Іван Корсак - The last lover of the Empress (сторінка 21)

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       Everybody ran at Pavel in the darkness, cursing and spitting in his face, they were kicking him in turn and personally; Platon was aiming at a lower part of belly, repeating mentally, “This is for taken estates to the treasury, and this is for my deportation abroad!”

       The emperor managed to curl up, covering his face with healthy hand, he was whirling on the floor, trying to avoid kicks or to ease them, because blows were raining down from all sides, deaf kicks.

       Conspirators didn’t notice in excitement that emperor stopped whirling and defending, he lost consciousness, but deaf kicks rained down on the lifeless body like a sack of potatoes.

       Platon was kicking heartily, not knowing the reason for his despite, only once reproachful thought flashed: why he did so with his beloved woman’s son, woman who he strained to his heart and petted, but he suppressed the treacherous thought as if he blew out a candle by one breath.

       They tried to raise him, but he couldn’t keep his legs, they reduced, he could keep himself only on knees. So Platon and Nikolay caught a scarf, roped the neck and compressed with might and main, pressing a knot by a knee.

       The next day stunned people heard that emperor died suddenly of apoplexy, and in fifty years publisher Suvorin would release a collection of documents “Regicide on the 2nd of March, 1801. Notes of participants and contemporaries”. The emperor’s body will be described in details, “There were many signs of violence on the body. Wide strip round the neck, heavy bruise on his temple, red spot on the hip, but no wounds made by a sharp instrument, two red scars on both thighs; significant damages to the knees and near them which proved that he was forced to kneel to make it easier to strangle him. Besides, the whole body was covered with small bruises; they may have originated from kicks after death.”

       And then it was known about a private coach, in which the son of the killed emperor, Alexander would move to Winter Palace. Witnesses were surprised why it was not a court coach, instead of two footmen there were two officers, one of them was adjutant general Uvarov. Accidental coach couldn’t get there, only by a drawbridge, and it had to carry Pavel after abdication. Then they wrote that son agreed for father’s abdication, for upheaval on condition to keep going of his father – but everybody understood that it was impossible. Herzen wrote, “Alexander let kill his father not to death.”

       Mother kept at son: depressed by the news of husband’s death, she told first: “Ich will regirien!” (I want to reign!). She even wanted to rush to the balcony to address the army which surrounded the palace, but officer F. V. Ridiger didn’t let her.

       In ten years son would put a monument to his father. When the cloth was removed from the monument, it would fall down as quick as thought in front of a huge crowd, and the rope would remain on the neck of emperor Pavel’s monument, swaying like a menacing sign.

       People would cry of this and recall metropolitan Arceniy’s prediction, “Your lovers strangled your husband, and they would strangle you too…”

 

42

 

       Chief commandant of the Reval fortress Fabius von Gizengauzen was dissatisfied on the second day of Christmas, there are already many troubles and besides, they brought Andrey the Lier, an ordinary man, nobody knew how he had  managed to mess things up. That man was old and weak, he was being brought in severe frost, so prisoner was carried into a casemate in hands.

       But von Gizengauzen knew what kind of prisoner was brought on his own responsibility and his old head. He would be punished if prisoner made up his mind and was able to fly away like a bird. They demanded a note from a doctor, who was called not in a hurry, note confirming that he wouldn’t tell anybody about mysterious prisoner.

       Guard for the old man was ordered to consist of soldiers who didn’t understand Russian.

       So Arceniy Matsievich found himself in stone cage which was treasured like an apple of eye by the major Gibner after von Gizengauzen, then by chief commandant Benkendorf.

       According to the last sentence the door of the casemate was mured, food was given through a small window. Glass was broken on the window with yellow bars, that’s why only a snow-storm could be his guest.

       But local people guessed that not simple prisoner was guarded zealously behind strong walls; authorities were afraid of him. Somebody kind managed to give prisoner a basket. And when the metropolitan didn’t receive not only clothes but food, he lowered the basket on a rope from a window, and somebody gracious put a crust of bread or water for the suffering one.

       Metropolitan didn’t see human face, didn’t hear human language, he could only listen to the bird language – happy sparrows were twittering carefree behind bars on a window sill, and once a pigeon sat with a crust of bread. It cooed, then flapped with blue-gray wings and flew away, leaving the crust – whether it wasn’t hungry and lost interest, or bread seemed to be stale and the bird couldn’t eat it. Arceniy smiled unwittingly: you see, bird from the sky, but it understood the trouble: shared its last with him…

       Metropolitan had more time than necessary to think about his life, skimming page after page like a famous and read book, and consider every page. And once Arceniy had a strange dream. It was as if he was sitting in a cosy yard of Kiev-Mohyla Academy, he was not young but old as now, and he saw that stranger with long hair falling over his shoulders again; maybe he covered the sun by himself because his silhouette shone with soft and light radiance.

       “Arceniy, did you use the gift which had been given you since        youth?” – a stranger asked.

       “Yes” – metropolitan said firm and he bowed his head sadly for some reason.

       “So why do you doubt?”

       “People listened to the warnings very little, did a lot of evil in spite of warnings and didn’t believe in inevitable punishment.”

       “Arceniy, you are wrong. You sowed good which is like an air – nobody sees it but nobody can live without it. And good doesn’t come up only today or in spring, harvest can be in years and centuries. God arranged this. Even though you are alive immured, but secular authorities did not overpower you with all its evil and wickedness, because its pride and triumph are fleeting, but the truth is for the ages.”

       Arceniy woke up, he didn’t forget his dream, and on the contrary, the stranger’s voice was in his memory. His heart felt better, there was a relief in his stunted and emaciated old body; he took a stone which turned up and trying like a schoolboy, hardly scratched three short words, “Blessing, He    humbled me”.

       And behind the window stork’s bevy was floating high in the young autumn sky. Metropolitan followed it with a long look as if he passed last greeting to native land by these tireless birds – even his father told that storks gathered in bevies to warm countries from Scandinavian countries, even from England, from Baltic Region, and fly to Volyn by invisible heavenly road, then over Pripyat, the Dnieper, fly across the sea to winter in the far southern lands, in Turkey, sometimes they even reach South Africa, where they can meet their Indian stork relatives – let the power and might not leave your work-weary wings.

       Arceniy understood that his soul wouldn’t be immured in this stone cage long.

       On the penultimate day of February 1772 metropolitan, collecting the remnants of the forces, asked the guard to call a priest.

       They broke the wall where there was a door, and rector of the Reval Church entered stone cage. He had scarcely entered when astonishment and terror swept over him: walls and ceiling were shining with a special light, and bishop was standing in the middle of the close chamber in full festive regalia, shining with unearthly radiance. Priest was impressed by silent and exciting music, sounds were pouring somewhere, they appeased, heart felt easy and relaxed, it was the church and not the church music, music of the high sky, emphasizing the futility of existence, the temporality of human vanity.

       Priest rushed back to commandant with fear and misunderstanding, and they squeezed into a stone bag together.

       But bishop in full festive regalia disappeared, walls didn’t shine with gilding, they only were covered with a green moss, unearthly music wasn’t heard – only a strolling musician was playing ancient local instrument.

A sick prisoner was lying on the prison bed instead of the bishop, dressed in worn cold clothing.

When prisoner closed his eyes after confession and communion the priest seemed to hear music not of ancient simple instrument, but another one, music which couldn’t be created by a man; world primitive colors and sounds returned, soot on the snow, accumulated during the winter, was disappearing behind a window, the sky enlightened and gained an immeasurable and boundless deep blue, smut and scale were falling off the world, not only        strings created sounds, trees, snows, birds in the high sky sounded too, even heavy and severe walls covered with mold and moss sounded – music of high heaven and of eternal and  irresistible Truth.

      

 

 

Instead of notes

Those events and facts at different times were described by…

 

***

 French Ambassador to Russia Laurent Berenger in telegram to Foreign Minister of the 23rd July 1762,

“What a picture is before the eyes of the whole nation! On the one hand, a grandson of Peter I dethroned and put to death; on the other hand, grandson of czar John, languishing in chains, while the princess Anhalt Tserbskaya usurps the crown, starting her reign with a regicide.”

 

***

K.-K. Ryuler, secretary of the French ambassador, “Revolution in 1762” (p. 68-69),

“One can not truthfully say how the empress took part in these events; but it was known that she had been very funny, sitting at the table on that very day when it happened. Suddenly the same Orlov arrived, he was disheveled, in a sweat and dust, in torn clothes, his face was troubled, full of terror and haste. Entering the room, his fast and sparkling eyes were already looking for the empress. Without saying a word, she stood up, went to a cabinet, Orlov followed her; she called count Panin in some minutes, who was appointed her minister. She told him that the emperor died and asked how to inform people. Panin advised to miss one night and to tell news the next morning as if it happened at night. Accepting the advise, the empress returned with the same face and continued to have dinner with the same joy. In the morning, when everybody knew that Peter had died from hemorrhoidal colic, she appeared with blubbered face and heralded her grief.

 

***

Letter of Catherine II to Baron Grimm,

“… half of those who are alive, or fools, or madmen; try, if you can, live with such people!”

 

***

A.    Pushkin about the reign of Catherine II,

“Catherine destroyed the title (rather the name) of slavery, but she gave away about a million of state peasants (free cultivators), and conquered free Mala Rus and Polish provinces. Catherine destroyed inquisition, but secret office  prospered under her patriarchal rule; Catherine liked education, but Novikov, spreading its first rays, moved from Sheshkovskiy to prison where he was kept up to his death. Radishchev was exiled to Siberia…”

 

***

Alexander Pushkin characterizes Catherine II,

 “Voice of betrayed Voltaire will not save her from the curse of Russia.”

“The very sensuality of this sly woman claimed her dominion. Producing a faint murmur among the people, who used to respect vices of their rulers, it caused nasty competition in higher states, because neither intelligence, nor deserts or talent were necessary to achieve the second place in the state.”

 

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