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North To The Arctic
by [?]

At home ’tis sunny September,

Though here ’tis a waste of snows,

So bleak that I scarce remember

How the scythe through the cornland goes

With an aching heart I wander

Through the cold and curved wreaths,

And dream that I see meander

Brown burns amid purple heaths

That I hear the stags on the mountains

Bray loud in the early morn,

And that scarlet gleams by the fountains

The red-berried wild-rose thorn

“It was bad enough in the Free Command,” said Constantine, leaning back in his luxurious easy-chair and joining his thin fingers easily before him as though he were measuring the stretch between thumb and middle finger. “But, God knows, it was Paris itself to the hell on earth up at the Yakut Yoort.”

It was a strange sentence to hear, sitting thus in the commonplace drawing-room of a London house with the baker’s boy ringing the area bell and the last edition of the Pall Mall being cried blatantly athwart the street.

But no one could look twice at Constantine Nicolai and remain in the land of the commonplace. I had known him nearly two years, and we had talked much–usually on literary and newspaper topics, seldom of Russia, and never of his experiences. Constantine and I had settled down together as two men will sometimes do, who work together and are drawn by a sympathy of unlikeness which neither can explain. Both of us worked on an evening paper of pronounced views upon moral questions and a fine feeling for a good advertising connection.

We had been sitting dreamily in the late twilight of a gloomy November day. Work was over, and we were free till Monday morning should call us back again to the Strand. We sat silent a long while, till Constantine broke out unexpectedly with the words which startled me.

I looked up with a curiosity which I tried to make neither too apparent nor yet too lukewarm.

“You were speaking of the time you spent in Siberia?” I said, as though we had often discussed it.

“Yes; did I ever tell you how I got away?”

Constantine took out his handkerchief and flicked a speck of dust from his clothes. He was an exception to the rule that revolutionaries care nothing about their persons–Russian ones especially. He said that it was because his mother was an English-woman, and England is a country where they manufacture soap for the world.

“Yes,” he continued thoughtfully, “the Free Command was purgatory, but the Yoort was Hell!” Then he paused a moment, and added, ” I was in the Yoort.” He went on–

“There were three of us in the cage which boated us along the rivers. Chained and manacled we were, so that our limbs grew numb and dead under the weight of the iron. All Kazan University men, I as good as an Englishman. The others, Leof and Big Peter, had been students in my class. They looked up to me, for it was from me that they had learned to read Herbert Spencer. They had taught themselves to plot against the White Czar. Yet I had been expatriated because it could not be supposed that I could teach them Spencer without Anarchy.”

Constantine paused and smiled at the stupidity of his former rulers.

“Well,” he continued, “the two who had plotted to blow up his Majesty were sent to the Free Command. They could come and go largely at their own pleasure–in fact, could do most things except visit their old teacher, who for showing them how to read Spencer was isolated in the Yakut Yoort.’ Not that the Yakuts meant to be unkind. They were a weak and cowardly set–cruel only to those who could not possibly harm them. They had the responsibility of my keeping. They were paid for looking after me, therefore it was to their interest to keep me alive. But the less this cost them, the greater gainers were they. They knew also that if, by accident, they starved the donkey for the lack of the last straw, a paternal Government would not make the least trouble.