Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IX.: THE PATRIOT'S VOW. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 5
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Chapter IX.: THE PATRIOT'S VOW. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 5 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 5.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE PATRIOT'S VOW.
It was a stormy evening when the little company assembled round their altar to celebrate the marriage of Cyprian and Sophia. The long summer day was drawing to a close amid an unusual commotion of the elements. There was no rain, but the wind swept over the waters, and the sheeted lightning came forth from its hiding place among the clouds on the mountain top. Little Clara was alone on the steep long before the rest of the party came. She never forgot that the altar was her charge; and she was now employed in cleansing the pedestal from the young mosses which spread rapidly in the crevices, and among the mysterious characters of the inscription. She could not help being startled by the lightning, and wishing that the thunder would come at once to mingle with the dash and roar of the waves below, instead of waiting till the mass of clouds should grow still more formidable, and overspread the whole sky. Once or twice she wished herself with her father in the cave, where she knew he was gone to bring away more mammoth bones; and then again she felt that the sense of guilt which always beset her in that place would make it much more terrible in a storm than her present solitude made the exposed spot on which she blood She was heartily glad, however, when Paul and his wife made their appearance.
“You need not have troubled yourself to pile this wood, Clara.” said Paul. “No fire can be kept in while such a wind as this is blowing.”
“Do you know,” said Clara, “one blow of the north wind as 1 came up changed the look of everything it touched. All the pools had a little crust of ice over them in a minute, all the leaves of the plants in the open places turned red and yellow, and the blossoms shrivelled up ready to drop off.”
On hearing this, Emilia looked very grave. The wind that did this while the sun was high on a summer day, was an ill-boding wind, she whispered; and was sent to tell that the sea spirits were about to do some mischief. She could not recover her cheerfulness when the rest of the exiles came, and rites went forward which made all but herself almost regardless of the storm.
They waited some time ior Andreas; but as his sympathy was of the least possible consequence, they at length proceeded without him, supposing him too busy after his pelf to bestow any thought on the first marriage celebration which had, as far as they knew, taken place between Poles in these depths of the wilderness. It differed from the marriage celebrations of the people in the neighbourhood only in the addition of the oath which the parties were now met to take.
They had already been married in the usual manner, with the hearty good-will of the Russian superintendents, who were glad of all such symptoms among the exile crown peasants of a willingness to settle down in quiet, like those of their neighbours who had not been rebels. A dowry had even been offered with Sophia; but this was rejected. She could not have taken the oath if she had touched the Emperor's bounty with so much as her little finger.
This oath was merely a more solemn form of their common vow never to consider Siberia as their home, the Emperor as their sovereign, or any social obligations here entered into as interfering with the primary claims of their country. They and their children were, in short, never to acquiesce in the loss of their heritage, even though their banishment should extend to the thousandth generation. A new clause was added on the present occasion. The newly-married pair vowed never to rest till they had procured the release of Ernest from his ignominious lot, and his restoration to at least the degree of comparative freedom which lie had sacrificed for them. This vow, spoken with a faltering voice, because in a nearly hopeless spirit, was drowned in the utterance; and the memory of Ernest was honoured in silence by his companions when they had once given his name to the rushing winds.
The storm increased so much that it became dangerous to remain on the heights; and the rest of the observances were hastily none through, in increasing darkness and tumult. A tremendous swell of the waters below caused most who were present to start back involuntarily, as if they feared to be swept away even from their high position. Sophia alone was undaunted,— not as she would have been a few months before, but-because a new life, which bore no relation to external troubles and terrors, was now animating her heart and mind.
“Let us slay somewhere near till this has blown over,” said she, leading the way to a little cave below, where they might be sheltered from the wind. “I should like, if it were only for Emilia's sake, that we should see these waters calm again before we go home. There is no harm in humouring her superstition, even supposing that none of us share it.”
Taddeus and Lenore smiled at one another when they found Sophia the first to think of humouring superstition. They followed her, but, on arriving at the mouth of the cave, could obtain no entrance. It was choked up, the roof having fallen in. Clara apprehended the truth at once. Her father's zeal to grow rich enough to go to Tobolsk, in order to grow richer still, had prevented his going there at all. In this cave was the fossil treasure he had dishonestly concealed from his companions: and in his eagerness to extract his wealth from the mass in which it lay embedded, he had pulled down a weight upon his head which killed him. The body was atterwards found; but, if it had not been for regard to little Clara's feelings, it would probably have been left thus naturally buried; for a more appropriate grave could scarcely have been devised than that which he had prepared for himself.
“You shall live with us, Clara, and be our sister,” said Sophia to the horror-stricken little girl. “Cyprian can never know how kind you were to me while he was away; but he shall learn to love you for it.”
“She may go back to Poland, if she wishes it,” observed Taddeus aside to his mother. “There is now nothing to keep her here; and the Emperor does not vet crusade against little girls, though he does against their mothers and brothers.”
“She had better stay where she is,” illegiblePaul, also aside, “and if we all take pains with her, she will turn out a paragon of a wife. Your mother will teach her reasoning and patriotism, and all that, and Emilia will give her all her own accomplishments that it is not too late to begin with. She can never have such an eye and ear, but there is time yet to give her a very clever pair of hands: and then she may settle down as Cyprian and I have done.”
“Cyprian and you!” exclaimed Taddeus. But recollecting that there would be no end of quarrels with Paul on this subject if once begun, lie restrained his anger at having Sophia compared with Emilia.
“You shall live with me, my dear, and be my daughter, as you have long called yourself,” said Lenore: “and we will comfort one another till we can get back to Poland, if that clay should ever come. There is much more comfort for some of us than there was, in the midst of all our misfortunes; and it is a comfort that I do not think we shall lose any more. Some may die, and others may leave us for some different kind of servitude; and it may even happen that nose of us may see “Warsaw again: but as long as we love one another and arc patient, we cannot be quite miserable”
Emilia pointed to the west with a look of joy; and presently the clouds parted slowly, and let out the faint red glow of evening, which spread itself over the subsiding waters. Having hailed the oillegiblen, the party separated, some returning to their several homes, and some watching till the long twilight was wholly withdrawn. The Sprit ot optimism which lives in the hearts of patriots as in its natural home, was now no longer checked by the perpetual presence of a despairing sufferer; and not only this night, but from day to day, did the exiles cheer themselves with the conviction that tyranny cannot endure for ever; that their icy chain would at length be breathed upon, and their country's flag float once more. Such hope is at this moment sanctifying the shores of the Charmed Sea.