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Chapter VIII.: THE PATRIOTS MARTYRDON. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 5 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 5.
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THE PATRIOTS MARTYRDON.
As the summer advanced, and Cyprian seemed recovering completely from the dreadful state in which the infliction of the knout had left him, anxious thoughts began to take possession of the whole party. The day must be approaching when he would be sent for to resume his military duty, that service which was unutterably loathsome to him in the bare idea, and which must now be more than ever degrading from his having undergone an ignominious punishment. The slightest remark on the improvement in his health, on the advance of the season, or on the destination of any of his exiled countrymen, threw him into an agitation; and there was one circumstance which excited his indignant surprise to a degree which made it difficult to keep his feelings to himself. This was Ernest's curiosity concerning all that he had undergone; a curiosity which seemed to have no consideration for the pain such recitals must give to one who must again undergo the miseries he described. It was marvellous that one like Ernest—so generous to the feelings of others, so sensitive in his own—should be perpetually on the watch for mention of all the details of tyranny which Cyprian could give from his own experience, but would fain have withheld.
“Ask me no more,” cried Cyprian, one day, with a look of agony. “I will tell you anything you please about our black bread and miserable bedding, and about our night service and day slavery; but ask me no more about our officers' treatment of us, for I cannot bear to think of it.”
“You must tell me more,” replied Ernest, fixing his eyes upon him with an indescribable expression of eagerness. “So he made you all shout that infernal cry in praise of Nicholas, every night and morning?”
“Aye; and as often besides as he chose to suspect any one of discontent; be it once a week or ten times a day. In a little while, my heart heaved sick at the very sound of it, and when my turn came, my tongue clave to the roof of my mouth, if the day was as cold as Christmas day in Kamtchatka. I could not make light of it, and wink aside like some of them. It would have been well if I could, when the worse struggle came; except that, to be sure, I should not have been here now.”
“So he insisted on more than the shout that day ? Tell me about it.”
“I thought I had told you before,” said Cyprian, impatiently, and he spoke very rapidly as he proceeded. “We made some little difficulty about stripping the country people of their provisions for our own use, and just offered to go without our full rations till more were brought in. He called this mutiny, and began to talk about Poland,—the blasphemous wretch!—and called upon us to shout, as usual. I waited a moment to get voice; he marked me, and ordered me, not only to shout, but to sing a damned chorus about Praga that they boast they sang when—”
“Well, well, I know which you mean. Go on.”
“I would not, and could not sing it, happen what might; and so I told him.”
“How should you ? ” said Ernest, with a grim smile. “You who always said, when you had no thought of being a soldier, that it revolted you to see men made machines of; as soldiers a: e under the best management. How should you bear to be made something so much worse than a machine.—a slave with the soul of a free man,—a mocking-stock while you were full of gloomy wrath? No! helpless you must be; but you could at least make your slavery passive, -—one decree above the lowest.”
“Passive enough I made it,” said Cyprian, covering his face with his hands. “They could make nothing of me,—except the one thing they did not choose to make me—a corpse! I hoped to die under it,—I meant it,—and I supposed they meant I should; for I have known many an one killed under the knout for a less offence; but they let me live, just to go through it again; for that hellish chorus will I never sing;—or never, at least, at that man's bidding.”
“Never; you never shall!” cried Ernest, fervently.
Cyprian looked at him surprised, and said,
“Do you know, Ernest, I would not have borne from any other man such questioning about all these matters as I have taken patiently from you.”
“Patiently!” repeated Ernest, with a sad smile.
“Yes, Sir, patiently, as you may agree with me, if you happen to suppose that I can feel like you. You stalk off into the woods, or look as it you were going to curse the universe, the moment anyone touches you about Poland; and you expect me to sit still and be questioned about my own degradation and torture, when you know that every tale I tell you is a picture of what is to come.”
“Well, well, forgive me. You know my interest in you——”
“Many thanks for it, Ernest! A very considerate interest indeed! Why, your never catechizing me before Sophia shows that you remember that it is not the pleasantest subject in the world; but you do not give me the benefit of it.”
“You shall question me as much as you like when I have like tales to tell.”
“And when will that be? I have told you a hundred times that your life of a serf is beatitude in comparison with that of a private in the condemned regiments; especially if he happens to have been a patriot.”
And Cyprian Went on to draw the comparison, to which Ernest listened with the same grave smile. It was pardonable in Cyprian to take this for a smile of self-gratulation, and therefore to feel something as like contempt as any one had ever dared to feel for Ernest.
“We will compare notes hereafter, when we have both had our experience,” observed Ernest, quietly.
“Aye, in the next world, where I shall soon be waiting for you; for I consider that, in going to the frontiers of two countries. I am going to the frontiers of two worlds. If they do not knout me to death, my heart will certainly burst one of these days. And then Sophia,—you must—— But no; she will not take a word or a kind office from any one when I am away, they say. Well, I shall have my story ready for you when you follow me past those frontiers we were speaking of; for I shall not mind telling it there, nor will you perhaps care to hear it;—in a passionless state——”
“Passionless!” cried Ernest. “A passionless state hereafter! I tell you, Cyprian, if our Polish eagle does not soar to me with tidings which shall feed my passion of patriotism, I will come down and vent it, as if I were still a mortal man.”
“Hush, hush! how do we know——”
“Full as well as you when you talk of a passionless state.”
“I wish this were so,” muttered Cyprian.
“Do not wish that, Cyprian. There are passions which may work out their natural and holy issues even in these wilds. Let us not repudiate them; for they become more necessary to the life of our being in proportion as others are violently stifled or slowly starved out. The next time you see yon star rising between those two peaks, remember that I told you this.”
Cyprian inwardly groaned at the thought that before the time of that rising should have arrived, he might be far out of sight of the two peaks; and he began already to hate that particular star.
When it next appeared, some nights alter, he again inwardly groaned; but it was with shame, and a different kind of grief from that with which he had anticipated misery to himself and Sophia. Ernest had slipped away in the night to meet the summons which was on the way of or Cyprian, and was now journeying towards the frontier,— in what direction no one knew; so that lie could not be overtaken and remonstrated with. There would have been little use in such a measure, if it had been practicable; for Ernest was not one to change his purposes.
The only person whom he saw before his departure was Clara; and that was for the purpose of leaving a message, as there were no writing materials within reach, and also of accomplishing; the change of dress which was necessary to his passing for Cyprian. He called her up, and employed her to get possession of Cyprian's uniform, on some pretence which should keep him out of suspicion of being concerned; and when he had put it on, he gave his own clothes into her charge.
“Give him these, my dear, when he wakes, and tell him that I leave him my hut and land too; and my name,—Number Seven. Sophia will show him the way to our altar, and she will help him to find out whether what I said wag true, when we were looking at yonder star over the mountain top. Be sure you tell him this.”
“But will not you be back to tell him yourself?”
“No. We have planned when and where to speak about this again; as he will remember.— And now go to bed, Clara, and thank you for helping me. Have you any thing more to say, my dear?” he continued, in answer to an uncertain, beseeching look she cast upon him. “If you have any troubles, tell me them; but be quick.”
“I do not know what to do,” replied Clara, sinking into tears. “I wish I knew whether I ought to tell. My father,..... he is getting so very rich; and I had rather he should not, unless other people do; but he would be so angry if I showed anybody.”
“Why should you show your father's hoards, my dear. ‘Who has any business with them but himself.’”
“No, no; it is not a hoard. It is not any thing he has saved.”
“Then it is something that he has found. He lias lighted upon a treasure, I suppose. That is the reason why he has grown so fond of strolling towards the Baïkal lately. The peasants thought they were making a believer of him; but we could not understand it; though, to be sure, we might have guessed how it was that money had become so plentiful lately. He has found a fossil-bed, no doubt. Do you know where it is:”
Clara nodded, and whispered that it was she who had discovered it.
“Indeed! Well; you have done all you can do, and now you may leave it to chance to discover the matter. Meanwhile, take this basketfull of bones,—all the money I have,—and divide them equally among every body but your father. It will make his share worth less, you know, to give every body else more, and this will help to set matters straight till the secret comes out, which it will do, some day soon.”
“I wish it may,” said Clara, “and yet I dread it. Paul's wife peeps and prys about every where; and as often as she goes towards the lake, my father frowns at me and says— ‘You have told Emilia.’ But how ashamed I shall be when it comes out!—What will you do without your money when you come back? Had not I better lay it by for you, where nobody can touch it till you come to take it away yourself. In one oi the caves——”
“If you do,” said Ernest, smiling, “some learned traveller will find it some hundreds of years hence, and write a book, perhaps, to describe an unaccountable deposit of fossil remains. No, Clara. When Cyprian and I have the conversation we have planned, we shall want no money; and he and the rest had better make the most of it in the meanwhile. You are a good little daughter, and 1 need not tell you to do what you can for your father,—whatever he desires you that you do not feel to be wrong.”
“Pumping and all,” sighed Clara.
“Pumping! I did not know we had such a grand thing as a pump among us.”
“It is in the mine,” said Clara, sadly. “The water drains in to the gallery where my father works, and he thinks I can earn something by pumping; and he says I shall be very safe beside him.”
“What can he mean?” cried Ernest. “Such a pursuit of wealth is absolutely insane. “What can he ever do with it in a place like this.’”
“He thinks that we may get leave to go to Tobolsk when be has enough to begin to trade with, lie asks me how 1 should like to be one of the richest people in Tobolsk when he is dead. I had much rather stay here; and I am sure I do not care whether we have twenty or a hundred bones laid by, when we have once got all that we want to eat, and dress and warm ourselves with. I wish he would not talk of going to Tobolsk.”
“If we can get back to Poland——”
“O! you are going there!” cried Clara, with sparkling eyes.
Ernest shook his head mournfully, kissed the little girl's forehead, and departed, leaving her looking after him till he disappeared in the silvery night haze. Ernest passed himself for Cyprian at his new destination; and the officer who was expecting him was agreeably surprised at bis proving so much better a soldier than he had been represented. Unspoiled (strange to say) in body and mind by the knout, and always prepared with a dumb obedience which was particularly convenient on such a station, he became a sort of favourite, and was well reported of. The only thing that ever made him smile was the periodical assurance of this, for which he was expected to be grateful. He was wont to receive it with an expression of countenance Which, as it could not be interpreted, afforded no tangible around of offence; aud he continued to pass for one of the least troublesome of the exiled Poles who were stationed along the frontier.