Innocence And Anarchy

Innocence And Anarchy

by John Canzanella


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781450266154
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/10/2010
Pages: 556
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.24(d)

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Innocence and Anarchy


iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 John Canzanella
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-6615-4

Chapter One

April 14, 1855

Rostov Na Donau Russia

"Master Nikolai! Master Nikolai Ivanovitch Bobrikov!" Herr Lehrer, a gaunt man with bushy, graying eyebrows, entered the bedroom and placed a pitcher of water on the table. He glanced at his reflection in the Turkish mirror, patted his hair flat, straightened the frayed white collar beneath his black, threadbare cloak, and went to the window to open the drapes and shutters.

"Master Nikolai! Time to rise."

Nikolai twisted in the bed and pulled a pillow over his head. Herr Lehrer turned the handle of the window and pushed it open, letting in the morning light. Brisk cold air rushed into the room. He breathed deeply. "Ah, a fine morning, master."

He approached the bed and yanked off the pillow covering Nikolai's head, and then tried to pull off the blankets as well. Nikolai held them tightly. "Come now, young man. Breathe in the fresh air, just as you did for the first time seventeen years ago. It is your name day, and your mother is waiting for you. We'll not have you moldering in bed all morning. Breakfast is almost ready."

Nikolai pulled the blanket over his head. "Oh, Herr Lehrer, I'm too tired. The coach was delayed by storms. We didn't get in 'til after midnight. Tell Maman that you couldn't find me. Tell her I haven't arrived yet."

"No, I'll do no such thing. You were here before midnight, young man. Madame Bobrikova is in a foul mood. Your father hasn't arrived yet and she is expecting guests by three this afternoon. You have to leave for church before noon, so get up right away and go downstairs. She wants us to have an exercise in algebra and a session in rhetoric before the guests arrive. We'll do a short lesson after breakfast, then a full lesson this afternoon. You'll be sitting for your orals in a little more than a week, so there will be no pottering around. Madame Bobrikova wasn't too happy with your grades. We don't want her to be in any more of a snit than she is now."

Nikolai swung his feet over the side of the bed as he sat up. "All right. I'm up. You can leave." He pushed his hair away from his eyes and stretched. "Please get me the chamber pot before you go."

Herr Lehrer picked up the porcelain pot and gave it to Nikolai; and then he stepped back and stood perfectly still.

"Well, that's all. You're not going to watch, are you?"

"No, I just have to make sure you are up and not tempted to lie down again."

"You can go, Herr Lehrer. Tell Maman I'll be right down."

Herr Lehrer pulled a sweetmeat out of his pocket and gave it to the young man, and then left after making sure the lad was out of bed. Nikolai completed his morning rituals and was tempted to put on the same clothes he had traveled in, but decided they were too wrinkled. He dressed in his day's best: blue linen blouse, black woolen pants, and a gray duck jacket with brass armorial buttons. As Nikolai dressed, he noticed that the clothes were a little tight and the top pearl button of his blue blouse pinched his neck. He thought of wearing the maroon fez his father had given him, but put it aside and went downstairs. His mother was sitting at the head of the dining table reading letters. He went to her and kissed her on the cheek.

"Good morning, Maman."

"Is it? I was wondering if it weren't afternoon."

She did not lift her gaze from the letter. Nikolai noticed that the wheat cakes and tea were no longer hot. He ate quickly and silently, all the while hoping Tatyana would appear, as she normally helped serve breakfast. "Did you see Tatyana this morning, Maman?"

"She's having a lesson with Herr Lehrer. Why your father insists on giving a serf girl lessons is beyond me. It's a waste of time and effort. She doesn't need to read; it won't help her with chores around the house. In fact, she would be better off just working the fields. I'd even prefer it if I could send her to your uncle. But your father won't hear of it."

Nikolai knew better than to argue with his mother. When he finished he asked to be excused.

"Yes. And I want you to study this morning, Nikolenka. The university examination will have three parts, not just history. Your mathematics and Latin need improvement, especially mathematics. And please, go put on some clothes that are more appropriate. We leave for church at quarter 'til twelve. Some of my friends will be there. If you won't dress for me, at least try to be presentable for them."

Nikolai knew that no matter how he dressed that morning, his mother would be displeased. It seemed that she was happiest only when she criticized. He went upstairs and changed into his school uniform: a white cotton shirt with a high military collar, beige vest, dark brown trousers, and a light brown field jacket. After admiring himself in the mirror, he went downstairs for his lesson. Herr Lehrer now wore a wig and smelled of scent. He immediately inspected his student, adjusting Nikolai's collar and patting down his hair, and trying to sound stern.

"Here now," he said. "Come, come! Sitzen Sie! Your pen and paper." He picked up an old book, the binding of which was barely holding together, even though it was made of leather. "We still have to go over quadratic equations."

"Herr Lehrer, I can only learn algebra when I'm well rested. I'm so tired from last night. Can we study Latin this morning?" Nikolai knew that if he could get Herr Lehrer to agree to teach Latin, he could easily convince him to talk about mythology, one of his favorite subjects. The plan was successful, and soon Herr Lehrer was recounting the stories of gods, goddesses, and heroes.

Nikolai's mind wandered, back to his birthday the year before, when his father surprised him by giving him a gold cross on a gold chain and a sword from the Crimea. The four points of the cross were studded with diamonds, and Nikolai dutifully wore it beneath his shirt as a good luck talisman. He considered the sword to be among his most valuable possessions, even though the cross was much more expensive. The sword had been taken from a captured French officer and was etched with the words Mort Avant Dafaite—Death Before Defeat. The boy lost his concentration with the lesson; his imagination took flight and had him leading an impossible charge against British troops. Nikolai wondered what his father would bring him this year. He hoped for a French rifle. His older brother told him of their father's bravery, leading soldiers and attacking the British and French at Sevastopol, and taking a battle trophy in victory.

When the lesson was over, Nikolai went outside and sat in a carriage, waiting for his mother to ride to the village church. The sun was strong, and as he turned his face to the sky and closed his eyes, he could smell apple blossoms from the orchard in the meadow. His mother soon appeared, called for the driver, and they were on their way. It was a beautiful spring morning, and they passed many peasants and serfs, trudging toward church. Nikolai kept turning around to see if Tatyana was walking to the church. They arrived as the priest opened the doors and greeted the worshipers.

"Now see to it that you don't keep us waiting," Madame Bobrikova warned the driver. "You are not to have any drinks while we are in church. I want you back here in forty-five minutes, no more."

The entrance of the church was crowded with peasants waiting until the merchants and landowners had made their way to the front pews. The serfs and peasants were not there out of devotion, but out of fear of displeasing Madame Bobrikova on the name day of her youngest son. They lined the stairs leading into the chapel and, as Madame Bobrikova passed through the church doors, the serfs bowed deeply from the waist. Keeping their heads down, they raised their arms awkwardly to the sky in a sign of respect and submission for the lady of the manor. Some even attempted to kiss her hand, which she withheld as though lepers were accosting her.

Before entering the church, Nikolai saw Tatyana. Her cheeks were pinched red. She wore a scarf that he had given her when he left last Christmas. She smiled and looked down when their eyes met. When Nikolai reached the pew reserved for the Bobrikovs, he told his mother he'd forgotten to bless himself with holy water. Returning to the small fountain at the entrance, he stopped where Tatyana was standing and whispered, "After church, at the pond." She blushed and nodded.

When they returned home, Madame Bobrikova insisted that Nikolai stay and wait for his father, who was expected within the hour. She immediately ignored her son, busying herself with directing last-minute chores as she prepared for her guests. Nikolai nodded, but went out at the first opportunity, took off his jacket, and ran to the pond. Disappointed at not finding Tatyana near the large boulder on the bank, their meeting place, Nikolai sat down, feeling again the warming spring sun on his face. He waited, finally lying down on the moist grass and daydreaming, as the perfume of lilacs filled the air. Awakened from his reverie by the sound of small splashes, he first thought that fish were jumping, but soon realized it was Tatyana tossing pebbles into the water. With closed eyes, he said aloud, "It's a large fish on land that disturbs the water."

He opened his eyes and sat up, watching as she came from behind a tree and sat next to him. Her hair was pulled back and tied with a red ribbon, accentuating her high cheekbones, and a sprig of purple lilac stuck out above her ear.

"No," she said, "it's only a mermaid. You must be the fish out of water."

Tatyana was five months younger than Nikolai and his only friend at the estate. His brother, nine years older, seemed more like an uncle. Their older sister had died when Nikolai was two, and Tatyana was now both brother and sister. They had always played together, even though his mother discouraged it. Nikolai's father approved of them having fun together, and always tried to involve Tatyana in parlor games and lessons with Nikolai. He often said that Tatyana reminded him of his little daughter, and he would point out that Tatyana had no parents. Her mother had died in childbirth, and the father never took responsibility.

They sat and talked, each relating what had happened since Nikolai had left four months before. Nikolai wanted to know what Tatyana was studying, and if she still remembered all the czars from Peter the Great to the present.

"Of course," she replied. "Herr Lehrer taught me. He makes learning easy and it's so much fun." Nikolai smiled in amusement at Tatyana's enthusiasm. "And here, Herr Lehrer showed me the game you and your brother played when you wrote to your father." She showed him a letter. "See, all the first letters in the left margin spell out a secret message. Read down, not across, only using the first letter."

I am writing you this letter

Maybe you can write to me. In case you don't know who this is Send it to the house at Rostov Since it will find me there.

Years from now On the date of your birthday, I'll be Unable to forget it.

Nikolai read the letter and smiled. "I have missed you also, Tatyana. I missed you this morning."

"Your mother insisted on having a lot of bread and cakes for the guests, so I had to stay in the kitchen. I don't think Madame Bobrikova wants me to join you and Herr Lehrer. I don't think she likes me."

"Oh, she's like that with everyone. Don't worry. When Father arrives, he'll make everything nice and cheerful. He's so proud of you. He'll ask, 'Now tell me, what have you two been doing with Herr Lehrer? And don't tell me about the lessons you don't like. Tell me about the really interesting things you are doing.' And we can tell him all about Shakespeare's Macbeth. You were quite a Lady Macbeth."

"And you made a terrible Macbeth. Oh, no, I mean, you were so good that Macbeth seemed real. He was terrible, not you. Honest, you read your parts so well, I hated Macbeth."

Nikolai chuckled. "Should we tell Papa that Herr Lehrer was funny? When he tried to give Banquo a Scottish accent, I almost laughed. I couldn't look at you because I knew we would both break out into giggles."

"That's why I kept my head down. But I did enjoy his question at the end of the play. Do you remember?"

"You mean, how did Fleance become king, just as the three hags prophesied? Shakespeare ended the play with one of Duncan's sons as king. We had to write an outline telling how Banquo's son became king.

"Tatyana, would you like to see Hamlet on stage? If it's ever performed at the Hermitage Theater, I'll ask Father to send for you, and I'll take you to the play. Better still, what if I asked Father to have you brought to our place in the city?"

Tatyana turned away, and her silence told Nikolai that he had touched a sore spot. Still, he continued, "Don't you want to go to St. Petersburg?"

"Yes, but not as a serf. I don't want you to become my master, which will eventually happen. I don't want you, or anyone, to look on me as a servant. I am grateful to your father and how he treats me, but I am still his serf. He can choose my husband, decide where I work, control my life. I want to be free. I want all serfs to be free."

"If I ever became your master, Tatyana, I would set you free."

"Would you free all the serfs your family owns?"

Nikolai was silent. Not wanting to answer that question, he began talking about his plans to attend St. Petersburg University.

They continued to sit and talk for an hour. A breeze rippled the water, and then a gust of wind blew across the pond. Small waves ruffled against the shore. They didn't notice the dark clouds gathering until the storm broke on top of them. They ran back toward the house in pouring rain. Soaked, they stopped at the stables and took shelter inside. As they rushed into the barn, Tatyana slipped in a puddle oozing from beneath the door and fell into the sludge on the floor. She got up quickly, embarrassed. Her shirt speckled with muck, hands dripping with wet black dirt, she seemed ready to cry. Tatyana always took pains to be neat and clean in front of Nikolai, so he knew she was upset. He took her hands and wiped them on the front of his shirt.

"It's nothing," he said. "This dirt helps flowers and trees to grow, so it can't be bad and it won't hurt you. Besides, now we both have stains."

He smiled and continued to hold her hands, but she looked down, refusing to look at him.

"But I'll never get it clean!"

"It's all right, we'll get it clean."

When she looked at him, he saw that tears had filled her eyes. She was beautiful, vulnerable, and shy, and he saw something else that he had never noticed before. There was a softness, a yielding. Tatyana was becoming a woman; she was no longer a girl of sixteen. Her glance penetrated his being. It was as if he wanted to become part of her.

The storm outside passed as quickly as it had appeared. They were in the shadows of the barn, and slanted shafts of light from the late afternoon sun filtered through the cracks in the siding. The sun was low in the sky, and golden light alternating with shade surrounded them. Motes of dust danced in the rays. Nikolai realized he had never held her hands before. Not like this. He let them go but looked into her eyes intensely; tried to speak but couldn't. He wanted to do something to comfort her. He began to unbutton his shirt. She protested, but he said this was the best way to clean the muck off. With his shirt off, he lifted his necklace over his head and offered it to her.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I want you to have this. My father gave it to me."

It was the gold chain with the cross on it, his good luck charm. The diamonds shone incandescent in the dim light of the barn.

"Father said this always will help whoever wears it. It guards you from danger, from misfortune. It has the power to protect the owner."

He began to unclasp the hooks on her blouse. She tried to stop him, but as their fingers touched, she trembled. He gently guided the necklace over her head, laying the diamond cross against her neck, and then rested his hands on her shoulders.


Excerpted from Innocence and Anarchy by JOHN CANZANELLA Copyright © 2010 by John Canzanella. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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