lighted in the day by a hole in the wood not larger than a man's
hand, and in the night by a sputtering candle hung from the rafters.
He sat on a stool; his face was worn, his head was close-cropped
to relieve the heat of his brain, and on the table by his side lay
all his red hair, as long as his mother's was when it fell to the
shears of the Jew on the wharf.
He gave no sign when Greeba entered, though he knew she was
there, but sat with his face down and one hand on the table.
"Jason," she said, "I am ashamed. It is I who have brought you
to this. Forgive me! forgive me! But my husband's life was in
danger, and what was I to do?"
Still he gave no sign.
"Jason," she said again, "you have heaped coals of fire on my
head; for I have done nothing but injure you, and though you
might have done as much for me you never have."
At that the fingers of his hand on the table grasped the edge of
"But, Jason," she said, "all is not lost yet. No, for I can save
you still. Listen. You shall give me your promise to make peace
with my husband, and when my husband returns he will grant me
your pardon. Oh, yes, I know he will, for he is tender-hearted,
and he will forgive you ; yes, he will forgive you "
THE BONDMAN 185
"My curse on him and his forgiveness," cried Jason, rising sud-
denly and bringing down his fist on the table. "Who is he that
he should forgive me? It has not been for his sake that I have
been silent, with the devil at my side urging me to speak. And for
all that you have made me to suffer he shall yet pay double. Let
it go on ; let him send me away ; let him bury me at his mines. But
I shall live to find him yet. Something tells me that I shall not die
until I have met with that man face to face."
And Greeba went back home with these mad words ringing in
her ears. "It is useless to try," she thought. "I have done all I
can. My husband is before everything. I shall say nothing to him
None the less she cried very bitterly, and was still crying when
at bedtime her little English maid came up to her and chattered of
the news of the day. It seemed that some Danish storekeepers on
the cheapstead had lately been arrested as spies, brought to trial,
When Greeba awoke next morning, after a restless night, while
the town still lay asleep, and only the croak of the ravens from the
rocks above the fiord broke the silence of the late dawn, she heard
the hollow tread of many footsteps on the frozen snow of the Thing-
vellir road and peering out through the window, which was coated
with hoar frost, she saw a melancholy procession. Three men,
sparsely clad in thin tunics, snow stockings, and skin caps, walked
heavily in file, chained together hand to hand and leg to leg, with
four armed warders, closely muffled to the ears, riding leisurely be-
side them. They were prisoners bound for the sulphur mines of
Krisuvik. The first of them was Jason, and he swung along with
his long stride and his shorn head thrown back and his pallid face
held up. The other two were old Thomsen and young Polvesen,
the Danish storekeepers.
It was more than Greeba could bear to look upon that sight,
for it brought back the memory of that other sight on that other
morning, when Jason came leaping down to her from the moun-
tains, over gorse and cushag and hedge and ditch. So she turned
her head away and covered her eyes with her hands. And then
one two three four the heavy footsteps went on over the snow.
The next thing she knew was that her English maid was in her
bedroom, saying, "Some strangers in the kitchen are asking for
you. They are Englishmen, and have just come ashore, and they
call themselves your brothers."
186 THE BONDMAN
Now when the Fairbrothers concluded that they could never
give rest to their tender consciences until they had done right by
their poor sister Greeba they set themselves straightway to con-
sider the ways and means. Ballacraine they must sell in order that
its proceeds might be taken to Greeba as her share and interest;
but Ballacraine belonged to Jacob, and another provision would
forthwith need to be made for him. So after much arguing and
some nagging across the hearth of the kitchen at Lague it was
decided that each of Jacob's five brothers should mortgage his
farm to one-sixth its value, and that the gross sum of their five-
sixths should be Jacob's for his share. This arrangement would
have the disadvantage of leaving Jacob without land, but he showed
a magnanimous spirit in that relation. "Don't trouble about me,"
said he, "it's sweet and nice to do a kindness to your own brothers."
And four of his brethren applauded that sentiment, but Thur-
stan curled up his red nose and thought, "Aw, yes, of coorse, a
powerful big boiler of brotherly love the little miser keeps going
under his weskit."
And having so decided they further concluded to see the crops
off the ground, and then lose no time in carrying out their design.
"Let's wait for the melya," said Asher, meaning the harvest-home,
"and then off for Marky the Lord." The person who went by this
name was one Mark Skillicorn, an advocate, of Ramsey, who com-
bined the functions of pettifogger with those of money-lender and
auctioneer. Marky the Lord was old, and plausible and facetious.
He was a distant relative of the Fairbrothers by the side of their
mother's French family ; and it was a strange chain of circumstances
that no big farmer ever got into trouble but he became a client of
Marky the Lord's, that no client of Marky the Lord's did not in the
end go altogether to the bad, and that poor Marky the Lord never
had a client who did not die in his debt. Nevertheless, Marky the
Lord grew richer as his losses grew heavier, and more facetious as
his years increased. Oh, he was a funny dog, was Marky the Lord;
but there was just one dog on the island a shade or two funnier
THE BONDMAN 187
still, and that was Jacob Fairbrother. This thrifty soul had for
many a year kept a nest of private savings, and even in the days
when he and his brethren went down to make a poor mouth before
their father at Castletown he had money secretly lent out on the
conscientious interest of only three per cent above the legal rate.
And thus it chanced that when Ballacraine was advertised in big
letters on every barn door in the north of Man, Jacob Fairbrother
went down to Marky the Lord, and made a private bargain to buy
it in again. So when the day of the sale carne, and Marky the Lord
strode over the fields with some thirty men farmers, miners, advo-
cates, and parsons at his heels, and then drew up on the roadside
by the "Hibernian," and there mounted the tail-board of a cart
for the final reckoning, little Jacob was too much moved to be
present, though his brothers were there, all glooming around on the
outside of the group, with their hands in their breeches pockets.
Ballacraine was knocked down cheap to somebody that nobody
knew, and then came the work of the mortgages; so once again
Jacob went off to Marky the Lord, and bargained to be made
mortgagor, though no one was to be a whit the wiser. And ten per
cent he was to get from each of his five brothers for the use
of the money which next day came back to his own hands.
Thus far all was straight dealing, but with the approach of the
time to go to Iceland the complications grew thick. Jacob had so
husbanded his money that while seeming to spend he still pos-
sessed it, and now he was troubled to know where to lodge that por-
tion of it which he should not want in Iceland and might find it
unsafe to take there. And while he was in the throes of his
uncertainty his brothers all save John were in the travail of
their own big conception.
Now Asher, Stean, Ross, and Thurstan, having each made up his
mind that he would go to Iceland also, had to consider how to
get there, for the late bargaining had left them all penniless. The
proceeds of the sale of Ballacraine were lodged with Jacob for
Greeba, and Jacob also held as his own what had come to each man
from his mortgage. So thinking that Jacob must have more than
he could want, they approached him one by one, confidentially and
slyly. And wondrous were the lies they told him, for they dared
not confess that their sole need of money was to go to Iceland after
him, and watch him that he did not cheat them when Greeba
sent them all their fortunes in return for their brotherly love
Thus Asher took Jacob aside and whispered, "I'm morthal hard
pressed for a matter of five-and-thirty pound, boy just five-and-
188 THE BONDMAN
thirty, for draining and fencing. I make bold to think you'll lend
me the like of it, and six per cent I'll be paying reg'lar."
"Ah, I can't do it, Asher," said Jacob, "for old Marky the
Lord has stripped me."
Then came Stean, plucking a bit of ling and looking careless,
and he said, "I've got a fine thing on now. I can buy a yoke of
plowing oxen for thirty pound. Only thirty, and a dead bargain.
Can you lend me the brass? But whisht's the word, for Ross is
sneaking after them."
"Very sorry, Stean," said Jacob, "but Ross has been here be-
fore you, and I've just lent him the money."
Ross himself came next, and said, "I borrowed five-and-twenty
pound from Stean a bit back, and he's not above threatening to sell
me up for a dirty little debt like that. Maybe ye'd tide me over
the trouble and say nothing to Stean."
"Make your mind easy, Ross," said Jacob, "Stean told me him-
self, and I've paid him all you owe him."
So these two went their ways and thereafter eyed each other
threateningly, but neither dared explode, for both had their secret
fear. And last of all came Thurstan, made well drunk for the
better support of his courage, and he maudled and cried, "What
d'ye think? Poor Ballabeg is dead him that used to play the
fiddle at church and the old parson wants me to take Ballabeg's
place up in the gallery-loft. Says I'd be wonderful good at the
viol-bass. I wouldn't mind doing it neither, only it costs such a
power of money, a viol-bass does twenty pound maybe."
"Well, what of that?" said Jacob, interrupting him. "The par-
son says he'll lend you the money. He told me so himself."
With such shrewd answers did Jacob escape from the danger
of lending to his brothers, whom he could not trust. But he lost
no time in going down to Marky the Lord and offering his money
to be lent out on interest with good security. Knowing nothing
of this, Asher, Stean, Ross, and Thurstan each in his turn stole down
to Marky the Lord to borrow the sum he needed. And Marky the
Lord kept his own worthy counsel and showed no unwise eager-
ness. First he said to Jacob, "I can lend out your money on good
"Who to?" said Jacob.
"That I've given my word not to tell. What interest do you
"Not less than twelve per cent," said the temperate Jacob.
"I'll get it," said Marky the Lord, and Jacob went away with a
THE BONDMAN 189
Then said Marky the Lord to each of the borrowers in turn, "I
can find you the money."
"Whose is it?" asked Asher. who came the first.
"That I've sworn not to tell," said Marky the Lord.
"Only four per cent to my friend."
"Well, and that's reasonable, and he's a right honest, well-
meaning man, whoever he is," said Asher.
"That he is, friend," said Marky the Lord, "but as he had
not got the money himself he had to borrow it of an acquaintance,
and pay ten per cent for the convenience."
"So he wants fourteen per cent !" cried Asher. "Shoo ! Lord
save us ! Oh, the grasping miser. It's outrageous. I'll not pay it
the Nightman fly away with me if I do."
"You need be under no uneasiness about that," said Marky the
Lord, "for I've three other borrowers ready to take the money
the moment you say you won't."
"Hand it out," said Asher, and away he went, fuming.
Then Stean, Ross, and Thurstan followed, one by one, and each
behaved as Asher had done before him. When the transaction was
complete, and the time had come to set sail for Iceland, many and
wonderful were the shifts of the four who had formed the secret
design to conceal their busy preparations. But when all was com-
plete, and berths taken, all six in the same vessel, Jacob and Gen-
tleman John rode round the farms of Lague to bid a touching
farewell to their brethren.
"Good-by, Thurstan," said Jacob, sitting on the cross-board of
the cart. "We've had arguments in our time, and fallen on some
rough harm in the course of them, but we'll meet for peace and
quietness in heaven some day."
"We'll meet before that," thought Thurstan.
And when Jacob and John were gone on toward Ramsey, Thur-
stan mounted the tail-board of his own cart and followed. Meantime
Asher, Stean, and Ross were on their journey, and because they did
not cross on the road they came face to face for the first time, all
six together, each lugging his kit of clothes behind him, on the deck
of the ship that was to take them to Iceland. Then Jacob's pale
face grew livid.
"What does this mean?" he cried.
"It means that we can't trust you," said Thurstan.
"Xone of you?" said Jacob.
"None of us, seemingly," said Thurstan, glancing round into
the confused faces about him.
190 THE BONDMAN
"What! Not your own brother?" said Jacob.
" 'Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin/ as the saying is,"
said Thurstan, with a sneer.
" 'Poor once, poor forever/ as the saying is," mocked Jacob.
"Last week you hadn't twenty pound to buy your viol-bass to play
in the gallery-loft."
Stean laughed at that, and Jacob turned hotly upon him. "And
you hadn't thirty pound to buy your yoke of oxen that Ross was
Then Ross made a loud guffaw, and Jacob faced about to him.
"And maybe you've paid back your dirty five-and-twenty pound
that Stean threatened to sell you up for?"
Then Stean glowered hard at Ross, and Ross looked black at
Stean, and Asher almost burst his sides with laughter.
"And you, too, my dear eldest brother," said Jacob, bitterly,
"you have the advantage of me in years but not in wisdom. You
thought, like the rest of them, to get the money out of me, to help
you to follow me and w&tch me. So that was it, was it? But I
was too much for you, my dear brother, and you had to go else-
where for your draining and ditching."
"So I had, bad cess to you," said Asher ; "and fourteen per cent
I had to pay for the shabby loan I got."
At that Stean and Ross and Thurstan pricked up their
"And did you pay fourteen per cent?" said Stean.
"I did, bad cess to Marky the Lord, and the grasping old miser
behind him, whoever he is."
And now it was Jacob's turn to look amazed.
"Wait," he said; "I don't like the look of you."
"Then shut your eyes," said Thurstan.
"Did Marky the Lord lend you the money?" asked Jacob of
"Ay, he did," said Asher.
"And you, too?" aid Jacob, turning stiffly to Stean.
"Ay," said Stean.
"And you?" said Jacob, facing toward Ross.
"I darn say no," said Ross.
"And you, as well?" said Jacob, confronting Thurstan.
"Why not?" said Thurstan.
"The blockhead!" cried Jacob. "The scoundrel! It was my
money mine mine, I tell you, and he might as well have pitched
it into the sea."
Then the four men began to double their fists.
THE BONDMAN 191
"Wait !" said Asher. "Are you the grasping young miser that
asked fourteen per cent?"
"He is, clear enough," said Stean.
"Well," said Thurstan, "I really think look you, boys, I really
do think, but I speak under correction I really think, all things
considered, this Jacob is a damned rascal."
"I may have the advantage of him in years," said Asher,
doubling up his sleeves, "but if I can't "
"Go to the devil," said Jacob, and he went below, boiling hot
It was idle to keep up the quarrel, for very soon all six were out
on the high seas, bound to each other's company at bed and board,
and doomed to pass the better part of a fortnight together. So
before they came to Iceland they were good friends, after their
fashion, though that was perhaps the fashion of cat and mouse,
and being landed at Reykjavik they were once more in their old
relations, with Jacob as purse-bearer and spokesman.
"And now listen," said that thrifty person. "What's it saying?
'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' We've got our bird
in the hand, haven't we?"
"So we have," said Asher; "six hundred golden pounds that
Ballacraine fetched at the sale."
"Just so," said Jacob; "and before we part with it let us make
sure about the two in the bush."
With that intention they started inquiries, as best they could;
touching the position of Michael Sunlocks, his salary and in-
And in spite of the difficulties of language they heard and
saw enough to satisfy them. Old Iceland was awakening from
a bad dream of three bad centuries and setting to work with a will
to become a power among the States ; the young President, Michael
Sunlocks, was the restorer and protector of her liberties; fame
and honor were before him, and before all who laid a hand to
his plow. This was what they heard in many jargons on every
"It's all right," whispered Jacob, "and now for the girl."
They had landed late in the day of Greeba's visit to Red Jason
at the little house of detention, and had heard of her marriage, of
its festivities, and of the attempt on the life of the President. But
though they knew that Jason was no longer in Man they were
too much immersed in their own vast schemes to put two and two
together, until next morning they came upon the sad procession
bound for the Sulphur Mines, and saw that Jason was one of the
192 THE BONDMAN
prisoners. They were then on their way to Government House,
and Jacob said with a wink, "Boys, that's worth remembering.
When did it do any harm to have two strings to your bow?"
The others laughed at that, and John nudged Thurstan and said,
"Isn't he a boy?" And Thurstan grunted and trudged on.
When they arrived at the kitchen door of the house they asked
for Greeba by her new name, and after some inarticulate fencing
with a fat Icelandic cook, the little English maid was brought
down to them.
"Leave her to me," whispered Jacob, and straightway he tackled
Could they see the mistress? What about? Well, it was a bit
of a private matter, but no disrespect to herself, miss. Aw, yes,
they were Englishmen that's to say a sort of Englishmen being
Manxmen. Would the mistress know them? Ay, go bail on that.
Eh, boys ? Ha ! ha ! Fact was they were her brothers, miss. Yes,
her brothers, all six of them, and longing mortal to clap eyes again
on their sweet little sister.
And after that Master Jacob addressed himself adroitly to an
important question, and got most gratifying replies. Oh, yes, the
President loved his young wife beyond words ; worshiped the very
ground she walked on, as they say. And, oh, yes, she had great, great
influence with him, and he would do any thing in the wide world
to please her.
"That'll do," whispered Jacob over his shoulder, as the little
maid tripped away to inform her mistress. "I'll give that girl a shil-
ling when she comes again," he added.
"And give her another for me," said Stean.
"And me," said Asher.
"Seeing that I've no land at home now I wouldn't mind staying
here when you all go back," said Jacob.
"I'll sell you mine, Jacob," said Thurstan.
The maid returned to ask them to follow, and they went after
her, stroking their lank hair smooth on their foreheads, and study-
ing the remains of the snow on their boots. When they came to
the door of the room where they were to meet with Greeba, Jacob
whispered to the little maid, "I'll give you a crown when I come
out again." Then he twisted his face over his shoulder and said,
"Do as I do; d'ye hear?"
"Isn't he a boy ?" chuckled Gentleman John.
Then into the room they passed, one by one, all six in file.
Greeba was standing by a table, erect, quivering, with flashing eyes,
and the old trembling on both sides of her heart. Jacob and John
THE BONDMAN 193
instantly went down on one knee before her, and their four lumber-
ing brethren behind made shift to do the same.
"So we have found you at last, thank God," said Jacob, in a
mighty burst of fervor.
"Thank God, thank God," the others echoed.
"Ah, Greeba," said Jacob, in a tone of sorrowful reproach,
"why ever did you go away without warning, and leave us all so
racked with suspense ? You little knew how you grieved us, seem-
ing to slight our love and kindness toward you "
"Stop," said Greeba. "I know too well what your love and
kindness have been to me. Why have you come?"
"Don't say that," said Jacob, sadly, "for see what we have made
free to fetch you six hundred pound," he added, lugging a bag and
a roll of paper out of his pocket.
"Six hundred golden pounds," repeated the others.
"It's your share of Lague your full share, Greeba, woman,"
said Jacob, deliberately, "and every penny of it is yours; so take
it, and may it bring you a blessing, Greeba. And don't think unkind
of us because we have held it back until now, for we kept it from
you for your own good, seeing plain there was some one harking
after you for sake of what you had, and fearing your good money
would thereby fall into evil hands, and you be made poor and
"Ay, ay," muttered the others, "that Jason that Red Jason."
"But he's gone now, and serve him right," said Jacob, "and
you're wedded to the right man, praise God."
So saying he shambled to his feet, and his brothers did likewise.
But Greeba stood without moving, and said through her com-
pressed lips, "How did you know that I was here?"
"The letter, the letter," Asher blurted out, and Jacob gave him
a side-long look, and then said:
"Ye see, dear, it was this way. When you were gone, and we
didn't know where to look for you, and were sore grieved to think
you'd maybe left us in anger, not rightly seeing our drift toward
you, we could do nothing but sit about and fret for you. And one
day we were turning over some things in a box, just to bring
back the memory of you, when what should we find but a letter
writ to you by the good man himself."
"Ay, Sunlocks Michael Sunlocks," said Stean.
"And a right good man he is, beyond gainsay; and he knows
how to go through life, and I always said it," said Asher.
And Jacob continued, "So said I ; 'Boys,' I said, 'now we know
where she is, and that by this time she must have married the man
9 Vol. II.
I 9 4 THE BONDMAN
she ought, let's do the right by her and sell Ballacraine, and take
her the money and give her joy.' "
"So you did, so you did," said John.
"And we sold it dirt cheap, too," said Jacob, "but you're not the
loser; no, for here is a full seventh of all Lague straight to your
"Give me the money," said Greeba.
"And there it is dear," said Jacob, fumbling the notes and the
gold to count them, while his brethren, much gratified by this sign
of Greeba's complacency, began to stretch their legs from the
easy chairs about them.
"And a pretty penny it has cost us to fetch it," said John.
"We've had to pinch ourselves to do it, I can tell you."
"How much has it cost you?" said Greeba.
"No matter of that," interrupted Jacob, with a lofty sweep of
"Let me pay you back what you have spent in coming," said
"Not a pound of it," said Jacob. "What's a matter of forty or
fifty pounds to any of us, compared to doing what's right by our
own flesh and blood?"
"Let me pay you," said Greeba, turning to Asher, and Asher
was for holding out his hand, but Jacob, coming behind him, tugged
at his coat, and so he drew back and said :
"Aw, no, child; I couldn't touch it for my life."
"Then you," said Greeba to Thurstan, and Thurstan looked as
hungry as a hungry gull at the bait that was offered him, but just
then Jacob was coughing most lamentably. So with a wry face,
that was all colors at once, Thurstan answered: "Aw, Greeba,
woman, do you really think a poor man has got no feelings ? Don't
press it, woman, you'll hurt me."
Recking nothing of these refusals Greeba tried each of the
others in turn, and getting the same answer from all, she wheeled
about, saying, "Very well, be it so," and quickly locked the money
in the drawer of a cabinet. This done, she said sharply, "Now,
you can go."
"Go?" they cried, looking up from their seats in bewilderment.
"Yes," she said, "before my husband returns."
"Before he returns?" said Jacob. "Why, Greeba, we wish to
"You had better not wait," said Greeba, "he might remember