Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/47

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CHAPTER IV.


IVAN'S HORIZON WIDENS.


"Behind the orphan, God himself bears a purse."—Russian Proverb.


NO child ever dreams of being grateful for food and shelter, unless taught by the sad experience of destitution. The little guest expects to be welcomed to the feast of life, and even assumes that the board has been spread on purpose for him. Ivan was no exception to the rule: hitherto he had received the devotion and tenderness of those around him as a matter of course; perhaps indeed he was in danger of exacting them as a right, and of becoming, as he grew older, proud and overbearing. But now a change had come. If he knew that he was noble, he had also gained a glimpse of the great truth that "Noblesse oblige." He had begun to reflect, and to some purpose.

"Bativshka," he said one day to the starost, "why was it you were afraid to let the lord Zoubof or the steward Dmitri know who I was?"

"Because they might have killed you, Barrinka, out of spite and jealousy, knowing that your father was our lord before Zoubof came."

"But would they have done anything to you, bativshka, for taking care of me?"

"Oh! as to that I don't know. Perhaps I might have had the knout."

Ivan bent down and kissed the old man's hand.