The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Alarming roar went up in the neighboring apartments, all were running out, one were hasting to save, others were on tiptoe with curiosity and no one cared about her – husband was hasting to the fire too, because half of Petersburg could turn into ashes from the fire.

Soon Vasiliy Sckurin appeared at the doorstep again.

“It’s clear where he ran” – happy conjecture flashed with lightning at the pregnant woman, which took off with the soul stone – “the butler burnt his house.”

“Everything is good” – the teeth were shining on sooty face – “now I’m homeless…”

Fortunately, she quickly gave birth, baby was washed with warm water and wrapped in beaver fur coat very quickly.

“What about baby’s name?” unwashed and shining Sckurin asked.

“Let he be count Bobrinskiy, then we’ll think about the name,” she joked, calm in the heart and body.

When husband returned to the palace the baby was being brought to a reliable cache.

It was differently with Ponyatovskiy. She liked count Ponyatovskiy at one of the balls, he was dancing with elegance and knowingly, the wave of music raised her with count and moved down fluently. Besides, Ponyatovskiy always was very witty, funny a little, always cheerful.

In the evening Catherine secretly dressed in men’s clothing, and slipped to the back door of the palace gently, on tiptoe.

The coach of Ponyatovskiy’s friend, Naryshkin, prepared before, promptly yanked from the place and raced in the rattling pavement to the count’s apartment.

Next night secret procession in the apartments passed again insinuatingly, the silent servants turned aside and prefered not to see a rattling coach on sleeping empty streets again, otherwise no end of trouble.

Ultimately, the lovers stopped behaving in a cat-and-mouse way, Ponyatovskiy and Catherine began to meet in public, then he stayed at night in her bedroom in the Oraniembaum palace.

But one morning guardsmen stopped his way when he was leaving the bedroom.

“You are arrested,” the officers reported without preambles and explanations, and they took him into the basement.

They managed to settle a scandal for a wonder. Catherine bore Ponyatovskiy a daughter Anna, as like her father as two peas. The baby was too weak, she had been living for two years and one night sobbed quietly and died.

Mother was mourning briefly; a new passion captured her heart.

… The empress wasn’t offended by the words of Arceniy Matsievich about lovers – what can you wait from an old man? And what can he know about love passions? There was another offence stinging her as if somebody threw a peace of coal into her collar, offence was burning and inexcusable.

8

Arceniy tried to reproach himself with imprudence in the break, but he couldn’t. He told pastors bitter words not of despite, revenge or desires to frighten somebody, he wanted to keep them out of trouble, to admonish and anticipate. Because he really saw in his dream as quick horses were bringing Gedeon to Pskov so that even manes were flying in the wind; suddenly cabman stopped them and they stopped almost on end and limp Gedeon clutched his heart instantly. And he saw that furious men and women flocked him round and grabbed weak Amvrosiy, the knife shone over him avidly… Arceniy saw the fire, as through the window glass, forks of flame were licking the stones, and there was a face in the fire which looked like Misail’s face.

No, he didn’t invent the story; he described only what he had seen without adding anything.

He wanted to stop the way spreading the hands as for an easy-going child who was running and who didn’t see a gulf before him, he begged and asked – but in vain.

And Arceniy had nothing to stop them, only the word.

The metropolitan understood what his words would mean for him in the court. But he didn’t pity and reproach himself, because insincerity and archness (silence is often only a weak part of it) truly are born of the devil. And Arceniy wasn’t able to try on these weak clothes even when mortal danger was looming over him like a bluish thunder-cloud.

Swearing underage emperor Ivan Antonovich in 1740, he refused flatly to swear his mother-regent. On formidable demands to explain the reason he answered openly by prayer, “I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins…”

Mother-regent was a Protestant.

But for the upheaval then scaffold would wait for him.

Arceniy, as a participant of the second Bering’s expedition to Kamchatka, happened to deal with his captain who was stubborn and obstinate and didn’t accepted any disobedience. On that day they had to put out to sea at dawn, cloudless sky favoured, but vague anxiety seized him, something invisible restrained him.

“We shouldn’t set sail now,” he said to the captain.

Stocky captain looked at the priest as if he was a small annoying bug and nobody knew where this bug came from.

“Who is captain here?” he asked in such a voice after which everybody in the expedition usually expected outbreak of headlong anger.

“You won’t put out to sea at least till noon,” father Arceniy stood across the ladder.

Light splashing of water on the shore stones was heard in evil and tense silence.

“If you interfere in the afternoon, I’ll shoot you,” captain’s brown face turned purple.

In an hour a small cloud appeared suddenly on absolutly cloudless sky, it was running up, swelling, became severer, then half of the sky was already covered, and the sky wasn’t seen at last, fitful wind turned to storm which became global mistress, piping and howling; it seemed as if flurried and bitchy sky fell on the earth and was roaring like a strange unknown beast, shore stones were rolling like a thunder before a harvest. Only the smallest blade of grass seemed to be able to save in this terrible gulf.

The storm, which appeared so suddenly, became weaker, the worst of the storm was over and it died at last in the afternoon.

The ship really started in the afternoon and the priest of the expedition didn’t have conflicts with captain any more.

Being already Tobolsk metropolitan, Arceniy met those who from their own tops looked proudly at pastors’ matters, and did their best the clerks agree with every turn of officers. On the last day of February, in 1742 the representatives of Siberian power were wide-eyed, their eyes were as round as saucers when they had read the new metropolitan’s decree. This had never been as Arceniy ordered: “ecclesiastics and churchmen can’t plead the world trial without their bishops on penalty of overthrow of Antioch cathedral according to the rule number 11.”

The metropolitan thought that Christianity outstayed when apostles were excruciated, crucified, when martyrs of belief were thrown into the cage with lions, who were roaring with hunger and licking greedily waiting for the victim. So now Christianity would outstay and keep contumacy to the world sinful power. The metropolitan confirmed his words by new circular letter in response to dignitaries’ complaints in June to save pastors: the metropolitan “ordered that none of the clergy would listen to the decrees sent by world command without permission of their clerkly command and if somebody from the world command brought clergy to trial violently, without clerkly command, to ask about evidence, to send decrees, they would soon receive particular written protests…”

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