On passing through a little village at nightfall, a voice cried: "Who is there?" "A traveler." "Well, would you like to come and sleep here?" "May God recompense you, yes; if it will not inconvenience you." An aged couple lived there good people, who prepared a meagre repast, which seemed a feast to Piotrowski: the greatest comfort of all being that he could take off his clothes.
Fifteen days passed, during which Piotrowski learned to be an expert oarsman. Then the golden spires of Archangel rose before them; a cry of joy was uttered by all; and the rowers broke off the lower parts of their oars with a frightful crash, according to the universal custom. It was a heartfelt prayer of gratitude that Piotrowski raised to God for having brought him thus far in safety.
After some delay the stranger urged Piotrowski to get up and walk, which he did with the utmost difficulty: leaning upon this Samaritan of the steppes, he contrived to reach the highway, where a small roadside inn was in sight. There his companion left him, and he staggered forward with unspeakable joy toward the warmth and shelter.
"Now try to calm yourself," said the good Samaritan, giving him some bread and dried fish, which Piotrowski ate ravenously, saying "I thank you with all my heart. May God bless you for your goodness." "Ah, well, do not say so much; we are both Christians. Now, try to walk a little."
His final interview with the chief of them took place in a church at the close of the short winter twilight on the last day of the year. After agreeing on all the points which they could foresee, they solemnly took leave of each other, and Piotrowski was left alone in the church, where he lingered to pray fervently for strength for the hour that was at hand.
Piotrowski was only too happy to increase his small store of money by working. At the break of day, before starting, the captain cried "Seat yourselves, and pray to God." Every one squatted down like a Mussulman for a moment, then rose and made a number of salutations and crossings; and next, down to the poorest, each threw a small piece of money into the river to secure a propitious voyage.
"O my God!" exclaims Piotrowski, "Thou alone didst hear the bitter cry of my soul when this outcast first spoke to me as my master." Before going to work his irons were struck off, thanks to the instant entreaties of his compatriots: he was then given a broom and shovel and set to clear rubbish and filth off the roof of a large unfinished building.
Piotrowski, after a short interview with the inspector of the works, was entered on the list of convicts and sent to the guard-house. "He is to work with his feet in irons," added the inspector. This unusual severity was in consequence of a memorandum in Prince Gortchakoff's own writing appended to the prisoner's papers: "Piotrowski must be watched with especial care."
Piotrowski, who, like all Poles, was an ingrained Roman Catholic, after passing through phases of doubt and disbelief had returned to a fervent orthodoxy: this spiritual succor was most precious to himself and his brother-exiles. One idea, however, was never absent from his mind that of escape.
Piotrowski showed her some small kindnesses, which won her fervent gratitude. As they landed in the great capital, which seemed the very focus of his dangers, and he stood on the wharf wholly at a loss what should be his next step, the poor woman came up with her daughter and offered to show him cheap lodgings. He followed them, carrying his protectress's trunk.