The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Korsakov read many pages, he was even reeling when he left the bedroom, but then he surprised at the world which changed during one night: valet who was talking down to him yesterday, today was bowing creepingly, leading him to his suite of rooms.

Only once Korsakov was quivering. He had scarce found himself in new apartments as Petersburg metropolitan entered. “They may have decided to kill me if lord came to unction?” – Sinister suspicion flashed shackled body as tetanus. But lord began to sanctify the premises and he sprinkled Korsakov with holy water, removing his eyes, muttered a prayer under his breath, and he was sprinkling largely, even Korsakov could not restrain himself and wiped his moist forehead with a sleeve.

“Her emperor’s majesty” – Zahariy didn’t stumble to tell – “condescended to appoint you as adjutant and gives you one hundred thousand roubles as the first pocket-money.”

And he gave adjutant’s uniform with a diamond agraphia.

Now Korsakov had an honour to walk with the empress arm-in-arm in the Hermitage in winter and in Czar Village in summer. The most senior government officials, who were busy on the personal and public issues, were awaiting his attention in the waiting room patiently; they came with greeting and bounties.

“And everything is for one night” – one could think.

Korsakov was wrong, simply he was lucky, because his successors had to pass exam, besides Protasova, countess Brus, Perekusiha and Utochkina.


People in the Secret Expedition hesitated, whether to report this news to empress. On the one hand, it was tempting, you could earn high praise: everybody knew in Expedition. But on the other hand one could have trouble, especially if to meet a bad mood. “And what are you doing? Why do you eat state bread?”

At last they risked and reported that metropolitan Arceniy was feted in Zabaikal no less than in Rostov and Yaroslavl, in his former dioceses.

There were rumours that metropolitan was brought to Irkutsk, kept in Ascension Monastery, then conveyed behind Baikal, to Troitskoye, then secretly to Nerchinsk untill there was a rescript to bring him back to Russia. Arceniy fell ill on the way and in one hundred and seventy miles from Verhneudinsk he asked a soldier to stop near the lake. The metropolitan washed there, put on fresh shirt, he threw away the old one, and he was praying on his knees long.

Then he presented the soldier with a prayer book, signed personally, and a silver rouble.

“I won’t reach Verhneudinsk,” metropolitan said. “I’ll die soon and remember monk Arceniy and bury at the place where the horses stop.”

So it happened. The metropolitan came in Verhneudinsk, being already dead, coffin with his body was placed in the Church of the Transfiguration. But they had fear to bury this important prisoner without high permission, sent messengers to the bishop and the governor.

The servant of God Arceniy had been lying for twenty five days, and in spite of a heat his body wasn’t spoiled, it was imperishable, and people told that many wonders had happened at that time.

One night the church bells rang in alarm as during the fire.

“The church is burning!” – Frightened people were running with pails and shovels.

They came running – but there was nothing, silence in the church and round.

“It’s curiosity” – parishioners were surprised – “but we heard with our own ears…”

Suddenly somebody shouted in alarm, “And look, look up!”

All raised heads and began to cross themselves: a new dawn shone high above the belfry, nobody had seen this before.

“The metropolitan’s soul blesses us” – they were talking – “this man, metropolitan Arceniy was really saint…”

He was buried at the cemetry, on the mountain, near a cross; this mountain is in Troitsa, in Zabaikal, on the way to Nerchinsk. And now people gather there, read prayers and memorial services, many pilgrims come there… And they tell that dawn goes up at a lovely night, the same one that was seen above the belfry of the Church of the Transfiguration, and the candle lits on the grave.

…The empress neither thanked nor scolded servants of the Secret Expedition. She only had been thinking for a long time: she had almost won the metropolitan, exiled to an incredible distance, and he is among people again. The empress surprised, she had great forces, the army and hundred of thousands soldiers, numerous cannons, not to mention muskets, and, besides, great number of policemen together with the Secret Expedition, and Arceniy didn’t have even a censer – and she couldn’t win him?!

She is the empress Catherine II, and not simply the second but Catherine the Great. Already in the first year of ruling the Senate is discussing the creation of a monument to her and conferment of the title of “Mother of Motherland”. Let the senators are not very sincere, and not always, but this was. Less than four years passed when she was announced Catherine the Great. She knows how to act with Voltaire, she can propitiate Diderot – she bought his library and gave it him back for storage, paid Diderot fifty years ahead. Now philosopher and famous writer must tell in all European crossroads about her wisdom and education, and Voltaire would even call her “Our Lady of St. Petersburg”. And nobody would guess that her numerous letters to Voltaire, depth of thought and elegance of style of which was admired in many capitals, in fact were written by count Andrey Shuvalov, because she knew well neither Russian nor French… And Hrapovitskiy would write all necessary documents in Russian instead of her.

She, the empress Catherine the Great, can remake European map as an old shabby kaftan, make a seat for her John wittily of royal throne of proud Poland.

She is Catherine the Great, but who is this Arceniy, this Lier? What is the secret of his unconquerable force?

Something is wrong here in nature – the empress thought.

She strung thought by thought on a logical thread as a necklace of small beads, but nothing came to hand somehow: now the hole in beads was too small, now thread twisted and sometimes tore treacherously, and then the whole necklace was torn…


Chief of Police Tolstoy had to acquaint newcomers with the court at a reception of the presentation of credentials.

“Who is this handsome man with a scar across the face?” diplomats asked, trying to find their way around.

“Prince Aleksey Orlov, influential statesman, the old pillar of the throne.”

“And this must be Potyomkin, whose eye is tied up with a black ribbon?”

“Yes, the empress relies on him especially, and you must have heard about the talant of general youselves.”

“Their faces are so fearless; they must have suffered injury in battles…”

“Oh, of course” – stamina never left Tolstoy, all the more so in difficult state affairs.

“And who is that fair tall officer, standing a little aloof?”

“His surname is Lanskoy, little-known newcomer.”

Chief of Police kept on satisfying the curiosity of arrivals, telling or introducing famous court, but the empress called Tolstoy and ordered to introduce her handsome newcomer at the court, an officer.

“Lanskoy, Your Majesty,” he said his surname and title and blushed as if he were asked something disgraceful.

Fair husky with clumsy manners and modesty of a teenage girl stroke the empress’s eye, she hadn’t had such man before.

After the meeting life twisted Lanskoy by such abrupt and unexpected twists, that he didn’t have time to look back at those turnings. Court physician tapped him as a pecker tapped dry wood, long and weary, Lanskoy had been swinging on Perekusiha for three nights, in the end he was nearly sick, but restrained, then he passed exam of two maids of honor, they were younger, till Perekusiha brought him to the empress’s bedroom to read the book.

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