biron; “one must always preserve appearances.”