Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/30

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reverted, as days went on, to what was at this period his ruling idea—the hope of rivalling and surpassing Michael in some deed of daring, and consequently in the regard of Anna Popovna.

It was not for his advantage that his kindly foster-parents never exacted from him any of the labours that fell to the lot of the little mujiks, his play-fellows. "Prepare to die, mujik, but till the soil," says the Russian proverb; and certainly where there is no other education an early apprenticeship to manual toil is rather a blessing than otherwise. Ivan's idle hands and restless feet were left quite at liberty to obey all the suggestions of his active, untaught mind; while his naturally brave disposition was rendered still more fearless from the fact of his never having been, upon any occasion, punished or even thwarted or reproved.

One summer morning, just as the first faint streaks of dawn began to brighten the cottage window, he rose softly from his sleeping-place on the shelf above the stove. All the rest had worked hard the day before, and were slumbering soundly now; so he dressed himself quietly, and going to the great carved chest lifted the heavy lid with difficulty and took out and put on his rough sheep-skin coat, or shuba; then he drew on his warm boots of Russia leather lined with fur; next, he cut for himself with a hatchet a great piece of sour black bread, and tied it in a cloth as provision for the way; lastly, he went to a secret hiding-place of his own and transferred to his pocket his greatest treasure—a silver rouble mativshka had given him. Having done all this, he was hurrying forth with quick noiseless footsteps, when he remembered an omitted duty. Returning a step or two, he took his stand before the picture in the corner, made a reverence, and repeated a hasty prayer; then, with a brave heart and a quiet conscience, he went forth in search of what fate might bring him,—a little knight-errant going to look for adventures.

He passed through the sleeping village, with the familiar