Іван Корсак - The last lover of the Empress (сторінка 5)

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       Synod was happy with retirement of Arceniy and prepared a report for the empress. But Elizabeth did not approve of the report in vain.

       Meeting with Kalnishevskiy, news from native land warmed the Lord’s heart. But it was the last meeting – not destined to be more…

 

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       What the empress should do with Arceniy Matsievich? Should she execute or pardon him? To break him on the wheel or send to his diocese as Elizabeth did, clenching her teeth?

       Catherine II saw breaking on the wheel. Criminals are taken to a special penalty on a chariot, riflemen are holding candles in their hands, the closer to the execution site, the greater the crowd of onlookers, who are greedy to the spectacles; and now the high platform on which there is the pillory with chains, gallows, rack, block, pointed stakes on which severed heads will be put, executioner takes whips, branding, curling tearing nostrils, mites and saber blades to cut off noses, ears and tongue; executioner is doing it slowly and with obvious pleasure, because he is the most important here and hundreds of eyes are looking at him. According to the decree about breaking on the wheel criminal was tied to the rings, they hit his backhand on the joints – sentence always ordered to break ribs, hands or legs, and bones cracked as dry branches with groans and shouts of criminals and squeals of delight, and fun of the crowd.

       The empress thought that Arceniy Matsievich deserved punishment without doubt. On the other hand, Catherine II was always cautious, she wared of possible unrests among people, and she didn’t want to create a martyr for the faith from this lier, discourteous pastor. Secret expedition did not eat bread from treasury in vain, the empress knew about palms which were thrown under metropolitan’s feet when he was taken to the trial, and there were rumors about a prophetic dream of monk Theophylact: he addressed as if with a prayer to St. Demetrios who answered, “Why do you address to me, humble Theophylact? There is one among you who deserves no less holiness, this is Rostov metropolitan Arceniy…”

       The empress was putting her thoughts on invisible balance; scales were rocking and couldn’t stop. And she didn’t have right to make an error at that moment.

       Eddies of fate raised her and were twirling her long and threw her on Imperial Throne at last, her, who was German, who was of other confession and didn’t have a drop of Russian blood. She will have a chance and time to express her opinion about Russian state and people, about Russian ruling elite, opinion which appeared incidentally in the letter to baron Friedrich Grimm, “Half of those who are still alive, or idiots, or madmen: try to live with these people when you can.”

       And she, who was educated and energetic, had to lead this stupid nation to something better, Didro was in communication with Voltaire about this. There must be no obstacles on this way and any resistance must be crushed down.

       Her husband, thrown emperor isn’t a barrier any more; he will not be able to get out from under the gravestone of Alexander Nevsky Lavra. One more legitimate emperor Ivan Antonovich is a prisoner in reliable walls of Shlisselburg fortress: he won’t see human face for a long time, he is ordered to hide behind the screen when a guard enters the cell. Reliable guard is ordered to kill immediately those who tries to dismiss a prisoner.

       On the way to the great aim – to lead these half fools, half madmen to wealth, there was the last barrier: contumacy of the Church and such pastors as Arceniy who tell that she was not a legitimate empress. But her mind will master it. She will gain new living spaces for Russians, and she will let contemptible Jews live only below the limit of settlement, and only first guild merchants, highly educated Jews, former recruits, registered prostitutes and baptized Jews will be out of the limit.

       But there is one more barrier, about which only some people in the whole empire can guess – Mikhail Lomonosov. But she managed to clear this hurdle providently before her enthronement.

…The emperor Peter I was dying very hard. He didn’t know the reason for his illness – either cold, or poison, or maybe running syphilis, poorly cured by bad doctor – but somebody put the burr on his chest and each breath cost him an incredible effort. But when the emperor understood that it was his hour of death, he confessed to Feofan Prokopovich, “Lord, I have one more sin” – Peter was wheezing, not talking, rattle was pulling out of the chest with a stop, piecemeal –  “I have a son, nobody knows about him, his name is Mikhail Lomonosov.”

       The emperor told about that distant sin, now with a rattle, then in a whisper.

       Since persecution of Old Believers in Russia they began to move to Siberia, to the North, to run the show there – how valuable only shipyards of Bazhenov brothers are. The emperor spent three-quarters of the budget on wars and he looked at those riches more and more often, narrowing his lids. By Peter’s mischance his son Aleksey was against parental innovations, the wife gave birth only to daughters. Old Believers conceived a cunning venture when the emperor came back again to the northern lands. They thought not only about Peter’s heir but how to have crown person from their surroundings, and they clapped him on a very nice blond beauty, Helen. Czar had been toying with her for a week in Ust-Tosno, he enjoyed the beauty of the young, chasing messengers with their government worries at the door. When it became known that Helen was pregnant, Old Believers married her quickly to the nephew of Peter Dwinskiy’s trusted elder clerk Luka Lomonosov – Vasiliy Dorofeev. The next emperor’s decree appeared very quickly. “My son and betrothed father Vasiliy are ordered to have the surname Lomonosov and to live in this family under the supervision of Luka Lomonosov, not to forget to keep the secret. I’ll remember to thank.”

       … The health of the emperor Peter went from bad to worse, now he tried to utter a word with ruckle, then he was light-headed and saw snow dazzling spaces of Kholmogory, and he was tobogganing rapidly as fifteen years ago, the wind raised snow-storm behind him, and minute powdery snow glistened in the slanting rays of the sun. And when he revived again he ordered Prokopovich, “Lord, teach him in Moscow schools and attach to the rank of the priests or to state service according to his abilities.”

       Feofan Prokopovich looked after Mikhail but he didn’t want to keep the secret when he was dying and told everything Peter’s daughter Elizabeth.

       “He is not a barrier on the way to the throne,” Prokopovich told carefully. “He is illegitimate and he won’t trench upon throne but he is a kinsman and you must care for him well.”

       Five winters passed between this conversation and Elizabeth’s enthronement. But in first years of her reign she appointed her stepbrother an adjunct of the Academy of sciences, then a professor and gave him unthinkable sum – two thousand roubles for the ode, there was a lack of money in the treasury, that’s why groats were brought as a present, brought by a horse cart.

       Nobody knew whether Mikhail was aware of the mystery of his birth, but he didn’t rely upon anybody – on foot to Moscow, then Petersburg Academy, Kiev-Mogila Academy, Marburg, Freiburg… A man, who has been hardworking since childhood, can fly very high.

       A shadow was twinkling when Elizabeth died, no, throne didn’t belong her according to traditions and laws, it was only the shadow of the empress’s name, shadow of the wife of possible emperor Peter III, and then she got to know Lomonosov’s secret by chance. That’s why one trusted hand prepared a delayed poison for them stealthily at the waking dinner, after Elizabeth’s death where Mikhail was invited with his wife.

       Wedded pair fell ill almost on the same day – Mikhail’s legs were paralysed and his wife could scarcely move, catching on backs of the chairs. The empress Catherine II wanted to visit the Lomonosovs, to see influence of poison and to cheer up the couple in that trouble.

       Everything was clear with Lomonosov, only Matsievich was the last problem.

       What? The block, torn nostrils, fire-pan and a confession forced by intrusive Sheshkovskiy and his people? And if he won’t repent? If she creates a martyr for the faith and rebellion herself? It is very far from nice Shtettin with its cosy and small German streets… Or maybe quite the reverse, high empress’s pardon, Christian clemency?

       Only one thing is obvious: if she loses the moment now, the Church will never become a support of the throne. And she could give lands of monasteries to those who helped her in enthronement and who would defend that throne willingly…

       What? Thoughts were floating like a mill-stream and this mill wheel was flying round, whirling and couldn’t stop…

 

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       …The trial was over at last and the words of judgement sounded in tense silence.

       “The former Rostov metropolitan Arceniy misapprehended and spelled backward beneficial distribution of the church property and had impudence that Holy Synod had obvious written documents about his reproaching and scandalizing observations, he failed in his duties to Spiritual Assembly where her Majesty was a president.

       Holy Synod found him guilty and worthy of not only arrest but the court too, for such resistance of the supreme power and decrees, for crime which was offensive for her Majesty. He dared interpret his offence of Majesty wrong and cleverly (offenced her not only as the highest person, as president of Synod, but as his autocratic Sovereign).”

       The words of judgement weren’t rising up, they were rustling as last year’s discolored leaves which had wintered under snow until spring, but Arceniy heard their true, ruthless, and menacing sense very well in this rustling: he was brought to world, criminal justice, not to ecclesiastical court. And this court would pass him a sentence…

       The empress Catherine thought over every opinion of influential courtiers, she was twisting and turning the thoughts like hot potatoes in hands, she simply didn’t have right to make a mistake, to lose. She had the only right to win.

       Meanwhile anxious rumours were spreading among people in Moscow: they told, somewhere carefully, somewhere openly, that greedy courtiers set her to sinful deeds. It was quickly reported in “Moscow news” that “protests of Rostov bishop are filled with poison of insult of Majesty from beginning to end”, but people didn’t believe it completely.

       No, she will win, but she must remain compassionate, kind and hearty Christian for people, Christian who mitigates the synodal verdict of Synod.

“According to this sentence he must be defrocked as a metropolitan and a priest and if holy and other ecclesiastic rules allow, he can be a monk at an old age for more comfortable repentance, we deliver him from civil trial and tortures because of humanity, we order our Synod to send him to remote monastery under the supervision of clever superior, and he will not corrupt weak and simple people in writing and verbally.”

It was the final empress’s word, God was a witness, she was against “civil trial and tortures.”

Meanwhile there was a search and expropriation in monastery cell of the Rostov metropolian.

“One mantle, three long robes,” told clerk, his pen was squeaking and he repeated it aloud. “One calotte, old cap, three pairs of glasses, iron buckle, porcelain teapot, three pairs of cups and sugar…”

To everyone’s surprise the metropolitan of the richest eparchy didn’t have money, he didn’t have time to give beggars sugar before the trial, chest and package with clothes was all his property.

Arceniy was simply brought from Cross Chamber to Ferapont monastery, and then they ordered to bring him far to the North, to Karelian Nicholas Monastery near Arkhangelsk. An ensign and four soldiers were ordered to guard.

Safeguard had no trouble with a humble old man, but one night soldiers were mortally frightened. They were travelling by the temple as suddenly a bell sounded gloomy and depressing on the belfry in silent darkness. A commodore began to clear up if any criminal knew about transit of the metropolitan, but the belfry was closed. Frightened watchmen were crossing themselves when the procession was departing because candles lit spontaneously, flashing lights were blinking in the windows.

 

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