"At mid-evening," answered Michael Sunlocks, and then, with
the sigh of a weary man, he turned toward the stove.
The Speaker glanced at him with his dim eyes screwed up,
pushed back his little skull-cap, and ran his forefinger along his
bald crown, then shook his head gravely and left the room, saying
within himself, "Why this haste? And why the message? Ah,
these impetuous souls that rise so high and so fast sometimes go
down headlong to the abyss !"
Michael Sunlocks was turning round from the stove when
Greeba entered, and for all the womanly courage with which she
tried to carry herself before him, he could see that she looked
frightened, and that her eyes sought his eyes for mercy and cheer.
"Michael," she cried, "what is it that you are about to do? Tell
me. I can not bear this suspense any longer/'
THE BONDMAN 217
He made her no answer, but sat at his desk and lifted his pen.
At that she stamped her foot and cried again :
"Tell me, tell me. I can not and I will not bear it."
But he knew, without lifting his head, that with all her brave
challenge, and the spark of her defiant eyes, behind her dark lashes
a great tear-drop lay somewhere veiled. So he showed no anger,
and neither did he reply to her appeal, but made some show of
going on with his writing.
And being now so far recovered from her first fear as to look
upon his face with eyes that could see it, Greeba realized all that
she had but partly guessed from the chatter of her maid, of the
sad havoc the night had made with him. At that she could bear
up no longer, for before her warm woman's feeling all her little
stubborn spirit went down as with a flood, and she flung herself
at his feet and cried, "Michael, forgive me; I don't know what I
But getting no answer to her passionate agony any more than
her hot disdain, her pride got the better of her again, and she tried
to defend herself with many a simple plea, saying between a sob
and a burst of wrath that if she had deceived him, and said what
was barely true, it was only from thinking to defend his happiness.
"And why," she cried, "why should I marry you while loving
Then, for the first time, he raised his head and answered her:
"Because of your pride, Greeba your fatal pride," he said;
"your pride that has been your bane since you were a child and
you went to London and came back the prouder of your time there.
I thought it was gone; but the old leaven works as potently as
before, and rises up to choke me. I ought to have known it,
Greeba, that your old lightness would lead you to some false deal-
ing yet, and I have none but myself to blame."
Now if he had said this with any heat of anger, or with any
rush of tears, she would have known by the sure instinct of woman-
hood that he loved her still, and was only fighting against love in
vain. Then she would have flung herself into his arms with a
burst of joy and a cry of "My darling, you are mine, you are mine."
But instead of that he spoke the hard words calmly, coldly, and
without so much as a sigh, and by that she knew that the heart
of his love had been killed within him, and now lay dead before
her. So, stung to the quick, she said, "You mean that I deserted
Jason because he was poor, and came here to you because you are
rich. It is false cruelly, basely false. You know it is false; or,
if you don't, you ought."
10 Yol. II.
2i8 THE BONDMAN
"I am far from rich, Greeba," he said, "although to your pride
I may seem so, seeing that he whom you left for the sake of the
poor glory of my place here was but a friendless sailor lad."
"I tell you it is false," she cried. "I could have loved my
husband if he had never had a roof over his head. And yet you
tell me that ? You that should know me so well ! How dare you ?'
she cried, and by the sudden impulse of her agony, with love strug-
gling against anger, and fire and tears in her eyes together, she
lifted up her hand and struck him on the breast.
That blow did more than any tearful plea to melt the icy mis-
trust that had all night been freezing up his heart, but before he
had time to reply Greeba was on her knees before him, praying
of him to forgive her, because she did not know what she was
"But, Michael," she said again, "it isn't true. Indeed, indeed,
it is not, and it is very, very cruel. Yes, I am proud, very proud,
but I am proudest of all of my husband. Proud of him, proud for
him proud that he should be the bravest and noblest gentleman
in the world. That is the worst of my pride, Michael that I want
to be proud of him I love. But if that might not have been, and
he had been the lowliest man on earth, I could have shared his lot
though it had been never so poor and humble, so that I could have
had him beside me always."
As he listened to her passionate words there was a fluttering
at his throat. "Are you sure of that, Greeba ?" he said.
"Only let me prove it to you," she cried, with the challenge
of beauty in her beautiful eyes.
"So you shall, Greeba," he said, "for we leave this house to-
"What?" she cried, rising to her feet.
"Yes," he said, "from to-morrow our condition will be dif-
ferent. So get yourself ready to go away from here."
Then her courageous challenge sank away in an instant.
"Whatever do you mean?" she cried, in great terror.
"If you have married the President you shall live with the
man," he answered.
"Oh, Michael, Michael, what are you going to do?" she cried.
"To degrade yourself ?"
"Even so," he said calmly.
"To punish me ?" she cried. "To prove me ? To test me ?"
"If you can go through with it I shall be happy and content,"
"Are you then to be nothing in Iceland ?" she said.
THE BONDMAN 219
"And what of that?" he asked. "Think of what you have just
"Then I have come into you-r life to wreck it," she cried. "Yes,
I, I ! Michael," she added, more quietly, "I will go away. I would
not bring shame and humiliation upon you for all that the world
can give. I will leave you."
"That you never shall," said Michael Sunlocks. "We are man
and wife now, and as man and wife we shall live together."
"I tell you I will not stay," she cried.
"And I tell you," he replied, "that I am your husband, and you
shall give me a wife's obedience."
"Michael, dear Michael," she said, "it is for your own good
that I want to leave you, so that the great promise of your life may
not be wasted. It is I who am breaking in upon it. And I am
nothing. Let me go."
"It is too late, Greeba. As poor man and poor woman we must
pass the rest of our life together."
At that she burst into sobs again, blaming her brothers, and
telling of their mean mission, and how she resented it, and what
revenge of wicked slander they had wreaked upon her.
"You see it is all an error," she cried : "a cruel, cruel error."
"No, Greeba, it is not all an error," he answered. It is not an
error that you deceived me and lied to me."
At that word her tears fell back, and the fire of her heart was
in her eyes in an instant. "You say that, do you ?" she cried. "Ah,
then, perhaps there has been yet another error than you think of
the error of throwing him away for sake of you. He is noble,
and simple, and true. His brave heart is above all suspicion. God
pity him, and forgive me!"
Then for the first time that day since the six Fairbrothers had
left the house, the calmness of Michael Sunlocks forsook him, and
in a stern voice, with a look of fierce passion in his face, he cried,
"Let me never, never meet that man. Five years ago I came here
to save him, but now if we ever come face to face it will be the
hour of his death or mine."
220 THE BONDMAN
THE FALL OF MICHAEL SUNLOCKS
WHEN the Fairbrothers, in the first days after their coming to
Iceland, started inquiries touching the position and influence of
Michael Sunlocks, thinking thereby to make sure of their birds
in the bush before parting with their bird in the hand, they fre-
quented a little drinking-shop in the Cheapstead where sailors of
many nations congregated, Danes, Icelanders, Norwegians, English,
and Irish. Hearing there what satisfied their expectations, their
pride began to swell, and as often as Michael Sunlocks was named
with honor they blew up their breasts like bantams and said he was
their brother, so to speak, and had been brought up in the same
house with them since he was a slip of a brat of two or three.
And if any who heard them glanced them over with doubtful'eyes
they straightway broke into facetious stories concerning the boy-
hood of Sunlocks, showing all their wondrous kindness to him as
big brothers toward a little one.
Now these trifling events were of grave consequence to the
fortunes of the Fairbrothers, and the fate of Michael Sunlocks, at
two great moments. The first of the two was when Thurstan
broke into open rebellion against Jacob. Then, with a sense of his
wise brother's pitiable blunder-headedness, the astute Thurstan went
off to the same drinking-shop to console himself with drink, and
there he was addressed, when he was well and comfortably drunk,
by a plausible person who spoke an unknown tongue. The end of
that conference was nevertheless an idea firmly settled in Thur-
stan's mind that if he could not get money out of Michael Sunlocks
he could at least get satisfaction.
This was the matter that Thurstan darkly hinted at when Jacob,
being utterly discomfited, had to leave all further schemes to his
brethren. So that day he returned to his rendezvous, met the
plausible person again, and later in the evening sought out his
brothers and said, "Didn't I tell ye to leave it to me?"
"What's going doing?" said four voices at once.
"Plucking him down, the upstart, that's what's going doing,"
THE BONDMAN 221
Then to five pairs of eager ears it slowly leaked out that a Dan-
ish ship lay in the harbor with a mysterious cargo of great casks,
supposed to contain tallow; that after discharging their contents
these casks were to be filled with shark's oil ; that waiting the time
to fill them they were to be stored (as all other warehouses were
full of bonder's stock) in the little cell of detention under the
senate-house; and, finally and most opportunely, that a meeting of
the Althing had been summoned on special business for the next
night following, and that Michael Sunlocks was to be present.
The Fairbrothers heard all this with eyes that showed how well
they understood it and keenly gloated over it. And late the same
night the cargo of great casks was unshipped at the jetty, wheeled
up to the senate-house and lodged there, carefully, silently, one
by one. Thurstan helping, a few stragglers looking on, the stam-
mering doorkeeper, long Jon, not anywhere visible, and no one
else in the little sleepy town a whit the wiser. This being done,
Thurstan went back to his lodging with the content of a soul at
ease, saying to himself, "As I say, if we don't get anything else,
we'll get satisfaction; and if we get what's promised I've a safe
place to put it until the trouble's over and we can clear away, and
that's the little crib under the turret of the cathedral church."
Then the worthy man lay down to sleep.
Before Thurstan was awake next morning Reykjavik was all
astir. It had become known that a special sitting of the Althing
had been summoned for that night, and because nothing was
known much was said concerning the business afoot. People gath-
ered in groups where the snow of the heavy drifts had been banked
up at the street corners, and gossiped and guessed. Such little
work as the great winter left to any man was done in haste or not
at all, that men might meet in the stores, the drinking-shops, and
on the Cheapstead and ask, "Why?" "Wherefore?" and "What
does it mean?" That some event of great moment was pending
seemed to be the common opinion everywhere, though what ground
it rested on no one knew, for no one knew anything. Only on one
point was the feeling more general, or nearer right; that the
President himself was at the root and centre of whatever was
Before nightfall this vague sentiment, which ever hovers, like
a dark cloud over a nation when a storm is near to breaking upon
it, had filled every house in the capital, so that when the hour was
come for the gathering of the Althing the streets were thronged.
Tow-headed children in goat-skin caps ran here and there, women
stood at the doors of houses, young girls leaned out of windows in
222 THE BONDMAN
spite of the cold, sailors and fishermen with pipes between their
lips and their hands deep in their pockets lounged in grave silence
outside the taverns, and old men stood under the open lamps by the
street corners and chewed and snuffed to keep themselves warm.
In the neighborhood of the wooden senate-house on the High
Street the throng was densest, and such of the members as came
afoot had to crush their way to the door. All the space within
that had been allotted to the public was filled as soon as stammer-
ing Jon opened the side door. When no more room was left the
side door was closed again and locked, and it was afterward re-
membered, when people had time to put their heads together, that
long Jon was there and then seen to pass the key of this side door
to one of the six English strangers who had lately come to the
town. That stranger was Thurstan Fairbrother.
The time of waiting before the proceedings commenced was
passed by those within the senate-house in snuff-taking and sneez-
ing and coughing, and a low buzz of conversation, full of solemn
The members came in twos and threes, and every fresh comer
was quizzed for a hint of the secret of the night. But grave and
silent, when taken together, with the gravity and solemnity of so
many oxen, and some of the oxen's sullen stupidity, were the faces
both of members and spectators. Yet among both were faces that
told of amused unbelief, calculating spirits that seemed to say that
all this excitement was a bubble and would presently burst like one ;
sapient souls who, when the world is dead, will believe in no judg-
ment until they hear the last trump.
There were two parties in the Senate the Church party, that
wanted religion to be the basis of the reformed government; and
the Levelers, who wished the distinctions of clergy and laity to be
abolished so far as secular power could go. The Church party was
led by the Bishop, who was a member of the higher chamber, the
Council, by virtue of his office ; the Levelers were led by the little
man with piercing eyes and the square brush of iron-gray hair who
had acted as spokesman to the Court at the trial of Red Jason. As
each of these arrived there was a faint commotion through the
Presently the Speaker came shuffling in, wiping his brow with
his red handkerchief, and at the same moment the thud of a horse's
hoofs on the hard snow outside, followed by a deep buzz as of many
voices not cheering nor yet groaning told of the coming of the
Then, amid suppressed excitement, Michael Sunlocks entered
the house, looking weary, pale, much older, and stooping slightly
under his flaxen hair, as if conscious of the gaze of many eyes
fixed steadfastly upon him.
After the Speaker had taken his chair, Michael Sunlocks rose in
his place amid dead stillness.
"Sir, and gentlemen," he said in a tense voice, speaking slowly,
calmly, and well, "you are met here at my instance to receive a
message of some gravity. It is scarcely more than half a year
since it was declared and enacted by this present Council of the
Althing that the people of Iceland were and should be constituted,
established and confirmed to be a Republic or Free State, governed
by the Supreme Authority of the Nation, the people's representa-
tives. You were then pleased to do me the honor of electing me
to be your first President, and though I well knew that no man had
less cause to put himself forward in the cause of his country than
I, being the youngest among you, the least experienced, and, by
birth, an Englishman, yet I undertook the place I am now in be-
cause I had taken a chief hand in pulling down the old order, and
ought, therefore, to lend the best help I could toward putting up the
new. Other reasons influenced me, such as the desire to keep the
nation from falling amid many internal dissensions into extreme
disorder and becoming open to the common enemy. I will not say
that I had no personal motives, no private aims, no selfish ambi-
tions in stepping in where your confidence opened the way, but you
will bear me witness that in the employment to which the nation
called me, though there may have been passion and mistakes, I
have endeavored to discharge the duty of an honest man."
There was a low murmur of assent, then a pause, then a hush,
and then Michael Sunlocks continued:
"But, gentlemen, I have come to see that I am not able for
such a trust as the burden of this government, and I now beg to
be dismissed of my charge."
Then the silence was broken by many exclamations of surprise.
They fell on the ear of Michael Sunolcks like the ground-swell
of a distant sea. His white face quivered, but his eyes were bright,
and he did not flinch.
"It is no doubt your concernment to know what events and
what convictions have so suddenly influenced me, and I can only
claim your indulgence in withholding that part of both that touches
the interests of others. For myself, I can but say that I have
made mistakes and lost self-confidence ; that being unable to man-
age my own affairs I am unwilling to undertake the affairs of the
nation; that I am convinced I am unfit for the great place I hold;
224 ' THE BONDMAN
that any name were fitter than mine for my post, any person fitter
than I am for its work ; and I say this from my heart, God knows."
He was listened to in silence, but amid a tumult of unheard
emotion, and as he went on his voice, though still low, was so
charged with suppressed feeling that it seemed in that dead stillness
to rise to a cry.
"Gentlemen," he said, "though this may come on you with
surprise, do not think it has been lightly resolved upon, or that
it is to me a little thing to renounce the honor with the burden
of government; I will deal plainly and faithfully with you and
say that all my heart was in the work you gave me, and though
I held my life in my hand, I was willing to adventure it in that
high place where the judgment of the Althing placed me. So if I
beg of you to release me I sacrifice more by my resignation than you
by your dismissal. If I had pride, Heaven has humbled it, and that
is a righteous judgment of God. Young and once hopeful, I am
withdrawing from all sight of hope. I am giving up my cherished
ambitions and the chances of success. When I leave this place
you will see me no more. I am to be as nothing henceforward, for
the pole-star of my life is gone out. So not without feeling, not
without pain, I ask you to dismiss me and let me go my ways."
He sat down upon these words amid the stunned stupefaction
of those who heard him, and when he had ceased to speak it seemed
as if he were still speaking. Presently the people recovered their
breath and there was the harsh grating of feet, and a murmur like
a low sough of wind.
Then rose the little man with the brush hair, the leader of the
Levelers, and the chief opponent of Michael Sunlocks in the Presi-
dency. His name was Grimmsson. Clearing his throat, raspily, he
began to speak in short, jerky sentences. This was indeed a sur-
prise that moved the house to great astonishment. There was a
suspicion of mock heroics about it that he, for his part, could not
shake off, for they all knew the President for a dreamer of dreams.
The President had said that it was within the concernment of
the Althing to know how it stood that he had so suddenly and sur-
prisingly become convinced of his unfitness. Truly he was right
there. Also the President had said that he had undertaken his post
not so much out of hope of doing any good as out of a desire to
prevent mischief and evil. Yet what was he now doing? Running
them headlong into confusion and disorder.
The leader of the Levelers sat down, and a dark-browed fel-
low from among his followers rose in his place. What did this
hubbub mean ? If the President had been crazy in his health they
THE BONDMAN 225
might have understood it; but the Lord was pleased to preserve
him. Perhaps they had to look deeper. Whispers were abroad
among some who had been near to the President's person that the
time had come to settle the order and prosperity of Iceland on a
new basis. He made no doubt such whispers implied a Protec-
torate, perhaps even a Monarchy. Did the President think to
hasten the crisis that would lead to that change? Did he hope to
alter the name of President for Protector, or for something yet
higher ? Was he throwing his sprat to catch a mackerel ? Let
them look to it.
The dark-browed man sat down, with a grin of triumph, and
his place was taken by a pert little beardless person, with a smirk
on his face. They had all read the parable of how a certain man
made a feast, and did his friends the honor to invite them ; but first
one friend for one halting reason, and then another for a reason yet
more lame, excused himself from sitting at the good man's table.
Well, one of these excuses was from a man who had married a
wife, and therefore could not come. Now the President had mar-
ried a wife
The little man got no further, for Michael Sunlocks, whose
features had flushed up, leaped to his feet again, against all order
and precedent in that rude chamber so reverent of law.
"I knew," he said, amid the silence of the wide-eyed people,
"when I came to this house to-day, that the censure of Iceland
might follow me when I left it, but its shame shall not pursue me.
I also knew that there were persons not well content with the
present order of things who might show their discontent as they
had opportunity; but before the insinuations of base motives that
have just been made I take you to witness that all that go with them
are malicious figments. My capacity any man may impeach, but
my honest name none shall question without challenge, for the
sole pride I shall carry away with me when I leave this place
shall be the pride of an upright life."
With that he put on his hat where he stood, and the people,
thrilled to their hearts by his ringing voice, and his eyes full of
splendid courage, broke into a great clamor of cheers.
"Peace, peace," cried a deep voice over the tumult. The old
Bishop had risen to speak.
"This is a quarrelsome age," he said, "an age when there seems
to be a strange itching in the spirits of men, when near every man
eems to seek his brother's disquiet all he may, when wretched
jealousies and the spirit of calumny turn everything to gall and
wormwood. But can we* not take the President's message for what
226 THE BONDMAN
it claims to be, asking him for no reasons that concern us not?
When has he betrayed us? His life since his coming here has
been marked by strict integrity. When has pride been his bane?
His humility has ever been his praise. He has been modest with
the highest power and shown how little he valued those distances
he was bound to keep up. When has mammon been his god? If
he leaves us now he leaves us a poor man, as the Althing may well
assure itself. But let us pray that this may not come to pass.
When he was elected to the employment he holds, being so young
a man, many trembled and I among them for the nation that
had entrusted its goods and its lives to his management, but now
we know that only in his merit and virtue can it find its safety and
repose. Let me not be prodigal of praise before his face, but honor
and honesty require this, that we say that so true a man is not to
be found this day in Iceland."
The Bishop's words had quickened the pulse of the people, and
cheer followed cheer again. "It is written," continued the Bishop,
"that whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that
humbleth himself shall be exalted. Our young President has this
day sat down in the lowest room ; and if he must needs leave us,
having his own reasons that are none of ours, may the Lord cause
His face to shine upon him, and comfort him in all his adversities."
Then there was but one voice in that assembly, the voice of a
loud Amen. And Michael Sunlocks had risen again with a white
face and dim eyes, to return his thanks, and say his last word