Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/26

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16
A SLEEPING VILLAGE

—a hard man, who has no pity. But now both know you are here, and care nothing for it. 'What is it to us?' they say. So that now, without fear, you may call yourself, and be called by every one, by the noble name you have a right to bear. Only remember, Ivan Barrinka, that although you are the son of a boyar and a prince, the same God made us and you, and the poor man's soul is worth as much in his sight as your own."

Ivan answered not a word. As one overpowered, he threw himself face downwards on the earthen floor, and lay there absorbed in thought. But at last he raised his wondering, child-like face, full of the brightness of a new idea. "Bativshka, people sometimes come back from Siberia, do they not?"

The old man shook his head. "They who go are as the sand," he said; "they who come back may be reckoned on your fingers."

"But I remember the time of the Czar's coronation—four—five years ago, was it? I was quite a little boy then. Many exiles came home from Siberia; and you went to the Moscow road to see them pass, and the people wept for joy, you said. I wanted to go, but you would not bring me, saying I was too young. If these exiles came back, then why not my father?"

"Ah, you cannot understand. That was quite another matter. The late Czar, Paul Petrovitch, who reigned after the Czarina Catherine, was somewhat stern and hard. Doubtless God sent him to punish the great nobles for their sins. He banished many of them to Siberia; but the Czar that now is, whom God preserve! pardoned them all, and let them return home. Yet some offences there be that find no pardon ever, except in the grave;—and to the exile's resting-place the grave is always near."

Ivan's next thought was a more childish one. "Bativshka,"