Іван Корсак - The last lover of the Empress (сторінка 9)

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        Suderland knew local finances very well, he understood external and internal debts, and otherwise there is nothing to do in this country. A roll of paper assignations, created by Catherine II, grew, they depreciated – only limit of this roll was a problem. Tax payment in paper money for Russians but in silver for White Rus and Mala Rus meant to quintuple a burden in those lands – one silver rouble cost twenty two paper roubles. Nobody told about it aloud but Suderland understood well that besides the burden which came upon White Rus and Mala Rus, the empress’s intention would have rather far repercussions. Water is running down from a mountain, money will run in the same way – merchants and plant owners won’t invest money in lands where a tax mountain, gold and silver will flow to a valley – they’ll see decline of those lands only within years. And the prices from paper roll are running across – bread cost seven times cheaper when the empress was mounting the throne, the price rose from ninety six copecks for a quarter of rye to seven roubles. How to survive. But it’s not Suderland’s trouble.

       “Your Majesty, as far as I know, Russian debts exceeded three times an annual income of treasury. That’s why I advise not to coin money so quickly… It’s your will to make different taxes in different lands but can’t it lead to displeasure, to a rebellion?”

       “I have good doctors for this disease – Michelson, Suvorov, that’s why it will be cured.”

       Next day Suderland’s coach was running to Netherlands, jumping on the spring potholes and splashing mud, leaving behind, mile by mile, this state, enigmatic and obscure for ordinary mind.

 

18

 

 

       Kalnishevskiy and Matsievich were not fated to meet again, but that conversation crossed Peter’s mind not once. He recalled his returning to Ukraine after the coronation too.

       “What shall we expect, lord?” Kalnishevskiy asked the metropolitan. Two old people in their sixties, one was white-headed, the other was bald, were talking silently that nobody could hear them. “It’s bad in Ukraine, and an air is not for me here…”

       Kalnishevskiy inbreathed by his nose so as that air, smelling curiously, was his main problem.

       “Light Easter days, it seems that goodness and appeasement, good words must be in the soul… But no, sozzled kern was going to meet yesterday, stumbling and falling, having seen his friend he was screaming in the street, “Christ has risen from the dead…fuck!”

       “I even crossed myself,” and Kalnishevskiy put a cross on himself as if this picture were before his eyes.

       The metropolitan recalled other bitter cases, because he didn’t outstay long, he travelled much in Rostov and Yaroslavl lands. “Peter, I don’t know. God punished Russia for something…”

       “Our people say that czarevitch Aleksej damned Peter I, murderer of his son, and he prophesied, dying, “God will punish Russia because of you.”

       “Who knows, maybe a curse fell down on earth because he killed his son, and because he changed the words “Do you believe?” into “Do you drink?” on confession” – Arceniy took breath, his health was weak because of Siberian trips – “I think not only degenerate emperor is quilty… All those who are called “blossom”, educated, important, scientists, pastors, are accountable to God. From their consent, sometimes for a mean benefit people are soldered, kept for a cattle. And besides, they explain people that they are the best and the bravest, that they are prepared not for handicraft and plough but for brigandage and wars. And then everything is simple: neighbour’s house is white and full of food, neighbour is heartless, though he worked hard to be wealthy, but he doesn’t share with those who had fun in a pub; they tell poor people to go and take away everything from white house, everything is yours too… And they even make a pastor bless brigandage. And nobody among that “blossom”, courtiers and scientists, tells that brigandage is brigandage, and they explain hungry people that they will have very little, greedy dignitaries get everything received in brigandages and wars. Having robbed one house, they go to rob the next one, and this repeats again and again…”

       “It can’t be everlasting.”

       “I wouldn’t like… The worst can happen in this human pot. It’s time for new Chingishan to come, he will be in trousers or in a skirt, it doesn’t matter, he will lead ruinous people, hungry and enraged people with his finger. And people will believe this Chingishan, they will even sing of him, build monuments to him. This imperial plague of envy and robbery is more dreadful than the plague itself, because this communicable disease die neither in a frost nor in the sunshine. And so as God saved Chingishan, and new Batiy comes, and everything returns…”

       “Lord, what should we do? Can we wait for Batiy?”

       Kalnishevskiy crushed down an unexpected irritation, but badly. He thought with anger, “It’s easy for the metropolitan to consider from his remote pulpit, because he is a member of Synod and can tell the empress everything he likes… Tried he in my place: on the one hand flame is flashing over the houses from Tatar raids, on the other hand there – Poland is looking awry, and besides, Russian dignitary stretches an avid paw, and unknown people are swarming like mosquitoes in wet summer.”

       “Peter, well wherein we are not present,” the metropolitan burst into laughing, and Kalnishevskiy even didn’t notice that he answered that was unsaid aloud. “What to do? To pray and ask Divine benediction. And to run the show. God gave Cossacks beneficial land, so do you expect him to send by post an order to ennoble it so that rye, wheat made noise instead of feather-grass? God grants not every day… Or you expect people, who were not happy in their land, to settle in yours?”

        Kalnishevskiy thought much on the way home, weighed everything said by acid metropolitan, first he got angry with him in mind, but he began to consider, calming down, that really they hadn’t to miss time for economy. There are people among Zaporozhian Cossacks who want to get married, who are tired from campaigns – why not to help them to have their own farms? Even unmarried one will work on the land with pleasure. To make farms on the Samara river, let they plant gardens, work near hives. There can be half a thousand of such farms. And peasants from Hetmanschyna, Slobozhanschyna can settle, even escapees from Polish Ukraine. They won’t have burdens of taxes and other obligations here. There are more than ten thousand Sech Cossacks, and even nearly twenty with those in tents. And a couple or more married Cossacks who live in their farms and suburbs. There are nearly one hundred fifty thousand peasants, and maybe two hundred thousand peasants in Zaporozhian lands in total – this is a huge strength…There will be those who can enrich the land.

       A coach was swinging on a far way, Kalnishevskiy was looking at fields and forests through the window, he seemed not to notice them – he wanted to see the future, in years, to see sounding gardens and hives buzzing anxiously.

       But he didn’t have to run the show then. Not hives were waiting for him at home – fathers’ synod was booming.

       “You must lay down a mace, Peter. Catherine didn’t like you somehow,” fathers lowered eyes. “You are a good man and a nice ataman. But it’s not time to make the empress angry.”

       Kalnishevskiy laid down a mace silently. He would like to ask why they troubled him, an old man, when hunger was coming up to Sich, and now they don’t need him? But he didn’t say a word, only thanked and bowed in all sides.

 

19

 

       Fogs were flowing to Shlisselburg fortress. They were born above water, covered banks, stone castles, and fogs were very thick till midnight – lanterns on walls seemed to be only yellow dots with easy nimbuses through this grey viscid haze. A guard walked around with torches, but there was no point in doing that, nothing was seen in three steps, only calling of guard helped.

       Second lieutenant Mirovich, who was watching as a guard officer, thought, “It’s just his time, just starlight time to begin a great matter. A nature even helps.”

       He was bothering long and he got an appointment to Shlisselburg fortress at last at one moment and not without help. He, an ordinary second lieutenant Vasiliy Yakovlevich Mirovich, must perform great matter this night, two nations will thank him, he has to dismiss a heir to the Russian throne, Ivan Antonovich, who was an emperor from infancy, – he will be thanked from far great-grandfather land. A boat is prepared to bring heir to the safe place.

       The clock said two at night, fog didn’t lift, became even thicker.

       “To arms!” Mirovich’s voice was husky, whether with emotion or from the wet weather.

       Stamping of soldiers’ feet, ghostly flashing of torches. He has very little at disposal, only thirty eight bayonets, but it’s enough for the brave.

       “Charge!” – second lieutenant’s voice becomes firm.

       Sleepy lieutenant colonel, commander of the prison guards, jumped out in his underwear.

       “Who gave the right to declare an alarm?”

       He is pushed so that he is flying upside down. Mirovich reads out a manifesto about the release quickly, sometimes slurring the words.

       A prison guard woke up after a mess, firing back, but to no avail, you can not get in the fog.

       Mirovich gives soldiers a new order, “Shoot over the heads!”

        A prison guard resists, and then cannon is rolled, core and powder are brought quickly.

       “Charge!”

       But suddenly a cry from the side of a prison guard, “Don’t shoot! We give up!”

       Silhouette of a captain Vlasev floats out of the mist, as out of muddy water, goes to Mirovich.

       “Go with me, second lieutenant” – Mirovich goes after a captain.

       “Can it be so simple?” – The recent excitement gave way to an incredible surprise in his soul – “can this great matter be solved so quickly? And no killed soldiers!”

       Tramp of soldiers who went to the officers, silences their solid steps that echoed first, on the damp floor of the fortress. “Is it possible in the world – so simply?” – Mirovich’s body froze more than from the pre-dawn dampness – “and a boat with strong rowers, who are ready, will bring an innocent prisoner?”

       Finally, Vlasev stopped near a rough door, covered with mold and fungus.

       “Here,” he said, took out a candle and lighted.

        Vlasev, Mirovich and one officer from a guard, Checkin, entered the cellar slowly.

       There was nobody in the cell, only rags, which are called clothes, hung on the wall, on the table and bed, and on the bench…

       “And where is … Ivan Antonovich?” – Mirovich looked at Vlasev slowly.

       And here, in shimmering of purblind flame, he notices something on the floor, bends to see, catches captain’s hand with a candle, tilting it lower.

       A man, lying on a stone floor, didn’t move his neck was in blood, and blooding pool was running, a squirmed man was lying: either he was defending before death or recent seizures reduced the body.

       “You?” – Mirovich turned to Vlasev and Checkin – “are you murders?”

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