The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“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.

22

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.

“They say, Turks are pleased with Koliivshchina in Ukraine” – Orlov was skimming cards by a fan, looking for the necessary one as if Turk was hidden somewhere in a pile of cards – “malorus rebel is together with Mussulman one though he is an Orthodox…”

“And this is Turkish fun but for French money. And their prompter has Paris pronunciation too” – Panin droned and raised his eyebrows in surprise when Catherine discarded – “Your Majesty, gambles are forbidden in Russia…”

“Gambles mean to play for money. And we are playing for stones,” joyous, a bit sly smile passed on empress’s face – her answer was witty, and besides, she confused Panin with an unexpected, rather risky, and really venturous move.

Some more movements – and Panin made face as if from brash, and he looked at handful of “stones” – diamonds discontentedly; empress pulled the gain towards herself.

“Nikita Ivanovich, concerning story with Turks” – her comfort from the gain dissappeared suddenly – “a letter from a Cossack came, they wrote that Kalnyshevskiy was preparing a deputation to a Crimean khan in addition. If we don’t climb down in a dispute about boundary, he will ask khan’s drag, that is Turkish drag.”

“It’s difficult to choose worse time” – Orlov was giving away cards knowingly, having flown over the table, they were clamping flatly as if somebody sticked them – “here is not Siberia for Kosh Otaman, it is a hanging matter.”

“Prince, we still remember Matsievich” – the empress shook her head alertly as if she were looking back whether the metropolitan was within call – “a lier is in a safe cage but he manages to trouble people there.”

“Maybe it’s one more Ukrainian trick” – an idea suggested itself to Panin and couldn’t be kept there and sounded aloud.

“In my opinion it’s time for carpenters to cut a block for gallows. It would be terrible if poor Cossacks joined Turkish army consisting of half a million people” – Orlov waved his hand lubberly and cards rained on the floor – “don’t oversee!”

“Grigoriy Grigorievich, one must brandish here not with hands, sword or rope” – Panin didn’t get used to an imprudence or hastiness – “one have to think it over very well. I see a trick in this letter: maybe they want to frighten Petersburg, maybe get out our actions, it’s necessary to weigh everything thoroughly…”

“While weighing” – Orlov uttered a word as if he were imitating – “Kosh Otaman will get in touch with khan. And call to memory, Nikita Ivanovich, how Vygovskiy joined khan and blossom of our troops was downtrodden in mud near Konotop, only their foolishness and quarrels saved us from dangerous campaign to Moscow.”

“Maybe simply to wait, not to let the letter go, and then something will be clear,” the empress considered aloud.

“Your words are wise, Your Majesty” – Panin fastened upon words – “I would like to add only one thing. What if to send Kosh Otaman a letter as if from Crimean khan, to think it over thoroughly, so Kosh Otaman’s intention will be clear like an awl from a sack, and we’ll know everything from Kalnyshevskiy’s nearest encirclement.”

“Childish device” – Orlov held his own – “old wriggler will understand the plan.”

“If he understands, we’ll lose nothing. We checked faithfulness, or we would find other excuse.”

“And what if to do worse – to help Cossacks to unite with Crimeans? It will be a performance, even a French can’t invent this…”

Then the empress played only for show, Turkish vision touched her to the quick. She had been hatching for years and would be thinking over her nourished idea more thoroughly, idea which would become the most colossal myth for ages. She must confirm Voltair’s words thrown to the whole Europe: “Great man by name Catherine!” The time will come and she’ll tell everything she thinks. Because she was sure that she would come to an understanding with this strange Joseph II, the emperor of the Empire. She snaps his fingers at his tricks – he is dressed in vulgar clothes, goes by an old shabby coach, prohibits the lieges to kneel down and kiss a hand. She’ll find means how to assure Joseph, they will break to pieces Mussulman Empire together, where pashas are terribly hard-mouthed, bandits rob towns and villages – even revolted Christian lieges will help. The whole Europe will be rebuilt. They’ll create new state Dakia headed by Christian emperor in the place of Moldova, Valahiya and Bessarabia. Russia will take Ochakov and the Dnieper firth and a land between the Bug and the Dniester in addition.

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