The last lover of the Empress - Іван Корсак (сторінка 16)

       “I have three small children, I’m afraid very much. Sin is for those who knows and remains silent.”

       “And those who don’t remain” – Novikov smiled bitterly – “they will get Shlisselburg, Siberia, or poison. You only notice: no Russian, I underline, Russian artist, has risen with her to the top, no poet or architect, the empress needs only the others, and only as a decoration, one more stone on the brooch. My friend, the French historian, said frankly, “Michelangelo would not have survived more than three weeks at the court of Catherine.”

       How can Novikov know that expert of the time, Polish historian Kazimierz Waliszewski, Doctor of Laws, who went through the archives of Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna very carefully and would quote it almost verbatim, “In general, national art is obliged to Catherine only with some models of the Hermitage, which served for the study and imitation of Russian artists. And apart from these models, she did not give him anything, even a piece of bread.”

       Suddenly Novikov recalled something and began to rustle his newspapers and magazines.

       “I’d like to show you, read aloud” – he gave an issue of “St. Petersburg News”.

       “Adult girl” – Radishchev was reading – “who can sew, wash, iron, cook, is sold. Light used hearse is for sale too. Family of people is sold at bargain prices: husband, a skillful tailor, his wife, a cook, a daughter at the age of fifteen, a good seamstress, as well as two children of 8 and 3 years.”

       Radishchev gave Novikov the newspaper.

       “What of,” he asked. “Will anybody change orders in this country?”

       Radishchev rubbed his eyes with his hand – the type was too small for him.

       “I can not deny. Why to invent manufactories as in England when people can earn easier here: one “sold a girl at bargain price” – and received fresh money.”

       “You see” – Novikov folded brought editions – “I talked with the courtiers a lot, preparing historical materials. There were different people, envious, honest, so somebody calculated that the empress had spent more than ninety million rubles only for the first dozen lovers – apart from serfs, donated castles and other things. Catherine II mounted the throne when Russian budget didn’t reach even seventeen million. So, how many years must Russia work for the vagina of German-empress?”

         Radishchev took out a sheet of paper as in an answer, and gave Novikov: “For the comparison with lovers look at concern for our spiritual. This is not a secret, good friends gave me to rewrite.”

       Novikov looked through the list written in small letters.

       “According to papers it is necessary to issue:

1)    for St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Moscow departments with the cathedrals – 39,410 rubles;

2)    for second-class (8 departments) – 5,000 (2,600 – for bishop personally);

3)    for third-class (15 departments) – 4,232 and 20 copecks (1,800 – for bishop personally);

4)    for Trinity-Sergius Lavra Monastery and all monasteries – 174,650  and 40 copecks;

5)    for all convents – 33,000 rubles;

6)    for 22 churches, not cathedral – 2,530 rubles;

7)    for the whole clergy – 365,203 rubles.”

“She doesn’t pity a foreign nation, a foreign country and faith.”

They were talking long, thought over editorial intentions and Novikov’s offer to issue full “Journey from Petersburg to Moscow” in his printing-house. They would hope, not knowing, of course, how far and hard the way to this was.

Black coach would approach Radishchev’s house in the dull morning, two barbate noncommissioned officers jumped out quickly. They turned everything  upside down in the house of Alexander Nikolaevich, looking for sedition, in front of four small orphans’ eyes (mother has already died), of children slamming with  frightened eyes from the corners. They didn’t find what they needed and arrested father.

Sheshkovskiy interrogated Radishchev personally.

Stepan Ivanovich put the candle so as to see Radishchev’s face, to see every muscle in twinkling light, the smallest movement of thought, which could manifest itself inevitably in good interrogation.

“Why this lampoon is written? Tell truth, our empress’s heart is kind, she appreciates the sincerity of the human, and she will gift you with a weasel…”

“I prepared this “Journey” only because of the writer’s ambition. It’s not a lampoon, but probation of my pen.”

“You encourage slaves to revenge their masters. Do you call this writer’s work?” – Sheshkovskiy spoke gently in interrogation, sometimes fondly on the surface.

“I think troubles of man are caused by the man himself. If he could impartially look at himself, look inside himself it would be otherwise in the world” – Alexander Nikolaevich tried to talk slowly, choosing his words carefully, as if he were sifting them, because Sheshkovskiy had a talent to make a clutch at said cautiously, as with pinchers – “I don’t think that nature is mean to a man, that it hid the truth – a man is born kind. I wanted to explain it, maybe, I’m wrong, but I don’t have other thoughts.”

Radishchev was looking into Sheshkovskiy’s eyes and surprised at human effrontery, incredible for him, still vast: sister-in-law, who brings up orphans now, brought together all the family jewels and gave Sheshkovskiy, he thanked and gave his best regards; and now he is before him, looking into Radishchev’s eyes so innocent, sincerely and naively… “Is it possible to learn, can it be so, without blinking?” – During words play – Alexander Nikolaevich was surprised.

That sac with jewels drowned then in the bottomless pocket of Sheshkovskiy’s robe, tingling softly, that sac saved Radishchev from inquisition, but it didn’t change the punishment.

“For encroachment on the health of the empress, conspiracy and treason, belittling the proper respecting of authorities… capital sentence” – the judge of criminal department would read a long list of writer’s defaults. As there were very few articles of “Criminal laws”, he would recite also articles of “Military regulations”, breathing from time to time, and even would add something from “Maritime Rules”.

       Sentence was passed on the 24th of July, and Radishchev, expecting the military execution in a condemned cell, tried to finish the long-conceived work in a hurry. He wrote about Philaret the Merciful, and projected in his time and his circumstances. Saint Philaret, a real person, historians proved his life; he was very faithful and did well. He gave the poor the last measure of wheat, and God returned him forty times more, as if by chance, he handed out everything, but he got much more – czarina was looking for a bride for future emperor Konstantin, and ambassador came to him. He didn’t have anything to treat, but kind neighbours brought what-not and there was a real spread, he shared his last with beggary though, there weren’t any bread-crumbs in the house, and he got more – Philaret’s granddaughter became the wife of an all-powerful and passing rich emperor. Why don’t his contemporaries, those who are on the throne and near throne, believe and do so as Philaret?

The sac with jewels helped him to escape Sheshkovskiy’s tortures, but it was too small to release even though his written work about saint Philaret, if not him.

       On the 4th of September the empress “under her mercifulness and for everybody’s joy” pardoned Radishchev, changed capital sentence into ten-year deportation to Siberia. He was brought to Siberian prison “for everybody’s joy” in in irons and without warm clothes…

       Nikolay Ivanovich couldn’t fulfil that he had discussed with Radishchev too, his dreams didn’t come true. His publishing work was honoured with fifteen years of Shlisselburg fortress according to the empress’s decree.

       The sun appeared several times in Radishchev’s life – he was released after the empress’s death, was called to Petersburg and appointed member of Laws   Commission. He would prepare “Project of liberal laws”, project about equality of everybody before laws, freedom of press and many attractive ideas. But once count Zavadovskiy, head of the Commission, favourite of the dead empress, called him and bothered as never before during his long-suffering life.

       “Do you want to Siberia again? You won’t come back this time!”

       Alexander Nikolaevich returned home, something snapped in his heart finally, snapped, and it was impossible neither to stick it together, nor to add up. “They drank the state and pushed it into the German whore’s vagina” – Radishchev connected thoughts without anger, with cold sadness, but they couldn’t be connected – “even after the death of the empress her lovers continued to rape this land and people. I have nothing to do in this Russia, and there is not another one.”

       He poured a glass of poison with the same cold composure, drank without a break, as you could drink only alcohol – and incredible pain increased, its flame grew, blazing, then everything was broken and subsided at one moment, the pain disappeared, only blue sky remained, sky without injustice and evil, blue and  comprehensive, as his faith in the goodness.




       After the wedding Potyomkin with the empress fled in Tsaritsyno for a time – they bought an estate from Kantemirs to their liking, it was very comfortable among the hills and mounds, blue ponds, forests, and broad troughs.

       Potyomkin caught the empress in Vasilchikov’s place – he would become simply a “cold soup” for her. “I was like a kept woman” – Vasilchikov would complain – “so I was treated. I wasn’t allowed to see anybody and I was confined. Nobody answered me when I moved for something. The same was if I asked something for myself. I wanted Anna’s ribbon, and when I asked it, I found 30 thousand in my pocket the next morning.”

       “Cold soup” was poured out familiarly, apartments for Potyomkin were arranged in the Winter Palace, and now he was riding proudly to the Palace by six frisky horses, with impetuous and impulsive force. Now the empress belonged only him, Grigoriy felt it particularly here, in Tsaritsyno, where there weren’t flattering and crafty courtiers’ faces, vanity and worldly tricks. He could afford to walk, arm in arm, along picturesque banks of the ponds, where the peace was comprehensive and immeasurable, and could be broken only by pat of carp’s tail in the water under the reeds.

       But the state cares were clinging here too, as an annoying burr. They had been discussing long what to do not to repeat Pugachev.

       At the mere mention of Pugachev clammy and cold horror rolled on the empress every time like a strong wave. And not only because the flame of the uprising spread to vast areas and after Kazan was a court trembling: would the rebel go to Moscow or not?

       The empress was imagining a reproachful glance of metropolitan Arceniy Matsievich many times at night, she heard those sad words said by him on the trial, “You will meet your husband killed by you…”

       There has been massive tombstone on the husband for more than ten years, but the riots light up from time to time, riots headed by Peter III, her dead husband, according to rumours of people. She cuts the head of the next pretender, but her husband raises again from a hopeless darkness of the grave, and the riot lights up again.

       Yemelyan Pugachev became the fifth pretender who had taken her husband’s name, Peter III.

       She still dreamt of that sad look of an old, bald from scurvy Matsievich; without metropolitan canonicals, only in robe, he invoked the rest not to step on that path, not to do things prepared by the empress; he only reproached her bitterly, without devilry and revenge:

       “You will meet…”

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