Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/25

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15
A SLEEPING VILLAGE

world besides holy Russia, and that the peoples thereof do not obey our lord the Czar, but have kings and rulers of their own. This is hard to believe; but Pope Nikita says so, and, moreover, the soldiers tell us of them when they come back from the wars. Besides, I have seen Nyemtzi[1] myself—Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, who had not a word of good Russian, but spoke an outlandish tongue of their own. What is sad to think, our lord and your father not only went amongst these foreigners, but gave his hand in marriage to one of them. Not that I have anything to say against the beautiful, gracious lady, your mother. The good saints rest her soul! Mativshka loved her well, and God knows she served her faithfully. But amongst her kinsfolk must have been some who were the devil's children; for they rose against their own king, and, horrible to tell! they slew him. Moreover, they did not do it secretly and in darkness, but openly, in the face of day, on a scaffold, as if he had been a thief or a murderer. Truly they are strange people, those Nyemtzi.

"Let us hope that evil men slandered our lord to the Czarina when they said he bore part in such wickedness. But at all events she believed the tale. When he came back to St. Petersburg, and dared to show his face at the Hermitage (the great, beautiful house where our lady the Czarina lived), she scathed him with the lightning of her anger. It is even reported that she said to him, 'Pachol!'[2]—the word you would use to a dog if you were angry with it. Straightway he was sent an exile to Siberia, and all he had was taken from him and given to Plato Zoubof. Better had they laid him in his grave at once. The beautiful young lady, your mother, quickly died of grief, and mativshka, who was your nurse, brought you home to her own people. For a long time we hid you carefully, and guarded the secret jealously amongst ourselves; for we feared the new lord Plato Zoubof, and still more the steward Dmitri

  1. Foreigners.
  2. Get out!—Go out from my presence in disgrace.