Chapter 63622329

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter TitleTHE DEATH-BLOW OF THE KNOUT.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63622329
Full Date1889-12-26
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count1687
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleBy Order of the Czar. The Tragic Story of Anna Klosstock, The Queen of the Ghetto
article text

CHAPTER X.

THE DEATH-BLOW OF THE KNOUT.

! IT seemed as if the curse of the Lord had fallen upon

the house of Klosstock and upon all the chosen of i Czarovna. The light was suddenly gone out. That I good providence which for years had watched over I the ghetto now turned from it, and there fell upon

it the winter of misery, persecution, and death, j They bowed them to the east and prayed for suc I cour, and there came fire and sword from the west. ! In the middle of the night, while Anna was held

in a terrible bondage, Nathan Klosstock was fet- tered and removed. Morning saw him on his way to the House of Preventive Detention at St. Peters- burg, en route for what is called administrative ?exile. This kind of captivity has for the authori- ties none of the inconveniences of public or even .private trial. The prisoner disappears from the world. Neither friend nor foe may know him ;again. It is possible for his identity to be as s thoroughly wiped out in this way as if he were I iSecretly murdered and buried in an unknown grave. J He has been changed from a man to a number, ¡ :.from a human being into a caged animal. If I Heaven is merciful, he will, in a little time, be at ;' -tacked with some fatal disease, and so be released ; jfrpm the benevolent judicature of the only country

'Which has abolished capital punishment-abolished 5 Út as a fiend might, with his forked tongue in hi£

j .cheek.

I And when that same morning broke upon Czar ! oviia, in the province of Vilnavitch, Heaven ap ! peared to bo more than angry with its servant, I Klosstock, and its minister, the learned Losinski, I for it made its sun to shine gloriously throughout I the land. The radiant ruler of the day lighted up

tho gruesome procession that formed and marched j from the district prison to tho place of punish-

ment.

The platform of the executioner was set up op- posite the barracks of the hussars, and was sup- ported by a company of the Imperial troops. In the police cart Losinski, half naked and bound wai supported by two gaolers, and at the bar' J he was literally handed to the executioner, for he was , still in a condition of mental and physical collapse, j To this extent God had been kind to his poor ser J -rant, who, despite his nobility of nature and his

intellectual strength, did not possess the qualifications for martyrdom.

/ ' Among the crowd was Ferrari, in '^i the disguise of the. Moscow banker, and with y the Moscow banker's passport in bis pocket.

It was he whose voice was heard at the doors of the governor on the previous day, and he had had a narrow'escape of detention ; but the judgment to know when to speak and when to be silent, and the discretion to know how to use money and when, had kept Ferrari free from the hard hand of the enemy, though neither his judgr ment, his discretion nor his power had enabled Mm to help Anna.

It was with a heavy heart that he had returned to Czarovna and communed with his friend Moses Grunstein, who counselled him to bribe the execu- tioner not to spare Losinski, but with merciful con- sideration to kill him outright.

Such as German de Lagny described the punish- ment of the knout twenty years ago, so is it to-day, for Russia is singularly conservative in its Imperial despotism. A man is condemned to receive, say, fifty or a hundred lashes. He is dressed in a pair of linen drawers, his hands tied together, the palms flat against each other, and he is laid upon his face on a frame inclined diagonally, at the extremities of which are fixed iron rings His hands are fastened to one end of the frame, his feet to another. He is then stretched in such a way that he cannot move, ' just as an eel's skin is stretched in order to dry.' His bones crack, and are dislocated under this operation. Five-and-twenty paces away stands the public executioner, attired in a coloured cotton shirt, velvet trousers (stuffed into a pair of jack

boots), his sleeves tucked up over bare, brawny arms. He grasps his dreadful instrument in both hands. It is a thong of thick leather cut in a triangular form, four or five yards long and an inch wide, tapering off at one end and broad at the other. The small end is fastened to a wooden handle or whip-stock about two feet in length. It is akin to the buffalo whip of the Western States of America, the crack of which is like the dis- charge of small artillery. The siernal given, the executioner ad

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vanees a few steps, bends his athletic body, grasp- ing the knout in his two strong hands, the long lasl dragging like a snake along the ground an( between his legs. Within three paces of the victin he flings the creeping lash above his head, thei with a curious, cruel knack lets it twirl for a momen before bringing it down upon the naked object around which it twines with malignant force-' ii spite of its state of tension, the body bounds as if i' were submitted to the powerful grasp of galvanism.

Retracing his steps, the executioner repeats th( stroke with clock-like regularity, until the pre- scribed number of blows is counted. It is a ghastlj sight ; the present narrator will spare the reader £ detailed description of its physical horrors. But ir Russia, where so much may be purchased for gold, and indeed where so milch must be purchased-the venality of every official class being notorious al] over the world-the family of the wretch condemned to the knout may buy from the executioner what he calls the death-blow ; in that case, the operator slays the victim at the very first stroke, 4 as surely as if it were an axe that he held in his hand.'

The drums had beaten, the governor and his officers had taken their places around the scaffold for the knout is administered with much ceremony, more especially when the punishment is intended for a salutary warning during some political crisis i -the crowd, awe-stricken,-yet anxious to see the i av " ' exhibition, were holding their breath with

"% lash was writhing through the air, when a mud woáian tore her way through the crowd, her hair air dishevelled, her face white as her bare arms, i her eyes bloodshot. But the sensation she created

did not stay the flying lash. It came down with the thud of death upon the body of Losinski. The very Ufe was beaten out of him. Ferrari knew it. G-runstein knew it. The executioner knew it. But Anna only saw the lash swing and fall, stroke after stroke, while she fought with the crowd, and at last was seized upon by Ferrari and Grunstein, in the hope of saving her from the police.

1 Are ye men ?' she cried, when for a moment she was at rest. ' Oh, my brothors, will you stand by and see your master murdered ? Great God, curse

this cruel host of the fiendish Czar!'

'Peace, daughter, for Heaven's sake!' urged

Grunstein.

'Anna!' whispered Ferrari.

' Yonder !' she cried. ' Look at him-the false governor, the traitor, the har, the Christian Tar- quin !'

A few men of the ghetto gathered about her threateningly, for the Jews of Czarovna, through many years of something approaching to freedom, were not altogether devoid of courage, and at once, half crazy as she was, Anna seemed to see her ad-

vantage.

' Men of the ghetto !' she cried, ' look to your wives and daughters. You knew me a pure, good woman ; your vile governor, Petronovitch, has put upon me an everlasting curse ; avenge me, for the love of your women and babes !'

' Down with the Governor Petronovitch !' shouted the imbecile who had betrayed Losinski. .

And the knout continued to fall upon the dead rabbi. When the last blow was struck there was a movement towards the crowd where Anna was haranguing them, and this was encountered by^a

*' " Yonder" she cried. ' look at him-the false governor." '

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hostile rush of the multitude that had now gathered about the outraged woman. The governor could be seen giving orders. Several officers left his side and made for the s pot where Anna was conspicuous, her arms tossing to and fro above the crowd, her tall figure a rallying point for the riot, that now began with a quick ferocity, in defence of the wretched queen of the ghetto, to capture whom it was at once seen was the object of the governor's

officers.

All at once there was fighting from one end of the street to the other. The foremost band was led by the imbecile, who fairly leaped upon the police as they charged the crowd, only, however, to be transfixed by a bayonet thrust. Anna seemed to be the very centre and object of the riot. The men of the ghetto defended her with a devotion that was as noble as it was ill-advised and futile. It is true that several of the Imperial troops and police, bit the dust, but the Jews fell by the score, and before Losinski's body was removed from the scaffold and carried as a matter of form to the hospital, a fresh company of troops came marching out from the bar- racks. The Jews retreated to their homes, and the populace, influenced by the agents who had arrived at Czarovna the night before from the east with the false ukase, began to rise against their Semitic

neighbours.