Munnich silently bowed, while walking backward toward the door.
“We part as friends?” asked the duke, nodding an adieu.
“As friends for life and death!” said Munnich, with a smile.
But no sooner had the door closed behind him than the smile vanished from his features, and was replaced by an expression of furious rage. He threateningly shook his fist toward the door which separated him from the duke, and with convulsively compressed lips and grating teeth he said: “Yes, we now part as friends, but we shall yet meet as enemies! I shall remember this hour, sir duke, and shall do my best to prevent your forgetting it. Ah, you have not sent me to Siberia, but I will send you there! And now to the Emperor Ivan. I shall there meet his parents, the shamefully-slighted Ulrich of Brunswick, and his wife Anna Leopoldowna. I think they will welcome me.”
With a firm step, rage and vengeance in his heart, but outwardly smiling and submissive, Field-Marshal Count Munnich betook himself to the palace of the Duke of Brunswick to kiss the hand of the cradled Emperor Ivan.
Four weeks had passed since Biron, Duke of Courland, had commenced his rule over Russia, as regent, in the name of the infant Emperor Ivan. The Russian people had with indifference submitted to this new ruler, and manifested the same subjection to him as to his predecessor. It was all the same to them whoever sat in godlike splendor upon the magnificent imperial throne—what care that mass of degraded slaves, who are crawling in the dust, for the name by which their tyrants are called? They remain what they are, slaves; and the one upon the throne remains what he is, their absolute lord and tyrant, who has the right to-day to scourge them with whips, to-morrow to make them barons and counts, and perhaps the next day to send them to Siberia, or subject them to the infliction of the fatal knout. Whoever proclaims himself emperor or dictator, is greeted by the Russian people, that horde of creeping slaves, as their lord and master, the supreme disposer of life and death, while they crawl in the dust at his feet.
They had sworn allegiance to the Regent Biron, as they had to the Empress Anna; they threw themselves upon the earth when they met him, they humbly bared their heads when passing his palace; and when the magnates of the realm, the princes and counts of Russia, in their proud equipages, discovered the regent’s carriage in the distance, they ordered a halt, descended from their vehicles, and bowed themselves to the ground before their passing lord. In Russia, all distinctions of rank cease in the presence of the ruler; there is but one lord, and one trembling slave, be he prince or beggar, and that lord must be obeyed, whether he commands a murder or any other crime. The word and will of the emperor purify and sanctify every act, blessing it and making it honorable.