“I shall watch for a carriage with ladies winding up that long road; and then I shall stand and take off my hat, and hold out my cottage. Perhaps they will buy it, and then I shall have enough to get grandmother a warm gown for the winter. When I grow bigger I will be a guide, like my father.”
“Yes, to lead travellers up to the mountain-tops. There is nowhere you English will not go. The harder a mountain is to climb, the more bent you are on going up. And oh, I shall love it too! There are the great glaciers, the broad streams of ice that fill up the furrows of the mountains, with the crevasses so blue and beautiful and cruel. It was in one of them my father was swallowed up.”
“Ah! then how can you love them?” said Lucy.
“Because they are so grand and so beautiful,” said Maurice. “No other place has the like, and they make one’s heart swell with wonder, and joy in the God who made them.”
And Maurice’s eyes sparkled, and Lucy looked at the clear, stern glory of the mountain points, and felt as if she understood him.
Caper, caper; dance, dance. What a wonderful dance it was, just as if the little fellow had been made of cork, so high did he bound the moment he touched the ground; while he jerked out his arms and legs as if they were pulled by strings, like the Marionettes that had once performed in front of the window. Only, his face was all fun and life, and he did look so proud and delighted to show what he could do; and it was all in clear, fresh, open air, the whole extent covered with short, green grass, upon which were grazing herds of small lean horses, and flocks of sheep without tails, but with their wool puffed out behind into a sort of bustle or panier. There was a cluster of clean, white-looking houses in the distance; and Lucy knew that she was in the great plains called the Steppes, that lie between the rivers Volga and Don.
“Do you live there?” she asked, by way of beginning the conversation.
“Yes; my father is the hetman of the Stantitza, and these are my holidays. I go to school at Tcherkask the greater part of the year.”
“Tcherkask! Oh, what a funny name!”
“And you would think it a funny town if you were there. It is built on a great bog by the side of the river Volga; all the houses stand on piles of timber, and in the spring the streets are full of water, and one has to sail about in boats.”
“Oh! that must be delicious.”
“I don’t like it as much as coming home and riding. See!” and as he whistled, one of the horses came whinnying up, and put his nose over the boy’s shoulder.
“Good fellow! But your horses are thin; they look little.”