Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/24

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14
A SLEEPING VILLAGE.

dora returned to her cooking; and the starost solemnly crossed his breast with the thumb and two fingers of his right hand, then taking from his pocket a medal with the effigy of his patron saint upon it, he brightened it with a rub against his sleeve, and said a prayer to it, or to the personage it represented. Having thus prepared himself, he told Ivan to sit down at his feet.

"My child," he said, "since you wish to know, I will tell you to-day what name you have a right to bear but pray to your saint day and night that the knowledge may work you no harm."

"Why should it work me harm, bativshka? Is it that I am the son of a bad man?"

"God only knows that. What I know is that you are the son of our lord and master."

"Not of Zoubof! no, no!" cried Ivan, wondering.

The old man replied by a gesture of supreme contempt: "Zoubof! He is of yesterday. Such as he come and go and are forgotten, like last year's snow. But you, Ivan Barrinka, you are the son of our true lord, our master in God's sight—a great boyar,[1] a prince who can trace his lineage back to the days of Rurik. Yes; you are the son of"—here he paused and bowed his gray head reverently—"of Prince Pojarsky."

Ivan was impressed by the solemn tone in which these words were spoken. He waited in silence for a few moments, then he questioned in a low voice, "And who is Prince Pojarsky?"

"He and his have been the lords of Nicolofsky and the lands around it for generations and generations, even before the old times when the Poles conquered Muscovy. But in the days of the great Czarina Catherine, who rests with God, our lord and your father, being a young man, full of pride and loving pleasure, must needs go forth to travel in strange lands. For you must know, Ivan Barrinka, that there are other lands in God's

  1. Nobleman