Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/32

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and passionate longing. It was their Jerusalem, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth." Even ignorant little Ivan had heard of its wonders and its glories; and he fancied that if once he gained the road he might see in the distance the gilded spires and domes of the Kremlin gleaming in the sun. Michael had never seen so much as that, nor been so far from home!

The sun, in Russia such a rare and much-prized guest, was prodigal of his favours that day, and shone forth from a cloudless sky. Ivan had equipped himself for a winter journey, and about noon he began to grow hot and weary. No shelter was near him, so he sat down on the sand, rested a little, and ate some of his bread; but he longed in vain for a draught of kvass[1] to finish his repast, nor could he find a single drop of water anywhere. He rose unrefreshed and pursued his way; but, in spite of all his childish courage, the utter loneliness of the dreary waste around him began to tell upon his spirits. He sang, he shouted, he talked aloud to himself, merely for the comfort of hearing his own voice; until by-and-by he became too weary for these exercises—all he could contrive to do was to keep moving on with a kind of dogged determination. Once and again was he tempted to turn back and give up the adventure; indeed, he would have done so, only for the thought, "If I come back having seen nothing, Michael will jeer me, and Anna Popovna will join in the laugh."

At last he grew so tired and frightened that he threw himself on the ground in a kind of despair, made the sign of the cross, said a prayer to his patron St. John the evangelist, then fell into a state of drowsiness, and lost all sense of time, until, after an interval of perhaps an hour, he was aroused by the sound of voices.

Never had human voices seemed more welcome. Ivan started to his feet, and saw to his great delight a party of five

  1. A light, sour beverage, made by pouring water upon flour or meal.