Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/50

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rein on the horse's neck, and entered the izba. He first made his reverence to the sacred picture in the corner, then courteously saluted the starost and his wife, who, without speaking, placed some bread and salt on a carved wooden trencher and offered them to him. He tasted both; and this indispensable ceremony performed, he began at once to make known his errand.

"God save you, Alexis Vasilovitch!" he said to the starost. "Do you chance to remember in your early youth one Feodor Petrovitch, who was born here?"

"Feodor Petrovitch?" repeated the starost, stroking his beard meditatively.

"Feodor Petrovitch?" cried his wife. "Yes, I think I remember him. Had he coal-black hair, and eyes like an eagle's?"

"That he had; but the hair is now snow-white, and the eagle eyes—well, no marvel, they served him fourscore years.—I am his eldest son, Ivan Petrovitch."

"Ah, I too remember him now!" said the starost, "though, like my wife, I was but a child when he went away. Many a time our old folk have told us how our good lord, Prince Pojarsky, the last but one, took such notice of him on account of his bright face and clever ways—how he had him taught to read and write and to count up money. At last he took him away somewhere, so that after he came to man's estate Nicolofsky knew him no more."

"All quite true. The prince sent him to Moscow, and when his education was finished he gave him a sum of money to trade with. My father quickly doubled it; and, unlike most men, he brought every kopeck honestly to his lord. 'Go on and prosper,' said the prince. 'Take that money with thee and double it again.' He did so. Then said the prince, 'Feodor Petrovitch, thou hast paid me thy last obrok. From this day thou art free.' He divided the money into two parts, declaring