“So this is the Tsar!” thought Petya. “No, I could never give him the petition myself, it would be too bold!”

In spite of that, he still forced his way forward as desperately, and over the backs of those in front of him caught a glimpse of open space with a passage covered with red cloth in the midst of it. But at that moment the crowd began heaving back; the police in front were forcing back those who had pressed too close to the procession. The Tsar was passing from the palace to the Uspensky Sobor. Petya received such a sudden blow in the ribs, and was so squeezed, that all at once a mist passed before his eyes, and he lost consciousness. When he came to himself, a clerical personage, with a mane of grey hair on his shoulders, in a shabby blue cassock—probably a deacon—was holding him up with one arm, while with the other he kept off the crowd.

“A young gentleman’s been crushed!” the deacon was saying, “Mind what you’re about!…easy there!…you’re crushing him, you’re crushing him!”

The Tsar had entered the Uspensky Sobor. The crowd spread out again, and the deacon got Petya pale and breathless on to the big cannon. Several persons pitied Petya; and suddenly quite a crowd noticed his plight, and began to press round him. Those who were standing near him looked after him, unbuttoned his coat, sat him on the highest part of the cannon, and scolded those who were squeezing too close to him.

“Any one may be crushed to death like that. What next! Killing people! Why, the poor dear’s as white as a sheet,” said voices.

Petya soon recovered, and the colour came back into his face; the pain was over, and by this temporary inconvenience he had gained a seat on the cannon, from which he hoped to see the Tsar, who was to walk back. Petya thought no more now of presenting his petition. If only he could see him, he would think himself lucky! During the service in the Uspensky Sobor, in celebration of the Tsar’s arrival, and also in thanks-giving for the peace with the Turks, the crowd dispersed about the square, and hawkers appeared crying kvass, gingerbread, and poppy-seed sweets—of which Petya was particularly fond—and he could hear the usual talk among the people. One shopkeeper’s wife was showing her torn shawl, and saying how much she had paid for it; while another observed that all silk things were very dear nowadays. The deacon who had rescued Petya was talking to a clerk of the different priests who were taking part in the service to-day with the most reverend bishop. The deacon several times repeated the word “soborne,” which Petya did not understand. Two young artisans were joking with some servant-girls, cracking nuts. All these conversations, especially the jokes with the servant-girls—which would have seemed particularly attractive at his age to Petya—did not interest him now. He sat on his high perch on the cannon, still in the same excitement at the thought of the Tsar and his love for him. The blending of the feeling of pain and fright when he was crushed with the feeling of enthusiasm intensified his sense of the gravity of the occasion.

Suddenly cannon shots were heard from the embankment—the firing was in celebration of the peace with the Turks—and the crowd made a dash for the embankment to see the firing. Petya, too, would have liked to run there, but the deacon, who had taken the young gentleman under his protection, would not let him. The firing still continued, when officers, generals, and gentlemen-in-waiting came running out of the Uspensky Sobor. Then others came out with less haste, and again caps were lifted, and those who had run to look at the cannons ran back. At last four men in uniforms and decorations came out from the doors of the Sobor. “Hurrah! hurrah!” the crowd shouted again.

“Which? which one?” Petya asked in a weeping voice of those around him, but no one answered him. Every one was too much excited, and Petya, picking out one of the four, and hardly able to see him for the tears that started into his eyes, concentrated all his enthusiasm on him, though it happened not to be the Tsar. He shouted “Hurrah!” in a voice of frenzy, and resolved that to-morrow, come what might of it, he would join the army. The crowd ran after the Tsar, accompanied him to the palace, and began to disperse. It was late, and Petya had had nothing to eat, and the sweat was dripping from his face.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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