The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Arceniy began to free his ax out of the billet, twitching an ax-handle silently; at last he managed to do it and followed Naryshkin without saying a word.

It was clear that prosecutor knew Matsievich’s life in the monastery very well.

“Did you say that previous emperors and czars had given Church different riches? Now one couldn’t hope for the honours, he could be even robbed. They had taken away even ornaments in Yaroslavl?” Naryshkin was looking at the paper, sticking, as if he were reading the written very carefully or didn’t want to look at metropolitan.

“God knows it’s harsh truth.”

“Even Turks award their mosques, but there is Sodom and Gomorrah in Russia.” Are these words yours?”

“An angel will come down from heaven on the last day – and the enemy of the Church won’t hide.”

“Did you tell a watchman Alekseevskiy that nobility forgot their ancestors who had given monasteries lands and that now nobility was robbing?”

“Only holy heaven know the truth.”

“At present courtiers, greedy for church property, clapped on that bad decree to the empress, because she didn’t know Russian laws and life, then she signed it blindly…” Do you affirm that it is true?” Naryshkin had his eyes glued to the paper as if they were sticked there.

“Who has ears let he hear what Spirit tells Churches…”

“How cunning he is, he is hiding behind the Revelation,” Naryshkin’s thought was buzzing as angry and annoyed wasp. Arceniy is not only a rebel himself but he gives the others unreasonable expectations. Archimandrite Anthony believed in this old prisoner’s chatter and comforted among monks, “There will be changes on the emperor’s throne. Arceniy will be dismissed, he will become a pontiff again, property will be given back to monasteries and Arceniy will take me with him.” And archimandrite was pleased with talks among clergy, that Synod took place with the violation of indigenous rights, that’s why the metropolitan wasn’t actually defrocked and everything ended in ordinary disguise. God took the mind away of the heartless judges at that moment.

Everything was written in prosecutorial papers and Matsievich finished with excuses in vain, he didn’t know that there were interrogatories, when drunkard deacon Lebedev gave denunciation, at that moment Antoniy denied him and in addition he told at the inquest as Arceniy accused the Holy Synod.

“Didn’t you tell about Synod, didn’t you insult it?”

“No, I didn’t, I told only that I wrote to Synod, being a bishop, so as to stand before the Judgement safely. And Synod explained my thoughts wrong, that’s why I would plead with him at the Judgement,” Arceniy shook his head, his back hurt because he he had been cutting the jag of wood for the whole day.

It was difficult for him to stand; pain was worse, now he felt as if he lay with his back on bare-heated oven.

At last Arceniy took out a copper coin from his pocket and put it on prosecutorial papers.

“You give alms? Me?!” – Naryshkin’s face turned pale, he banged his hand on the table hammer and tongs, there was even a pat under ringing set of ancient monastic cells – “I’m a prosecutor but not a beggar!”

Arceniy only shook his head sadly. In his vision he saw Naryshkin and people who were bowing him ingratiatingly, because he became a great superior, proprietor of state plants, he saw as if Naryshkin was being examined, because he spent much money, as if he were imprisoned in the castle, and had only five copecks a day – he would never have more.

The metropolitan told quietly, “Take it, you will see you need it.”

Annoyed Naryshkin was looking for facts about Arceniy even harder, examining monks, world monastery servants, he closed them in cells for several days without water and food “to think and remember.” And he found so much that the empress gave this case immediately to an Attorney-General Vyasemskiy.

“Learn, if there are particularly robust casemate for this liar in Vyborg, Narva or Reval” – the empress ordered and she was pleased with the casual word – “name him the Liar and nobody will know the other name. Nobody will have right to know…”


In autumn 1770 crows were circling over Moscow, and their evil cry under high lead clouds was curdling the blood of frightened Muscovites.

While the bands of loud balls were ringing about bigger or smaller victory in Turkish war in Saint-Petersburg, an invisible enemy, for whom there weren’t any barriers, penetrated into almost every home of Moscow – plague entered the town unexpectedly and decimated the population as mature grass.

Doctors and scientists sent urgent dispatches to Petersburg, asked what to do to stop epidemic, but those dispatches were left in the offices, went from one table to another; one of fortune-tellers advised to make a fire to smudge a trouble – and those black smokes in shaky columns were rising up over Moscow as enigmatic and illusive forest.

Disease began in General overland hospital, among those who returned from Turkish attack, then moved to Sukonniy yard. Governance couldn’t isolate workers from Sukonniy yard; fearful people were running away, preading plague in the town.

A boy from the Strahovs family brought a note with a number of dead people every day, that’s why people opened windows, seeing crimson coat with blue collar of small messenger and were asking anxiously.

“Hey, boy, how many?”

“Six hundred!”

“How many, how many?”

“Six hundred!” the boy cried again and the inhabitants crossed themselves gladly, “Thanks God, thanks God…”

People hoped for grateful sign, because yesterday the same boy in crimson coat answered, “Eight hundred!”

One could hardly take away bodies covered with black and green thick flies, that’s why crows got used to it and were not afraid of people. Superintendent ordered to dismiss criminals from prisons and to create brigades responsible for burial – those criminals robbed poor people at the same time. Members of those brigades, in masks and greased coats, were pulling bodies with hooks like blocks, threw them on carts, brought them out of the town or threw them there in pits, broke into houses and pulled alive people to isolation – Muscovites hid the sick not let healthy men get into isolation, because they could only die there. General Governor count Saltykov left Moscow and ran to village Marphino as if from the fire, officers went after him, noblemen, clerks were running away. Eleven months later, after the beginning of the epidemic, the empress Catherine sent prince Grigoriy Orlov, General-in-chief with wide latitudes, general and her favourite to Moscow.

There was a phobia of fear. And spreading rumours were quick too in this period of human grief.

There were talks, “The icon of Bogolub Our Lady near Varvar Gates will save us!”

All people went there, elbowing and swearing, they had hopes for the last save. People were touching the icon, gave expensive contributions, read devotions at prayers served by impersonal celebrants who appeared immediately and didn’t have right to do it without pontiff’s blessing.

New trouble burst out and flamed like a fire at the harvest time. That icon was ordered to be taken to the Church of John and Kir by somebody to stop plague, and priests had to be brought to ecclesiastic command. Annoyed people defended priests by force, and soldiers tried to take away the chest with contributions.

The bells were ringing anxiously near Spass Gates and their sounds were floating over frightened Moscow streets.

“They rob Our Lady!” this cry raised thousands of people, some of them grabbed oak pile, the others took any stones they saw.

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