Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/434

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mand had set their seal upon his broad, open forehead. Yet he had lost nothing of his frank, cheerful air; and when he flung off his furs, and seated himself at the fire by the side of Clémence, they looked as handsome and as happy a couple as could have been found in any land or clime.

With a smile of welcome Clémence laid aside her work—a little pair of reindeer-skin moccasins. "I am glad you have come so early, Ivan," she said. "We can have a few minutes' quiet talk before we go down to the church to listen to the reading. How pleasant it is to keep, here in the far north, our dear Russian custom of the Easter evening Bible reading!"

"Yes; our little church is crowded to-night. I have just been looking in. Vanka the huntsman was reading the story of our Lord's Passion according to St. John, and I saw many a tearful face and heard many a sob in the stillness. I meant to have read for them myself, but I would not disturb him. I can read by-and-by, when we go there together."

"What a beautiful custom it is, this reading of God's Word for his brethren by any poor man who is able to do it!" said Clémence. "Where is Pope Yefim?"

"In his own room, I believe. You know that on Easter eve our priests usually leave the churches to the people."

"The poor lads who are out on duty miss something."

"True; but they will have their turn by-and-by. We all must miss something," he added, smiling. "But then we all have our compensations."

"I think the want of tidings from our dear ones is our only real trial," Clémence answered. "I sometimes long to see my mother's face, Ivan, and to show her our darlings. What a happy little visit that was which she paid us in St. Petersburg before we left! But for that I should have felt the long separation far more."

"It was very good of her to come such a distance on such