The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“I believe he must be mine” – Sheshkovskiy smiled amiably and gaily.

…The trial drew to a close and the day of metropolitan’s unfrocking was appointed. Although there wasn’t any information about it, people were going to Kremlin and Synod like a flow, such solid and disobedient that even double bands couldn’t be a barrier for them.

“They are bringing him! Bringing him!” – The crowd cried seeing Arceniy among soldiers’ coats.

He was going slowly in full canonicals, on the stones, which seemed to be hot even through soles and sulk soldiers were cleaning the way with butts.

He was going, dressed in pontiff cloak, in omoforion and white hood with panagias on his breast, he had a crosier in his hand, but he was going not as doomed slave but with a dignity of metropolitan who was ready for the trial. The sky, covered with clouds, parted for a moment, and metropolitan’s canonicals shone suddenly in the sun, flashing yellow on the faces of silent and frightened people; somebody threw him some blossoming willow branches, some willow buds – metropolitan even stopped for a minute to look at a dare-devil but he was pushed in the back and the soldier on the right clubbed the last in the crowd without looking for causers but simply for order.

Dimitriy was the first who came up to Arceniy in the trial and spread trembling hands to him.

“What a sadness, Dimitriy” – Arceniy moved away and began to take off his hood in spirit praying.

“Your arch and fawning tongue leads you to trouble – that arch tongue will smother you and you will die from it.”

Pontiff Amvrosiy came, casting down his eyes to take off an omoforion.

“Where are you going, Amvrosiy?” the metropolitan asked again with sadness taking off his omoforion himself. “You ate with me at the same table, bread from the same knife, so you would be sticked with the knife as an ox.”

Petersburg Gavriil had to take away the crosier, but Arceniy took it himself from crosier-keeper Zlatoustov and passed to Gavriil.

“You forgot what a pontiff must be” – the metropolitan was looking over his head as if the pontiff’s fate were written there in the space and it was necessary only to read it attentively and deliberately – “your rival will strangle you for your Herodias, because you judged me faint-heartedly, dancing with it.”

Gedeon had to take off a mantle.

“Sorry for your young years” – Arceniy only breathed – “you will no longer see your throne.”

Misail had to do the last thing – to remove the metropolitan’s cowl.

“You baked your bitter bread prepared for me very quickly” – Arceniy said hushfully and tirely – “don’t you see that you will roast yourself like bread in the oven?”

There was silence as at the cemetery and nobody could break it till everybody heard low sobbing and all turned their heads towards it. This was Moscow Timophey, he couldn’t bear, his eyes streamed tears, tears were running on his old wrinkly and grey face, his face was like a southern land, chappy with oppressive heat and unable to absorb water.

“You see, he is crazy!” – Orlov leaned to Glebov and Sheshkovskiy and he was whispering discomposedly as if leaves were whispering in late autumn forest. – “he must be locked up or closed at best as monk Luka and detained.”

Arceniy couldn’t hear that whisper, dignitaries were sitting too far, but he heard by the other voice and the most passionate and hot-headed metropolitan turned to Orlov abruptly.

“And you, count, will have to crown those whose blood is on your hands. And I’m not crazy but your brother will finish his life in an insane asylum for his evil deeds.”

“How dare he!” – The empress turned white with anger, her temper ran away with her, she clasped her fists so strongly that nails were pressed on her palms – “and this is told near the Church!”

Arceniy turned to her and he was looking at her for a long time, reproachfully and sadly, he was looking at the woman who was an arbiter for thousands of people, who had an opportunity to change countries and the future of peoples reluctantly and playing, people were trembling before this woman even more than the most terrible penitent before the icon.

“And your Majesty will meet your killed husband… But you won’t die by Christian” – the metropolitan shook his head – “and you will die without confession in the scrapyard… Your lovers strangled your husband; they will strangle your son too. You fucked up the temple youself and it will fall…”

There was silence as at the cemetery again, nobody could even move of fear. It seemed that there were not people but simply waxworks in the court, only shades from numerous candles were shining on stiff and fixed faces.

The empress came to herself first, she was pale as from the moonlight, and she closed her ears with hands and cried in a gruff unknown voice, “Gag him!”

The shadow of scaffold appeared like an evil twinkle and it was blinking in everybody’s eyes.


Orlov made efforts to pull in when the metropolitan predicted the coronation of the killed emperor. Count set his teeth so that they scraped like a runner on a frozen snow: first the death of the emperor Peter I was reminded him in public, and he was accused of murder. How dare this worthless metropolitan, who is an ordinary defrocked and very old monk, say this him, whose name and whose brother’s name means almost the same as the empress’s name on the vast of empire? And what can this monk understand in real imperial interests of Russia… Such state didn’t need stupid emperor, drinker from ten-year old age who could only play at soldiers. Orlov believed firmly that the empress Catherine II was able to develop the power of Russian land, to enhance its territory for account of weak deam purlieus that couldn’t help themselves. He was sure that the secret of that repast would disappear together with this generation and if it arose incidentally, then clever people would appreciate his ingenuity and associating for the sake of Russian future.

Everything was prepared quickly but well-thought. The first note as a document on emergence was short not to suspect future empress, “Mother dear Empress, we all wish you health… Our monster is ill… Lest he should die today.”

Aleksey Orlov with light smiling face and the celebrity guests came in the house where arrested emperor Peter III was kept.

“We brought nice news” – the guests told the prisoner immediately – “you will soon be released.”

Peter III was invited to the repast about an expected freedom. They all were joking, laughing, valet Bressan was outside the door at the moment, and insensibly for the emperor Orlov he poured poison, prepared before by their doctor, into a goblet.

After the first goblet the second one was poured but Peter III began to guess because of a sudden, strong pain.

The cramped emperor said, “They kept me out of Swedish throne, stole my Russian crown, in addition they want to take my life.”

At that moment there wasn’t any need to play bo-peep: they all sprang at the emperor and began to strangle him with a pillow. He fought desperately, but poison was taking away his forces inexorably. Quickwitted Baratynskiy made a loop of napkins and slipped the noose around the emperor’s neck. Peter Fedorovich tried to free, but it was in vain, they firmly grabbed his arms and legs, and quard sergeant Engelgardt tightened the noose around Peter’s neck.

Emperor’s body jerked several times, defying death, went limp immediately and was quiet for ever.

“Horses!” Orlov cried, poured one fuller goblet and began to write on grey and dirty sheet of paper, which turned up, “Mother, Gracious Majesty! How can I explain, describe what happened. You won’t believe your faithful slave but I say as before God. Mother, prepare me to die. I can’t understand how this grief happened. We’ll die if you don’t have mercy on us. Mother, he isn’t alive. Nobody planned this, nobody thought to lay hands on the emperor, but it happened, we were drunk, he too, he began to argue with prince Fedor at the table, we couldn’t set them apart and it happened, we didn’t remember what we were doing but we all were quilty – all are worthy of punishment. Have mercy on me for the sake of brother; I confessed everything and there is nothing to find out – forgive or order to kill sooner, light is not nice, we angered you and destroyed our souls forever!”

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