Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/29

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19
IVAN'S ADVENTURE

tures, and a vague reverence for God, for the saints, and for the Czar. He never dreamed that any of these mysterious, far-away powers should influence his daily conduct, though he did believe that his patron St. John (Ivan is the Russian form of John) might help him in a time of need; because, when he had the measles, a picture of the saint had been blessed by the pope and laid on his breast, and straightway he began to recover! It was mournfully significant of the kind of instruction he received, that he had but one and the same word to designate the divine Being and the "gods of silver and gods of gold" that too often, in the popular estimation, usurped His place. If any one had asked him, "Who made you?" he would have answered, "Bog;" and had the question followed, "What is that in the corner, before which the candle is burning?" he would still have replied, without hesitation, "It is Bog."

A few childish legends of the saints, a few stories of "kikinoras" or goblins, formed the staple of the "folk lore" that circulated round the stove during the long winter evenings. The Bible narratives, so familiar and so fascinating to the English child, were almost unknown to Ivan; nor did exploits of the heroes of his own country hold the place they sometimes do on the lips or in the hearts of the people. Hence, when the starost told him that he was himself the heir of one of the noblest of Russian names, no answering chord resounded in his heart. The revelation, that ought to have moved him so deeply, failed of its due effect, because his ignorance did not supply the background that was needed to throw it into relief. He had always known that he was something other, something greater than those around him; but beyond that he had no power of measuring social distances. Princes, boyars, all who were not mujiks, were alike to him; just as it seemed to him nearly the same thing to go to the Moscow road, to Moscow itself, or even to St. Petersburg. Therefore, after spending a little vague, half-comprehending wonder upon the starost's story, his mind