Harper's Young People, December 9, 1879 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt TWENTY MILES AN HOUR. It was the 6th of January, that great holiday in Russia, when the river Neva is consecrated with pomp and ceremony, when soldiers parade and priests say mass, and the Emperor is visible, and the cannon roar. And it was a gloriously bright and beautiful day; but Ivan and Olga, looking out on the broad street and the glittering pinnacles of the palace chapel, watching the sledges fly by with people all muffled in furs, were two very disconsolate children. They had an English governess—for Russian children have to study English as Americans do French—and they had been so unruly, so impatient, and indifferent to lessons, that Miss Stanley had forbidden their going out to see the sights. This was hard indeed, but it was needful: that the children could not understand, and they walked from the great porcelain stove, which reached to the ceiling, over to the double windows, all packed with sand, and having curious little paper cornucopias of salt stuck in it to keep the frost from making pictures on the glass, to and fro, to and fro, in great unhappiness. Outside, the thermometer was away below zero, but inside, thanks to the stoves and the great copper heaters, it was as warm as toast. "Now, Olga," said Ivan, after an hour or two of this tiresome way of spending time, "I am not going to stand this any longer; if I can not go to the Neva, I am going to have a ride on one of the ice mountains, and if you want to, you may go with me." "Oh, Ivan, how would you dare? You know we are not allowed to go alone, and Marie is at church, and we have no sledges." "Tut, tut! have I not fifty kopeks [about fifty cents], and can I not hire an isvochtchik [driver] to take us? and we can be home again before they come from chapel. Come, Olga, let us have some fun." Olga's conscience said "no," but the temptation was overpowering, and after repeated urging from Ivan they both crept down softly to the little apartment in the large hall where were kept their fur cloaks and bashlyks, or cloth hoods, which are put over hats and ears. No one saw them. Every one was at church, and the dvornik, or porter who guarded the front door, was snoozing soundly, wrapped up in his sheep-skins, near the heater. They got their fur mittens and tippets and cloaks down from the pegs where they were hanging in the heated air, and put them on in silence. In silence, too, they lifted the huge bolts, and slipped out into the street. It was too cold to speak, for the air would have frozen on their lips, and they hurried to a corner where usually there were to be found sledges, whose drivers can endure any amount of cold, and who even sleep out at night at theatre and opera while waiting for their masters. Here Ivan found what he wanted, though the man's dull gaze seemed to question the propriety of taking two children to the pleasure-garden which Ivan indicated. The kopeks, however, were forth-coming, and that was all he cared about; so in they jumped, and tucked the furs about them, and away they went over the broad street, flying past troiskas, with their three horses, and gay little sledges of every description....
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