The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“Even his name is not allowed to tell.”

“Only not to forget to amuse with you funny news” – Novikov took out a letter and gave it to Radishchev – “if a reader, loyal to the throne, awarded you with a bunch of letters with a brief assessment “Lies” for the publication in the fifth issue of “Painter”, they received a promotion in the eyes of sycophants after the fourteenth issue – a Kazan landowner is looking for you to duel. Isn’t it ghastly?”

Radishchev scanned a few lines, where there were not many fresh thoughts, except for some curses of the author, twisted the letter in the hands, not knowing what to do with it, and handed it back to Novikov.

“I have three small children, I’m afraid very much. Sin is for those who knows and remains silent.”

“And those who don’t remain” – Novikov smiled bitterly – “they will get Shlisselburg, Siberia, or poison. You only notice: no Russian, I underline, Russian artist, has risen with her to the top, no poet or architect, the empress needs only the others, and only as a decoration, one more stone on the brooch. My friend, the French historian, said frankly, “Michelangelo would not have survived more than three weeks at the court of Catherine.”

How can Novikov know that expert of the time, Polish historian Kazimierz Waliszewski, Doctor of Laws, who went through the archives of Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna very carefully and would quote it almost verbatim, “In general, national art is obliged to Catherine only with some models of the Hermitage, which served for the study and imitation of Russian artists. And apart from these models, she did not give him anything, even a piece of bread.”

Suddenly Novikov recalled something and began to rustle his newspapers and magazines.

“I’d like to show you, read aloud” – he gave an issue of “St. Petersburg News”.

“Adult girl” – Radishchev was reading – “who can sew, wash, iron, cook, is sold. Light used hearse is for sale too. Family of people is sold at bargain prices: husband, a skillful tailor, his wife, a cook, a daughter at the age of fifteen, a good seamstress, as well as two children of 8 and 3 years.”

Radishchev gave Novikov the newspaper.

“What of,” he asked. “Will anybody change orders in this country?”

Radishchev rubbed his eyes with his hand – the type was too small for him.

“I can not deny. Why to invent manufactories as in England when people can earn easier here: one “sold a girl at bargain price” – and received fresh money.”

“You see” – Novikov folded brought editions – “I talked with the courtiers a lot, preparing historical materials. There were different people, envious, honest, so somebody calculated that the empress had spent more than ninety million rubles only for the first dozen lovers – apart from serfs, donated castles and other things. Catherine II mounted the throne when Russian budget didn’t reach even seventeen million. So, how many years must Russia work for the vagina of German-empress?”

Radishchev took out a sheet of paper as in an answer, and gave Novikov: “For the comparison with lovers look at concern for our spiritual. This is not a secret, good friends gave me to rewrite.”

Novikov looked through the list written in small letters.

“According to papers it is necessary to issue:

1) for St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Moscow departments with the cathedrals – 39,410 rubles;

2) for second-class (8 departments) – 5,000 (2,600 – for bishop personally);

3) for third-class (15 departments) – 4,232 and 20 copecks (1,800 – for bishop personally);

4) for Trinity-Sergius Lavra Monastery and all monasteries – 174,650 and 40 copecks;

5) for all convents – 33,000 rubles;

6) for 22 churches, not cathedral – 2,530 rubles;

7) for the whole clergy – 365,203 rubles.”

“She doesn’t pity a foreign nation, a foreign country and faith.”

They were talking long, thought over editorial intentions and Novikov’s offer to issue full “Journey from Petersburg to Moscow” in his printing-house. They would hope, not knowing, of course, how far and hard the way to this was.

Black coach would approach Radishchev’s house in the dull morning, two barbate noncommissioned officers jumped out quickly. They turned everything upside down in the house of Alexander Nikolaevich, looking for sedition, in front of four small orphans’ eyes (mother has already died), of children slamming with frightened eyes from the corners. They didn’t find what they needed and arrested father.

Sheshkovskiy interrogated Radishchev personally.

Stepan Ivanovich put the candle so as to see Radishchev’s face, to see every muscle in twinkling light, the smallest movement of thought, which could manifest itself inevitably in good interrogation.

“Why this lampoon is written? Tell truth, our empress’s heart is kind, she appreciates the sincerity of the human, and she will gift you with a weasel…”

“I prepared this “Journey” only because of the writer’s ambition. It’s not a lampoon, but probation of my pen.”

“You encourage slaves to revenge their masters. Do you call this writer’s work?” – Sheshkovskiy spoke gently in interrogation, sometimes fondly on the surface.

“I think troubles of man are caused by the man himself. If he could impartially look at himself, look inside himself it would be otherwise in the world” – Alexander Nikolaevich tried to talk slowly, choosing his words carefully, as if he were sifting them, because Sheshkovskiy had a talent to make a clutch at said cautiously, as with pinchers – “I don’t think that nature is mean to a man, that it hid the truth – a man is born kind. I wanted to explain it, maybe, I’m wrong, but I don’t have other thoughts.”

Radishchev was looking into Sheshkovskiy’s eyes and surprised at human effrontery, incredible for him, still vast: sister-in-law, who brings up orphans now, brought together all the family jewels and gave Sheshkovskiy, he thanked and gave his best regards; and now he is before him, looking into Radishchev’s eyes so innocent, sincerely and naively… “Is it possible to learn, can it be so, without blinking?” – During words play – Alexander Nikolaevich was surprised.

That sac with jewels drowned then in the bottomless pocket of Sheshkovskiy’s robe, tingling softly, that sac saved Radishchev from inquisition, but it didn’t change the punishment.

“For encroachment on the health of the empress, conspiracy and treason, belittling the proper respecting of authorities… capital sentence” – the judge of criminal department would read a long list of writer’s defaults. As there were very few articles of “Criminal laws”, he would recite also articles of “Military regulations”, breathing from time to time, and even would add something from “Maritime Rules”.

Sentence was passed on the 24th of July, and Radishchev, expecting the military execution in a condemned cell, tried to finish the long-conceived work in a hurry. He wrote about Philaret the Merciful, and projected in his time and his circumstances. Saint Philaret, a real person, historians proved his life; he was very faithful and did well. He gave the poor the last measure of wheat, and God returned him forty times more, as if by chance, he handed out everything, but he got much more – czarina was looking for a bride for future emperor Konstantin, and ambassador came to him. He didn’t have anything to treat, but kind neighbours brought what-not and there was a real spread, he shared his last with beggary though, there weren’t any bread-crumbs in the house, and he got more – Philaret’s granddaughter became the wife of an all-powerful and passing rich emperor. Why don’t his contemporaries, those who are on the throne and near throne, believe and do so as Philaret?

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