Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/48

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38
IVAN'S HORIZON WIDENS.

The next morning, when the family rose early to begin the toils of the harvest, Ivan rose with them. "I am going to the field," he quietly observed, putting on his oldest garments.

All protested, especially mativshka, whose love for her foster-child amounted to weakness.

"Dmitri and Vasil and little Peter are going, and they are all younger than I am," said Ivan.

"But they are only little mujiks," she answered. "They must work hard for their bit of rye bread and their bowl of kasha. It was for that God made them."

"Boyars work too; I am a boyar," said Ivan, raising his fair head proudly; and he went with the rest.

To do him justice, he bore himself bravely in the field, although the unaccustomed toil wearied him quickly, and it was tantalizing to find himself so easily outdone by Michael's stronger limbs and more practised hands. Yet, after all, it was no great hardship to bind the sheaves along with Anna Popovna all the morning, and at noon to share with her his dinner of okroshka.[1]

But harvest-time does not last for ever. At length all the sheaves were gathered in: the wheat to be sold for the profit of the lord of the soil; the rye to be transformed into the black bread, the kvass, the kasha, which were the staple of the mujik's diet;—for, as they said themselves in one of their terse though homely proverbs, "Wheat picks and chooses, but Mother Rye feeds all fools alike." Then the long blank winter settled down over Nicolofsky, which, like the rest of Russia, "lay numb beneath the snow" for many a month in the year.

During this silent, dreary season the industrious fingers of the girls and women found occupation in spinning and weaving. The lads too made lapti, wove rude baskets, and prepared firewood; and these occupations were often pursued in social gatherings, and lightened with jest and song and story. Still

  1. A kind of cold soup made of kvass, with small pieces of meat in it.