The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“Brothers, I’m old, it’s late to be afraid. And you decide whose name to strike out – I don’t force, and there is enough paper to rewrite.”

“Who are you taking us for?” – Glob growled and looked at Golovatyy who only shook his head.

“Peter, did you consider everything to be well? If they don’t believe, we say, and call trouble for an innocent man?”

“No, Pavel, after Iskra and Kochubey who were executed in vain, in their opinion, nobody would seize an executioner’s ax.”

“But if they take us? Why to prevaricate?”

“Investigation has to prove it. A man heard a bell, but didn’t know where, so he curried favor with the empress, wrote sincerely.”

“Eventually, one can call big trouble to Sich. Nobody knows what slanderer or another lover has on mind…”

Kosh Otaman didn’t answer at once, only closed his eyes as if he were sleepy.

“They won’t go now to fight with us. But some day or other Petersburg will cut our Sich at the root; I’ve never told you this, brothers. But not now: they need us in a war with Turkey.”

Kalnishevskiy raised his bell again.

“Runner!” he said to smart Jura.

Tramp of horses’ hoofs, that raced from the place abruptly, moved away, calmed down and finally stopped.


Two foreigners came unexpectedly late in the evening in a confined room over a hall, room taken by lieutenant Mirovich, with obsolete walls and cracked stove. He didn’t have money for better accommodation, because he hadn’t received pay for eighteen months.

“A grandee calls you,” guests told, introducing themselves, but they asked in a firm unquestioned tone.

Mirovich didn’t understand where he was brought in a coach with blinded windows. He managed to look around when he entered: marble stairs of luxurious palace, chiselled fancy banister… “What does this invitation mean?” – Vasiliy was surprised.

Young well-built man was waiting for him in a spacious hall, dressed in an embroidered kaftan.

“Sit down, second lieutenant.”

“Count Grigoriy Orlov! Powerful favourite, not crowned sovereign of the empire” – Mirovich ran cold.

They remained double.

“We’ll discuss state business now,” count said silently, but underlining each word as if he were standing in front of soldiers’ rank. “You’ll help to fawn her Majesty, your Cossacks’ land, yourself personally. If you are ready, I’ll continue, if not, so audience is over. But don’t forget that there isn’t return after the word “yes”.”

Mirovich felt as if somebody threw two cold douches on him, he hardly came himself after sudden meeting with that personality and new order at once as “go there you don’t know where, do that you don’t know”…

Vasiliy didn’t know what to answer, he stood like a string, he was only blinking, then said, “Your Grace, I can’t so… Or maybe I’m not able; maybe it contradicts my nature and honour, maybe…”

“Enough!” count washed out as if he sabered. “Fortune gives everybody his chance, it’s yours now.”

“Your Grace, we would like to specify…”

Graph shook his head nervously; he didn’t want to keep on talking.

Mirovich begged mentally, “Good gracious, you give me whether reward, or trial, or cunning temptation. How to understand, not to commit unrecoverable evil?”

At the same time Vasiliy has many examples when a man takes the only chance to change his life, these examples are near by, here is count Orlov.

And if it’s such a chance, why not to take it airily? He could continue glory and power of the previous Miroviches, its consequence and honest name. His ancestor, colonel Mirovich was spiked on tarred boards during execution of Hetman Ostryanitsa, was burning on a small fire, but he uttered neither cry nor groan. Great-grandfather Ivan, Mazepa’s companion, married his sister to him. When nonconformity of Cossacks’ land was concerned, Fedor Mirovich gave his capital, he wasn’t afraid of stamp of betrayer, got in emigration with Orlick, was in a great engagement up to the end of his life, caring for his land, wandering in Turkey and living in Warsaw. Peter I took away all family property to treasury, deported family to Siberia. And children were allowed to return to Ukraine long after, to their uncle, Hetman Pavel Polubotock. Grandmother was dismissed two years after children, and she gave her last money to construction of cathedral which was begun by her father-in-law and husband.

Grandmother had been writing numerous petitions for years in vain, asking to return her portion even though. And he, Vasiliy Mirovich, must be worthy his family and he must not wander in foreign flea-pits, in foreign lands and stand at attention before drunk major.

“Yes,” Mirovich said at last with a deep expiration, as if he jumped in a gulf with closed eyes and didn’t know if it was deep.

“So, listen” – a shadow from a cloud seemed to run across count’s stout red face – “Ivan Antonovich, a former emperor, emperor since infancy, had been kept in Shlisselburg fortress for many years. The empress Catherine wants to dismiss him, bring him out and release. Kind heart of the empress can’t stand this injustice, all the more so, Ivan Antonovich is her remote relative.”

“And who will dare go against her Majesty’s will, who opposes her?”

“Everybody has his enemies, she has many enemies too. Ivan Antonovich must be released under arms, guard is not big, less than twenty bayonets. You’ll have twice as many soldiers when you mount guard.”

Suddenly Mirovich felt anxious, even nails on his fingers were cold, he wasn’t afraid that everything could happen in a fight, random bullet could reach, he had a fear because people would add him an undeniable personal blame to his seeming sins.

Graph noticed Vasiliy’s hesitation and uncertainty, he kept on talking, chopping and underlining each word as if he were nailing.

“On the chance of success all your family estates, both maternal and paternal, will be returned to you. And one more. Her Majesty empress thought up great reforms. If it’s possible to fulfil these plans among all the others, reforms will be connected with Mala Rus – autonomy will be returned as it was when Czar Aleksey Mihaylovich and Bohdan Khmelnytsky were alive. Surely, Hetman will be changed. How he can be a Kosh Otaman in Zaporizhian Sich – there are only very old men among fathers, it’s enough to look at Kalnyshevskiy or Fedoriv – they are like a powder and they are moss-grown. The empress will advise Cossacks to take only young men… Friendly and free Mala Rus, as one hundred years ago, in empress’s opinion, is more profitable to us than land where Mazepas will appear in sequence.

Orlov looked at Mirovich so as if he hung on him deliberately and now it wasn’t easy for the count to bundle an intrusive visitor off; looked so as if he said crossly, “What else do you want?”

“I agree,” Mirovich answered in a cold voice like water from polynia. “But if something unforeseen happens, I’ll be a state prisoner; in this case an executioner will be my conversationalist, not you.”

Count took a sheet of paper from the table instead of answer, and held it so as to read, not giving it to Mirovich.

Vasiliy ran through the lines talking about his youth, inexperience, wrong concepts about greatness of one or other things – the empress granted him mercy. Clear signature aslant, which the whole empire knew, was unquestioned.


The empress, Orlov and Panin were talking about Turkish matters at the loo-table after dinner. Catherine II would like Grigoriy and Panin, satisfied with food and drink, to quarrel less and not to tell each other come-backs as opportunity offers – there may be many possibilities.

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