Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/46

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36
SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAPPENS TO IVAN.

homeward way, full of all the wonders he had witnessed, a voice seemed to murmur within him, "And I, too, am a boyar." What did it mean to be a boyar? He had no words in which to express his thought; but the dawning light of a grand truth, faint and far off, shone upon him from the face of the first boyar he had ever seen, as it bent anxiously and tenderly over the mujik's senseless form—that to be greater than all the rest meant to do good to all the rest.

He told his adventures modestly and truthfully. What he had done with his silver rouble he told no one, but he showed the gold piece that had been given him with proud pleasure, and asked the starost to make a hole in it, as he wished to keep it always, and to wear it on the ribbon round his neck with the little iron cross put there at his baptism.

He told what the priest had said to him, adding, however, "But of course he was mocking me; no one could believe such a foolish story as that."

Every one present agreed with him, except Pope Nikita, who pondered awhile, and then said thoughtfully, "Who knows? it may have been. After all, One greater than the Czar put his hands upon the poor sick folk and healed them."[1]

  1. Alexander's part in the adventure told above is historically true, even to the smallest particular. The only liberty taken has been that of transferring the scene from the bank of the Wilia to that of the Oka. The story became known in England through a private letter, and the Royal Humane Society sent the Czar a medal—rather a singular "decoration" for a monarch. He "accepted it with a noble and modest simplicity," and profited by the circumstance to introduce a similar society into his own dominions. For the description of his personal appearance one contemporary authority amongst many may be cited: "Malgré la régularité et la délicatesse de ses traits, l'éclat, la fraîcheur de ses teints, sa beauté frappait moins à la premiére vue que cet air de bienveillance qui lui captivait tout les c{{subst:oe}}urs, et du premier mouvement inspirait la confiance.... Il avait l'{{subst:oe}}il vif, spirituel, et couleur d'un ciel sans nuages; sa vue était un peu courte, mais il possédait le sourire des yeux, si l'on peut appeler ainsi l'expression de son regard bienveillant et doux.... Son front chauve, mais qui donnait à l'ensemble de sa figure quelque chose d'ouvert et de serein, ses cheveux d'un blond doré, arrangés avec soin comme dans les belles têtes des camées ou des médailles antiques, semblaient faits pour recevoir la triple couronne de laurier, de myrte, et d'olivier."