of the Government ; and Jason, as a man whose great muscles were
246 THE BONDMAN
thrown away on the paltry work of prison-cleaning, was set to delv-
ing sulphur on the banks of the hot springs.
Now this change for the better in the condition of Red Jason
led to a change for the worse in that of Michael Sunlocks, for
when Jason was relieved of his housekeeping and of the iron col-
lar and bell that had been the badge of it, Sunlocks, as a malcon-
tent, was ordered to clean Jason's house as well as his own. But
so bad a change led to the great event in the lives of both, the
meeting of these men face to face, and the way of it was this :
One day, the winter being then fully come, the mornings dark,
and some new fallen snow lying deep over the warm ground of
the stockade, Michael Sunlocks had been set to clearing away from
the front of the log house on the south before Jason and his house-
mates had come out of it. His bodily strength had failed him greatly
by this time, his face was pale, his large eyes were swollen and
bloodshot, and under the heavy labor of that day his tall, slight
figure stooped. But a warder stood over him leaning on a musket
and urging him on with words that were harder to him than his
hard work. His bell rang as he stooped, and rang again as he
rose, and at every thrust of the spade it rang, so that when Jason
and his gang came out of the sickening house, he heard it. And
hearing the bell, he remembered that he himself had worn it, and
wondering who had succeeded him in the vile office whereof he had
been relieved, he turned to look upon the man who was clearing
There are moments when the sense of our destiny is strong
upon us, and this was such a moment to Red Jason. He saw
Michael Sunlocks for the first time, but without knowing him, and
yet at that sight every pulse beat and every nerve quivered. A
great sorrow and a great pity took hold of him. The face he looked
upon moved him, the voice he heard thrilled him, and by an im-
pulse that he could not resist he stopped and turned to the warder
leaning on the musket and said:
"Let me do this man's work. It would be nothing to me. He
is ill. Send him up to the hospital."
"March !" shouted his own warders and they hustled him along,
and at the next minute he was gone. Then the bell stopped for an
instant, for Michael Sunlocks had raised his head to look upon the
man who had spoken. He did not see Jason's face, but his own face
softened at the words he had heard and his bloodshot eyes grew
"Go on !" cried the warder with the musket, and the bell began
THE BONDMAN 247
All that day the face of Michael Sunlocks haunted the memory
of Red Jason.
"Who was that man?" he asked of the prisoner who worked
by his side.
"How should I know?" the other fellow answered sulkily.
In a space of rest Jason leaned on his shovel, wiped his brow,
and said to his warder: "What was that man's name?"
"A 25," the warder answered moodily.
"I asked for his name," said Jason.
"What's that to you?" replied the warder.
A week went by, and the face of Sunlocks still haunted Jason's
memory. It was with him early and late, the last thing that stood
up before his inward eye when he lay down to sleep, the first thing
that came to him when he awoke; sometimes it moved him to
strange laughter when the sun was shining, and sometimes it
touched him to tears when he thought of it in the night. Why was
this ? He did not know, he could not think, he did not try to find
out. But there it was, a living face burnt into his memory a face
so strangely new to him, yet so strangely familiar, so unlike to
anything he had ever yet seen, and yet so like to everything that
was near and dear to himself, that he could have fancied there
had never been a time when he had not had it by his side. When
he put the matter to himself so he laughed and thought "how
foolish." But no self-mockery banished the mystery of the power
upon him of the man's face that he saw for a moment one morning
in the snow.
He threw off his former listlessness and began to look keenly
about him. But one week, two weeks, three weeks passed, and he
could nowhere see the same face again. He asked questions but
learned nothing. His fellow-prisoners began to jeer at him. Upon
their souls, the big red fellow had tumbled into love with the
young chap with the long flaxen hair, and maybe he thought it was
a woman in disguise.
Jason knocked their chattering heads together and so stopped
their ribald banter, but his warders began to watch him with sus-
picion, and he fell back on silence.
A month passed, and then the chain that was slowly drawing
the two men together suddenly tightened. One morning the order
came down from the office of the Captain that the prisoners' straw
beds were to be taken out into the stockyard and burnt. The beds
were not old, but dirty and damp and full of foul odors. The
officers of the settlement said this was due to the filthy habits of
the prisoners. The prisoners on their part said it came of the pes-
248 THE BONDMAN
tilential hovels they were compelled to live in, where the ground
was a bog, the walls and roof were a rotten coffin, and the air
was heavy and lifeless. Since the change of warders, there had
been a gradual decline in the humanity with which they had
been treated, and to burn up their old beds without giving them new
ones was to deprive them of the last comfort that separated the
condition of human beings from that of beasts of the field.
But the Captain of the Mines was in no humor to bandy parts
with his prisoners, and in ordering that the beds should be burnt
to prevent an outbreak of disease, he appointed that the prisoner
B 25 should be told off to do the work. Now B 25 was the prison
name of Red Jason, and he was selected by reason of his great
bodily strength, not so much because the beds required it, as from
fear of the rebellion of the poor souls who were to lose them.
So at the point of a musket Red Jason was driven on to his bad
work, and sullenly he went through it, muttering deep oaths from
between his grinding teeth, until he came to the log hut where
Michael Sunlocks slept, and there he saw again the face that had
haunted his memory.
"This bed is dry and sound," said Michael Sunlocks, "and you
"shall not take it."
"Away with it," shouted the warder to Jason, who had seemed
"It is good and wholesome, let him keep it," said Jason.
"Go on with your work," cried the warder, and the lock of his
"Civilized men give straw to their dogs to lie on," said Michael
"It depends what dogs they are," sneered the warder.
"If you take our beds, this place will be worse than an empty
kennel," said Michael Sunlocks.
"Better that than the mange," said the warder. "Get along,
I tell you," he cried again, handling his musket and turning to
Then, with a glance of loathing, Jason picked up the bed in his
fingers, that itched to pick up the warder by the throat, and swept
out of the place.
"Slave !" cried Michael Sunlocks after him. "Pitiful, miserable,
Jason heard the hot words that pursued him, and his face grew
as red as his hair, and his head dropped into his breast. He finished
his task in less than half an hour more, working like a demented
man at piling up the dirty mattresses into a vast heap, and setting
THE BONDMAN 249
light to the damp straw. And while the huge bonfire burned, and
he poked long poles into it to give it air to blaze by, he made ex-
cuse of the great heat to strip off the long rough overcoat that had
been given him to wear through the hard months of the winter.
By this time the warder had fallen back from the scorching flames,
and Jason, watching his chance, stole away under cover of deep
whorls of smoke, and got back into the log cabin unobserved.
He found the place empty; the man known to him as A 25 was
not anywhere to be seen. But finding his sleeping bunk a bare
slab resembling a butcher's board he stretched his coat over it
where the bed had been, and then fled away like a guilty thing.
When the great fire had burned low the warder returned, and
said: "Quick there; put on your coat and let's be off."
At that Jason pretended to look about him in dismay.
"It's gone," he said, in a tone of astonishment.'
"Gone? What? Have you burnt it up with the beds?" cried
"Maybe so," said Jason, meekly.
"Fool," cried the warder ; "but it's your loss. Now you'll have
to go in your sheepskin jacket, snow or shine."
With a cold smile about the corners of his mouth, Jason bent his
head and went on ahead of his warder.
If the Captain of the Mines had been left to himself he might
have been a just and even a merciful man, but he was badgered by
inhuman orders from Jorgen Jorgensen at Reykjavik, and one by
one the common privileges of his prisoners were withdrawn. As
a result of his treatment, the prisoners besieged him with petitions
as often as he crossed their path. The loudest to complain and the
most rebellious against petty tyranny was Michael Sunlocks; the
humblest, the meekest, the most silent under cruel persecution was
Red Jason. The one seemed aflame with indignation; the other
appeared destitute of all manly spirit.
"That man might be dangerous to the Government yet," thought
the Captain, after one of his stormy scenes with Michael Sunlocks.
"That man's heart is dead within him," he thought again, as he
watched Red Jason working as he always worked, slowly, list-
lessly, and as if tired out and longing for the night.
The Captain's humanity at length prevailed over his Governor's
rigor, and he developed a form of penal servitude among the pris-
oners which he called the Free Command. This was a plan
whereby the men whose behavior had been good were allowed the
partial liberty of living outside the stockade in huts which they
built for themselves. Ten hours a day they wrought at the mines,
the rest of the day and night was under their own control ; and in
return for their labor they were supplied with rations from the
Now Red Jason, as a docile prisoner, was almost the first to get
promotion to the Free Command. He did not ask for it, he did
not wish for it, and when it came he looked askance at it.
"Send somebody else," he said to his warders, but they laughed
and turned him adrift.
He began to build his house of the lava stones on the mountain
side, not far from the hospital, and near to a house being built by
an elderly man much disfigured about the cheeks, who had been
a priest, imprisoned long ago by Jorgen Jorgensen out of spite
and yet baser motives. And as he worked at raising the walls of
his hut, he remembered with a pang the mill he built in Port-y-
Vullin, and what a whirlwind of outraged passion brought every
stone of it to the ground again. With this occupation, and occa-
sional gossip with his neighbor, he passed the evenings of his Free
Command. And looking toward the hospital as often as he saw the
little groups of men go up to it that told of another prisoner injured
in the perilous labor of the sulphur mines, he sometimes saw a
woman come out at the door to receive them.
"Who is she ?" he asked of the priest.
"The foreign nurse," said the priest. "And a right good woman,
too, as I have reason to say, for she nursed me back to life after
that spurt of hot water had scalded these holes into my face."
That made Jason think of other scenes, and of tender passages
in his broken life that were gone from him forever. He had no
wish to recall them; their pleasure was too painful, their sweets
too bitter; they were lost, and God grant that they could be for-
gotten. Yet every night as he worked at his walls he looked long-
ingly across the shoulder of the hill in the direction of the hospital,
half fancying he knew the sweet grace of the figure he sometimes
saw there, and pretending with himself that he remembered the
light rhythm of its movement. After a while he missed what he
looked for, and then he asked his neighbor if the nurse were ill
that he had not seen her lately.
"111? Well, yes," said the old priest. "She has been turned
away from the hospital."
"What!" cried Jason; "you thought her a good nurse."
"She was too good, my lad," said the priest, "and a blackguard
warder who had tried to corrupt her, and could not, announced
that somebody else had done so."
"It's a lie," cried Jason.
THE BONDMAN 251
"It was plain enough," said the priest, "that she was about to
give birth to a child, and as she would make no explanation she
was turned adrift."
"Where is she now?" asked Jason.
"Lying in at the farmhouse on the edge of the snow yonder," j
said the priest. "I saw her last night. She trusted me with her :
story, and it was straight and simple. Her husband had been sent
out to the mines by the old scoundrel at Reykjavik. She had fol-
lowed him, only to be near him and breathe the air he breathed.
Perhaps with some wild hope of helping his escape she had hidden
her true name and character and taken the place of a menial, being
a lady born."
"Then her husband is still at the mines?" said Jason.
"Yes," said the priest.
"Does he know of her disgrace?"
"What's his name?"
"The poor soul would give me no name, but she knew her hus-
band's number. It was A25."
"I know him," said Jason.
Next day, his hut being built and roofed after some fashion,
Jason went down to the office of the Captain of the Mines and
said, "I don't like the Free Command, sir. May I give it up in
favor of another man?"
"And what man, pray?" asked the Captain.
"A25," said Jason."
"No," said the Captain.
"I've built my house, sir," said Jason, "and if you won't give
it to A2S, let the poor woman from the hospital live in it, and take
me back among the men."
"That won't do, my lad. Go along to your work," said the
And when Jason was gone the Captain thought within himself,
"What does this mean? Is the lad planning the man's escape?
And who is this English woman that she should be the next thought
in his head ?"
So the only result of Jason's appeal was that Michael Sunlocks
was watched the closer, worked the harder, persecuted the more by
petty tyrannies, and that an order was sent up to the farmhouse
where Greeba lay in the dear dishonor of her early motherhood,
requiring her to leave the neighborhood of Krisuvik as speedily as
her condition allowed.
This was when the long dark days of winter were beginning
252 THE BONDMAN
to fall back before the sweet light of spring. And when the
snow died off the mountains, and the cold garment of the jokulls
was sucked full of holes like the honeycomb, and the world that
had been white grew black, and the flowers began to show in the
corries, and the sweet summer was coming, coming, coming, then
Jason went down to the Captain of the Mines again.
"I've come, sir," he said, "to ask you to lock me up."
"Why?" said the Captain, "what have you been doing?"
"Nothing," said Jason, "but if you don't prevent me, I'll run
away. This Free Command was bad enough to bear when the snow
cut us off from all the world. But now that it is gone and the
world is free, and the cuckoo is calling, he seems to be calling me,
and I must go after him."
"Go," said the Captain, "and after you've tramped the deserts
and swam the rivers, and slept on the ground, and starved on
roots, we'll fetch you back, for you can never escape us, and lash
you as we have lashed the others who have done likewise."
"If I go," said Jason, defiantly, "you shall never fetch me back,
and if you catch me you shall never punish me."
"What? Do you threaten me?" cried the Captain.
Something in the prisoner's face terrified him, though he would
have scorned to acknowledge his fear, and he straightway directed
that Jason should be degraded, for insolence and insubordination,
from the Free Command to the gangs.
Now this was exactly what Jason wanted, for his heart had
grown sick with longing for another sight of that face which stood
up before his inward eye in the darkness of the night. But re-
membering Jason's appeal on behalf of Michael Sunlocks, and his
old suspicion regarding both, the Captain ordered that the two men
should be kept apart.
So with Jason in the house by the sea, and Sunlocks in the
house by the lake, the weeks went by; and the summer that was
coming came, and like a bird of passage the darkness of night fled
quite away, and the sun shone that shines at midnight.
And nothing did Jason see of the face that followed him in
visions, and nothing did he hear of the man known to him as A25,
except reports of brutal treatment and fierce rebellion. But on a
day a month after he had returned to the stockade he was going
in his tired and listless way between warders from one solfatara
at the foot of the hill to another on the breast of it, when he came
upon a horror that made his blood run cold.
It was a man nailed by his right hand to a great socket of iron
in a log of driftwood, with food and drink within sight but out of
THE BONDMAN 253
reach of him, and a huge knife lying close by his side. The man
Jason saw everything and the meaning of everything in an in-
stant, that to get at the food for which he starved that man must
cut off his own right hand. And there, like a devil, at his left lay
the weapon that was to tempt him.
Nothing so inhuman, so barbarous, so fiendish, so hellish, had
Jason yet seen, and with a cry like the growl of an untamed beast,
he broke from his warders, took the nail in his fingers like a vise,
tore it up out of the bleeding hand, and set Michael Sunlocks free.
At the next instant his wrath was gone, and he had fallen back
to his listless mood. Then the warders hurried up, laid hold of
both men, and hustled them away with a brave show of strength
and courage to the office of the Captain.
Jorgen Jorgensen himself was there, and it was he who had
ordered the ruthless punishment. The warders told their tale, and
he listened to them with a grin on his cruel face.
"Strap them up together," he cried, "leg to leg and arm to arm.''
And when this was done he said, bitterly:
"So you two men are fond of one another's company! Well,
you shall have enough of it and to spare. Day after day, week
after week, month after month, like as you are now, you shall live
together, until you abhor and detest and loathe the sight of each
other. Now go !"
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
RED JASON and Michael Sunlocks, now lashed together, were
driven back to their work like beasts of the field. They knew well
what their punishment meant to them that in every hour of life
henceforward, in every act, through every thought, each man should
drag a human carcass by his side. The barbarity of their doom was
hideous; but strangely different were the ways they accepted it.
Michael Sunlocks was aflame with indignation; Jason was crushed
with shame. The upturned face of Sunlocks was pale, his flaxen
hair was disheveled, his bloodshot eyes were afire. But Jason's
eyes, full of confusion, were bent on the ground, his tanned face
trembled visibly, and his red hair, grown long as of old, fell over
his drooping shoulders like a mantle of blood.
And as they trudged along, side by side, in the first hours of
their unnatural partnership, Sunlocks struggled hard to keep his
eyes from the man with whom he was condemned to live and die,
lest the gorge of his very soul should rise at the sight of him. So
he never once looked at Jason through many hours of that day.
And Jason, on his part, laboring with the thought that it was he
who by his rash act had brought both of them to this sore pass,
never once lifted his eyes to the face of Sunlocks.
Yet each man knew the other's thought before ever a word
had passed between them. Jason felt that Sunlocks already ab-
horred him, and Sunlocks knew that Jason was ashamed. This
brought them after a time into sympathy of some sort, and Jason
tried to speak and Sunlocks to listen.
"I did not mean to bring you to this," said Jason, humbly. And
Sunlocks, with head aside, answered as well as he could for the
disgust that choked him, "You did it for the best."
"But you will hate me for it," said Jason.
And once again, with what composure he could command, Sun-
locks answered, "How could I hate you for saving me from such
"Then you don't regret it?" said Jason, pleadingly.
"It is for you, not me, to regret it," said Sunlocks.
"Me?" said Jason.
Through all the shameful hours the sense of his own loss had
never yet come to him. From first to last he had thought only of
"My liberty was gone already," said Sunlocks. "But you were
free free as any one can be in this hell on earth. Now you are
bound you are here like this and I am the cause of it."
Then Jason's rugged face was suddenly lighted up with a sur-
prising joy. "That's nothing," he said.
"Nothing?" said Sunlocks.
"I mean that I care nothing, if you don't," said Jason.
It was the turn of Sunlocks to feel surprise. He half turned
toward Jason. "Then you don't regret it?" he asked.
"No," said Jason firmly. "And you?"
Sunlocks felt that tears, not disgust, were choking him now.
"No," he answered, shamefacedly, turning his head away.
"March!" shouted the warders, who had been drinking their
Smuggled sneps while their prisoners had been talking.
That day, Jorgen Jorgensen went back to Reykjavik, for the
time of the Althing was near, and he had to prepare for his four-
teen days at Thingvellir. And the Governor being gone, the Cap-
tain of the Mines made bold so far to relax the inhumanity of his
sentence as to order that the two men who were bound together
THE BONDMAN 255
during the hours of work should be separated for the hours of
sleep. But never forgetting his own suspicion that Red Jason was
an ally of Michael Sunlocks, planning his escape, he ordered also
that no speech should be allowed to pass between them. To pre-
vent all communion of this kind he directed that the men should
work and sleep apart from the other prisoners, and that their two
warders should attend them night and day.
But though the rigor of discipline kept them back from free in-
tercourse, no watchfulness could check the stolen words of comfort
that helped the weary men to bear their degrading lot.
That night, the first of their life together, Michael Sunlocks
looked into Jason's face and said, "I have seen you before some-
where. Where was it?"
But Jason remembered the hot words that had pursued him on
the day of the burning of the beds, and so he made no answer.
After a while, Michael Sunlocks looked closely into Jason's face
again, and said, "What is your name?"
"Don't ask it," said Jason.
"Why not," said Sunlocks.
"You might remember it."
"Even so, what then?"
"Then you might also remember what I did, or tried to do, and
you would hate me for it," said Jason.
"Was your crime so inhuman?" said Sunlocks.
"It would seem so," said Jason.
"Who sent you here?"
"You won't tell me your name?"
"I've got none, so to speak, having had no father to give me one.
I'm alone in the world."
Michael Sunlocks did not sleep much that night, for the wound
in his hand was very painful, and next morning, while Jason dressed
it, he looked into his face once more and said, "You say you are
alone in the world."
"Yes," said Jason.
"What of your mother ?"
"She's dead, poor soul."
"Have you no sister?"
"No that's to say no, no."
"No one belonging to you ?"
256 THE BONDMAN
"Are you quite alone ?"
"Ay, quite," said Jason. "No one to think twice what becomes
of me. Nobody to trouble whether I am here or in a better place.
Nobody to care whether I live or die."
He tried to laugh as he said this, but in spite of his brave show
of unconcern his deep voice broke and his strong face quivered.
"But what's your own name?" he said abruptly.
"Call me brother," said Michael Sunlocks.
"To your work," cried the warders, and they were hustled out.
Their work for the day was delving sulphur from the banks of
the solfataras and loading it on the backs of the ponies. And while
their warders dozed in the heat of the noonday sun, they wiped
their brows and rested.
At that moment Jason's eyes turned toward the hospital on the
opposite side of the hill, and he remembered what he had heard
of the good woman who had been nurse there. This much at least