Іван Корсак - The last lover of the Empress (сторінка 11)

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       Suddenly Mirovich felt anxious, even nails on his fingers were cold, he wasn’t afraid that everything could happen in a fight, random bullet could reach, he had a fear because people would add him an undeniable personal blame to his seeming sins.

       Graph noticed Vasiliy’s hesitation and uncertainty, he kept on talking, chopping and underlining each word as if he were nailing.

       “On the chance of success all your family estates, both maternal and paternal, will be returned to you. And one more. Her Majesty empress thought up great reforms. If it’s possible to fulfil these plans among all the others, reforms will be connected with Mala Rus – autonomy will be returned as it was when Czar Aleksey Mihaylovich and Bohdan Khmelnytsky were alive. Surely, Hetman will be changed. How he can be a Kosh Otaman in Zaporizhian Sich – there are only very old men among fathers, it’s enough to look at Kalnyshevskiy or Fedoriv – they are like a powder and they are moss-grown. The empress will advise Cossacks to take only young men… Friendly and free Mala Rus, as one hundred years ago, in empress’s opinion, is more profitable to us than land where Mazepas will appear in sequence.

       Orlov looked at Mirovich so as if he hung on him deliberately and now it wasn’t easy for the count to bundle an intrusive visitor off; looked so as if he said crossly, “What else do you want?”

       “I agree,” Mirovich answered in a cold voice like water from polynia. “But if something unforeseen happens, I’ll be a state prisoner; in this case an executioner will be my conversationalist, not you.”

       Count took a sheet of paper from the table instead of answer, and held it so as to read, not giving it to Mirovich.

       Vasiliy ran through the lines talking about his youth, inexperience, wrong concepts about greatness of one or other things – the empress granted him mercy. Clear signature aslant, which the whole empire knew, was unquestioned.

 

22

 

       The empress, Orlov and Panin were talking about Turkish matters at the loo-table after dinner. Catherine II would like Grigoriy and Panin, satisfied with food and drink, to quarrel less and not to tell each other come-backs as opportunity offers – there may be many possibilities.

       “They say, Turks are pleased with Koliivshchina in Ukraine” – Orlov was skimming cards by a fan, looking for the necessary one as if Turk was hidden somewhere in a pile of cards – “malorus rebel is together with Mussulman one though he is an Orthodox…”

       “And this is Turkish fun but for French money. And their prompter has Paris pronunciation too” – Panin droned and raised his eyebrows in surprise when Catherine discarded – “Your Majesty, gambles are forbidden in Russia…”

       “Gambles mean to play for money. And we are playing for stones,” joyous, a bit sly smile passed on empress’s face – her answer was witty, and besides, she confused Panin with an unexpected, rather risky, and really venturous move.

       Some more movements – and Panin made face as if from brash, and he looked at handful of “stones” – diamonds discontentedly; empress pulled the gain towards herself.

       “Nikita Ivanovich, concerning story with Turks” – her comfort from the gain dissappeared suddenly – “a letter from a Cossack came, they wrote that Kalnyshevskiy was preparing a deputation to a Crimean khan in addition. If we don’t climb down in a dispute about boundary, he will ask khan’s drag, that is Turkish drag.”

       “It’s difficult to choose worse time” – Orlov was giving away cards knowingly, having flown over the table, they were clamping flatly as if somebody sticked them – “here is not Siberia for Kosh Otaman, it is a hanging matter.”

       “Prince, we still remember Matsievich” – the empress shook her head alertly as if she were looking back whether the metropolitan was within call – “a lier is in a safe cage but he manages to trouble people there.”

       “Maybe it’s one more Ukrainian trick” – an idea suggested itself to Panin and couldn’t be kept there and sounded aloud.

       “In my opinion it’s time for carpenters to cut a block for gallows. It would be terrible if poor Cossacks joined Turkish army consisting of half a million people” – Orlov waved his hand lubberly and cards rained on the floor – “don’t oversee!”

       “Grigoriy Grigorievich, one must brandish here not with hands, sword or rope” – Panin didn’t get used to an imprudence or hastiness – “one have to think it over very well. I see a trick in this letter: maybe they want to frighten Petersburg, maybe get out our actions, it’s necessary to weigh everything thoroughly…”

       “While weighing” – Orlov uttered a word as if he were imitating – “Kosh Otaman will get in touch with khan. And call to memory, Nikita Ivanovich, how Vygovskiy joined khan and blossom of our troops was downtrodden in mud near Konotop, only their foolishness and quarrels saved us from dangerous campaign to Moscow.”

       “Maybe simply to wait, not to let the letter go, and then something will be clear,” the empress considered aloud.

       “Your words are wise, Your Majesty” – Panin fastened upon words – “I would like to add only one thing. What if to send Kosh Otaman a letter as if from Crimean khan, to think it over thoroughly, so Kosh Otaman’s intention will be clear like an awl from a sack, and we’ll know everything from Kalnyshevskiy’s nearest encirclement.”

       “Childish device” – Orlov held his own – “old wriggler will understand the plan.”

       “If he understands, we’ll lose nothing. We checked faithfulness, or we would find other excuse.”

       “And what if to do worse – to help Cossacks to unite with Crimeans? It will be a performance, even a French can’t invent this…”

       Then the empress played only for show, Turkish vision touched her to the quick. She had been hatching for years and would be thinking over her nourished idea more thoroughly, idea which would become the most colossal myth for ages. She must confirm Voltair’s words thrown to the whole Europe: “Great man by name Catherine!” The time will come and she’ll tell everything she thinks. Because she was sure that she would come to an understanding with this strange Joseph II, the emperor of the Empire. She snaps his fingers at his tricks – he is dressed in vulgar clothes, goes by an old shabby coach, prohibits the lieges to kneel down and kiss a hand. She’ll find means how to assure Joseph, they will break to pieces Mussulman Empire together, where pashas are terribly hard-mouthed, bandits rob towns and villages – even revolted Christian lieges will help. The whole Europe will be rebuilt. They’ll create new state Dakia headed by Christian emperor in the place of Moldova, Valahiya and Bessarabia. Russia will take Ochakov and the Dnieper firth and a land between the Bug and the Dniester in addition.

       Ancient Greek monarchy will be renewed on the ruins of barbarous Mussulman state by the will of great man by name Catherine. Her grandson may be throned, for example.

       Any trick is possible for the sake of this great game, and any actions, because this game is not for these stones shining before her on the loo-table; this game is much more serious and risky.

       Meanwhile the game for stones was going to be over, the empress’s thoughts were far, Panin wasn’t lucky today, that’s why Orlov was banking diamonds from the table with badly hidden pleasure.

       The empress said to Panin, “Write, Nikita Ivanovich, write to this Zaporizhian barbate old man, letter from khan, and let’s play bo-peep a little. And then we’ll see who among us is nailed in a crown.”

 

23

 

      

       A little time passed after Kalnyshevskiy with Globa and Golovatyy wrote the report for himself to Petersburg, and Kosh Otaman visited the house of Ivan Globa. While hostesses were laying the table, men were discussing how to settle Ukrainians-escapees on lands which were still under Polish rule. A cat entered the room gravely, as a real mistress, walking under hostesses’ feet, looked around and began to chafe at feet, at Kalnyshevskiy’s feet too.

       “Your cat is calm” – Kosh Otaman surprised – “domestic, it’s not afraid of people at all.”

       “There isn’t such cat anywhere” – a host smiled darkly – “it even knows German.”

       “You are a fabler” – Kosh Otaman quackled, shaking his sides.

       “And try” – Globa was winding up – “tell some Ukrainian names of women and one German name.”

       The cat was really domestic, sat on Kalnyshevskiy’s knees without ceremonies and began to purr contentedly.

       “Pelageya, Mokrina, and Gorpina, Nadezhda” – Kosh Otaman rose to clerk’s bait and he was stroking the cat slowly, which arched with visible relish – “Marusya, Stepanida, Tecklya, Angelt-Tserbskaya…”

       At the last word the cat screamed wildly suddenly, jumped up as it were scalded, looked around, even sparks hissed in its eyes, then darted around the room, incredibly funky by something, it was darting from corner to corner like lightning, with ruffled hair and incessant screaming, at last it jumped on the table, throwing food over, then jumped into the window – a glass from the window rattled and spilled to sides.

       “I told you that it knew German” – a host scratched his head, looking at unanticipated losses of a cat.”

       Kosh Otaman only looked around in bewilderment.

       “No, it doesn’t speak German” – Globa pitied a guest – “but it smells sausage a mile away. I caught it on the wickedness of a servant; hit it as sheaf, saying “Fredericka”, “Augusta”, “Angelt”, “Tserbskaya”. So the cat thought that it would be beaten now…”

       Hostesses were laying the table again, smiling and grumbling, servant screened window with a guilty face, and a runner arrived at this time with a post.

       “Both letters are from the Crimea” – Globa began to read and explain, subsiding from time to time, deciphering the written – “this is khan’s charter. Crim-Girey writes that he can return us Chumaks and Cossacks who were led to yasyr by evil fate. But he holds us to ransom as for his own mother-in-law. And the second letter from khan’s man writes that he can help us gratuitously if he faces Bakhchisarai instead of Petersburg.”

       Kosh Otaman and Globa had been peering at this writing, almost smelling it, considering each word.

       “They are different, they seem to be written in one language, but in a different dialect” – war clerk was curling his lips and even licking his lips – “I don’t like something here.”

       “It seems to me too – a needle is hidden in this sack of words, unseen from above, but it pricks a hand” – Kosh Otaman made a long face.

       Men were twisting, twirling, everything on the table was already cold, till they discussed all problems together.

       “Send the other letter to Petersburg. But we should add a word from us, how kind and friendly we are, serve the empress faithfully,” Kosh Otaman said in the end. “I have already thought over how to release our people from captivity.”

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