Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/44

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"Still, I tell thee truth. That handsome young officer was the great Czar himself—the lord of all the Russias. To prove my words—I am a poor man, but I will give thee twice, three times its value for that coin in thy hand, which his hand touched."

Ivan shook his head. "No, no, father; I don't believe a word of your story; but I love my boyar, and I will not give away his gift. He said I should serve him one day, and I mean to do it. Though, to be sure," he added, thoughtfully, "I might almost part with it for poor Stefen's sake, and to do a good deed. How will he dare to meet his master's face—later than ever now?"

"Never trouble thyself for thy friend Stefen; he is rich enough this day to buy his freedom, if he will. He who gave him back his life has taken care to make that life worth the keeping."

"Then he can marry Katinka?"

"He can marry whom he pleases. Our lord the Czar never leaves anything half done."

"Oh! what a good day it has been!" and Ivan, in his own estimation far too old to be deceived by an idle story, was by no means too old to leap and dance for very joy.

"You believe that," said the priest; "then why do you doubt the rest of my story?"

"Because," returned Ivan, "I have wit enough to know that the great Czar, who 'is God upon earth,' as the proverb says, would not care for the life of a poor mujik, and toil hard to save it, as my boyar did this day."

"Well, fools will be fools while the world lasts. Here, take thy shuba; Stefen left it for thee when they brought him to the post-house. Go thy ways; and God teach thee that it shows more wit to believe what one is told than to question it."

"Good day, father," returned Ivan; "I am going home—to Nicolofsky, where people speak the truth to their neighbours."