The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“Did you buy her on the market?” Aleksey asked, showing his teeth.

“Gipsy tribe belongs to the world,” Aleksey continued joking. “And they belong to those who are stronger.”

Husky understood the challenge and roared like an angry bear awaked in winter. He was not shorter or weaker than all five Orlov brothers, he could break a brick in the wall and he took to fight like a duck to water – fought for dear life, smiling.

“Go to hell,” he said and pronounced swear word as twisted as sheep’s horns.

Aleksey landed a blow on his ear, without long thinking, but poorly, the rival beated a hand back and, in his turn, Aleksey got the kick and fell head over heels.

In a moment a ball of three bodies was rolling among tables, bundled out at the doorstep, broken door cracked; Shvanchich managed to spring to his feet and beat both brothers, his back was turned towards the wall.

Wine was mixed with blood, adding fever in the fight, he was holding long against two, till Aleksey stroke just in the face: very strong, he even felt the hand in his shoulder, the hand which could cut off a head of an old beef at one fling of sword.

When Shvanchich fell there was a real fun for Fedor and Aleksey – he was kicked in the pope and ribs, they stroke his hands which covered the face, they beat him vilently together, and in turn, untill the body was silent and didn’t move.

Shvanchich lay in the dirt long, under a night rain, he was breathing hard and groaning till Aleksey, overfull with foreign wine, came out to wind.

Shvanchich managed to stand up, straining every nerve, whipped out his sword and cut Aleksey’s face. He could be splitted, but for Shvanchich’s beaten hand (he was lucky), the blade cut only the cheek from ear to mouth. Fedor managed to bring bloody, insensible brother to a surgeon – a scar like a deep rut remained which now became blue, now turned purple.

That event was the only Aleksey’s defeat. He could do what he liked and he was sure in impunity – there was a broad back of brother Grigoriy behind him. Catherine noticed Grigoriy when she was a great princess, long before enthronement. Having taken Grigoriy from her good cummer countess Bryus, great princess appreciated countess’s taste – young and tough Grigoriy’s body was fumbling her violently, was throwing her into rage, into desperation, she forgot her husband and previous lovers, she was carried by stormy waves and she wanted this headlong flow never to stop. Truthful valet Vasiliy Shkurin opened the door every time softly, without lighting up, and Grigoriy stealed in a bedroom.

But once, enjoying young and tough lover’s body and incurving like a fish thrown on the bank, she touched gently his cheek in the ecstasy of caress. She touched and ran cold; she felt a deep Aleksey’s scar under fingers.

She jumped out of bed and lighted a candle.

“How dared you?” – Indignant half cry – half whisper didn’t affect Aleksey.

“Isn’t it all the same to you” – tired Aleksey began to put on his pants – “you shouldn’t quarrel with the Orlovs because they are guardsmen not only in the bed but…” he didn’t finish.

Aleksey’s words became predictive if there was a need to hide a man.

Grigoriy really turned out to be smart not only in bed, he was a sharp man.

When the empress became very gentle with Grigoriy Potyomkin who carved out a career for himself quickly from a corporal to a bedchamber, and Potyomkin was looking at plump empress’s body with languishing look, the Orlovs found him alone.

“This flesh isn’t for your teeth,” Grigoriy Orlov said and punched Potyomkin’s teeth so that they even crunched.

“This is nice pestle but for another mortar,” Aleksey smiled with wry smile and smashed him in the pope.

He saw stars, Potyomkin fell and couldn’t defend himself from kicking. Lying between brothers. They beat him in a stomach, ribs, blood flowed from his mouth; although he covered his face, hit in the eye prevented him from consciousness: rounds of different colours shone in the eyes suddenly, then went out suddenly too; night fell.

He was spitting blood long, toddled again as in the childhood, but powerful natural force of the body won at last, he only went blind in one eye. Twenty-year old bedchamber didn’t appear on the Imperial Court long.

And Grigoriy Orlov showed himself well not only in the bed. When Voltaire sent his first letter to the empress Catherine, admiring her future reforms, Grigoriy was whether giving advice or expressed his opinion aloud, “It would be nice to send him sables…”

The empress looked sharply; it was look of hesitation or categorical incompliance: would she be understood right?

Grigoriy said in a hard tone, “Sables are in France sables too.”

The empress listened to his opinion about Glebov carefully.

“People say everywhere that Glebov mixed the Imperial Treasury with his own one,” she expressed her thoughts direct like a soldier, in her usual manner, without twisting them in cunning lace of courtesy. “He assumed the bigger part of money which was given for resettlement of Serbs, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Greeks to Ukraine.”

When the empress called Glebov he didn’t refuse to her surprise, he bowed his head like a lamb as if he put it for execution.

“I’m quilty, empress,” Glebov answered with the same obedience in his voice.

“Do you understand that there is a Siberian cold?” – angry, but still far lightnings began to twinkle in the empress’s eyes.

“I’m quilty, your Majesty,” dignitary said without changing his voice. “But you were a great princess when I gave you twenty five thousand roubles not once; I gave you ten thousand, fifteen thousand roubles which you gambled away, where could I take money?”

The empress dismissed Glebov carefully but didn’t bring him to justice – let threat hang over him like a sword of Damocles, maybe he would keep silent.”

But the empress refused Orlov in one thing – to get married to him.

“But your aunt Elizabeth got married to Rasumovskiy and nobody would criticize you,” Grigoriy insisted.

She began to talk with count Panin about it nicely, she supposed him to know everything. At the same time she considered him to be cunning and wise snake from Bible Engraving who could calculate everything a few steps forward.

This time Panin answered without usual frills, “The empress’s word is a law for me. And who will obey a countess Orlova?”


“Banker Suderland, Your Majesty!” – Both halves of gilded door opened, Suderland entered, stepping out briskly as usual.

“I’m so glad to see you, my dear banker.” The empress smiled sincerely, really she became more cheerful from every meeting with this stranger who was educated and gallant, but he never went down to an annoying and ordinary at the court treacle of flattery.

“I celebrate the day of audience as a holiday in my calendar every time.” – Suderland was looking tenderly at the empress’s seal-ring with wonderful stone which was shimmering with an unusual, almost purple hue, – he hadn’t seen it before.

“You guess why bankers are invited – we need money.” Suderland was very easy for the empress, she was sure (she had checked it thoroughly many times) that not a word would pass from his lips outside the court. “We need much money.”

“Great people need much money,” a banker bowed because he tried to hide an acid uncertainty which could appear on his face and betray him, he had troubles with previous loan which hadn’t been returned.

“I see you master science of court flattery as a model bushel.”

“No, Your Majesty, I simply cite words said by Diderot, and by Voltaire, and by Grimm in all European crossroads.”

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