Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/53

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its remaining hours were wholly given up to revelry, and it is to be feared that but few sober men went to rest that night in Nicolofsky. Meanwhile Ivan bade farewell to the friends and playfellows of his childhood. With Anna Popovna his parting was a tearful one. He kissed her again and again, and vowed that he would come back and marry her as soon as his beard was grown.

"God be praised!" said her mother, who was standing by. "See how St. Nicholas protects the innocent, and will not let him take the sin of a false vow upon his soul! He does not dream, poor child, that his beard will never grow at all, since he is born a boyar, who will have to shave it off every morning—worse luck for him."

But the saddest and most tender farewells were spoken at daybreak on the following morning, when Ivan was kissed and wept over by his foster-parents, and by all their immediate family. His own eyes were dim as he took his place in the kibitka beside Petrovitch; and when he turned to look his last upon the brown cottages of Nicolofsky, he could scarcely see them through his tears.

"But the winds of the morn blew away the tear." By-and-by Ivan cheered up a little. He roused himself to listen to his companion's stories of the great city, and began to be interested, and even to ask questions.

There was not much in the incidents of their journey to engage or rivet his attention. They crossed the Oka upon a raft—horse, kibitka, and all—but not at the spot so well remembered by Ivan as the scene of his adventure. After that came the long monotonous Moscow road, where everything seemed to Ivan always the same. Only that his senses assured him he was moving, and that rapidly, he would have fancied himself fixed in the centre of the same horizon, which was revolving around him eternally and unchangingly. Plains of sand, forests of birch or pine, went by in endless succession, merely diversified