he knew of her, that she was the wife of his yoke-fellow, and he
was about to speak of her trouble and dishonor when Michael Sun-
"After all, you are luckiest to be alone in the world. To have
ties of affection is only to be the more unhappy."
"That's true," said Jason.
"Say you love somebody and all your heart is full of her? You
lose her, and then where are you ?"
"But that's not your own case," said Jason. "Your wife is
alive, is she not?"
"Then you have not lost her?"
"There is a worse loss than that of death," said Sunlocks.
Jason glanced quickly into his face, and said tenderly, "I know
I understand. There was another man?"
"And he robbed you of her love ?" said Jason, eagerly.
"And you killed him?" cried Jason, with panting breath.
"No. But God keep that man out of my hands."
"Where is he now ?"
"Heaven knows. He was here, but he is gone; for when the
Republic fell I was imprisoned, and two days before that he was
"Silence !" shouted the warders, awakening suddenly and hear-
Jason's eyes had begun to fill, and down his rugged cheeks the
THE BONDMAN 257
big drops were rolling one by one. After that he checked the im-
pulse to speak of the nurse. The wife of his yoke-fellow must be an
evil woman. The prisoner-priest must have been taken in by her.
For once the warders must have been right.
And late that night, while Jason was dressing the wounded
hand of Michael Sunlocks with wool torn from his own sheepskin
jerkin, he said, with his eyes down :
"I scarce thought there was anything in common between us
two. You're a gentleman, and I'm only a rough fellow. You have
been brought up tenderly, and I have been kicked about the world
since I was a lad in my poor mother's home, God rest her ! But
my life has been like yours in one thing."
"What's that?" said Michael Sunlocks.
"That another man has wrecked it," said Jason. "I never had
but one glint of sunshine in my life, and that man wiped it out
forever. It was a woman, and she was all the world to me. But
she was proud and I was poor. And he was rich, and he came
between us. He had everything, and the world was at her feet. I
had nothing but that woman's love, and he took it from me. It was
too cruel, and I could not bear it God knows I could not."
"Wait," cried Michael Sunlocks. "Is that why you are here!
Did you you did not no "
"No, I know .what you mean; but I did not kill him. No, no,
I have never seen him. I could never meet with him, try how I
"Where is he now?"
"With her in happiness and freedom and content, while I am
here in misery and bondage and these ropes. But there will be
a reckoning between us yet. I know there will. I swear there
will. As sure as there is a God in Heaven, that man and I will
one day stand together face to face."
Then Michael Sunlocks took both Jason's hands.
"My brother," he cried fervently. "Brother now more than
ever; brother in suffering, brother in weakness, brother in
"Silence there !" shouted the warders, and the two men were
separated for the night.
The wound in the hand of Michael Sunlocks grew yet more
painful, and he slept even less than before. Next day the power
of life was low in him, and seeing this, Jason said, when the
warders stepped up to lash them together, "He is ill, and not fit
to go out. Let me work alone to-day. I'll do enough for both
258 THE BONDMAN
But no heed was paid to Jason's warning, and Michael Sun-
locks was driven out by his side. All that day, the third of their
life together, they worked with difficulty, for the wound in the
hand of Sunlocks was not only a trouble to himself but an impedi-
ment to Jason also. Yet Jason gave no hint of that, but kept the
good spade going constantly, with a smile on his face through the
sweat that stood on it, and little stolen words of comfort and cheer.
And when the heat was strongest, and Sunlocks would have stum-
bled and fallen, Jason contrived a means to use both their spades
together, only requiring that Sunlocks should stoop when he
stooped, that the warders might think he was still working. But
their artifice was discovered, and all that came of it was that they
were watched the closer and driven the harder during the hours
that remained of that day.
Next day, the fourth of their direful punishment, Sunlocks rose
weak and trembling, and scarce able to stand erect. And with what
spirit he could summon up he called upon the warders to look upon
him and see how feeble he was, and say if it was fair to his yoke-
fellow that they should compel him to do the work of two men and
drag a human body after him. But the warders only laughed at
his protest, and once again he was driven out by Jason's side.
Long and heavy were the hours that followed, but Sunlocks,
being once started on his way, bore up under it very bravely, mur-
muring as little as he might, out of thought for Jason. And Jason
helped along his stumbling footsteps as well as he could for the
arm that was bound to him. And seeing how well they worked
by this double power of human kindness, the warders laughed
again, and made a mock at Sunlocks for his former cry of weak-
ness. And so, amid tender words between themselves, and jeers
cast in upon them by the warders, they made shift to cheat time
of another weary day.
The fifth day went by like the fourth, with heavy toil and pain
to make it hard, and cruel taunts to make it bitter. And many a
time, as they delved the yellow sulphur bank, a dark chill crossed
the hearts of both, and they thought in their misery how cheer-
fully they would dig for death itself, if only it lay in the hot clay
That night when they had returned to the hut wherein they
slept, or tried to sleep, they found that some well-meaning stranger
had been there in their absence and nailed up on the grimy walls
above their beds, a card bearing the text, "Come unto Me all ye
that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And so
ghastly seemed the irony of those words in that place that Jason
THE BONDMAN 259
muttered an oath between his teeth as he read them, and Sunlocks
threw himself down, being unbound for the night, with a peal of
noisy laughter, and a soul full of strange bitterness.
The next day after that, the sixth of their life together, rose
darker than any day that had gone before it, for the wounded hand
of Michael Sunlocks was then purple and black, and swollen to the
size of two hands, and his bodily strength was so low that, try as
bravely as he might to stand erect, whenever he struggled to his
feet he fell to the ground again. Thinking nothing of this, the
warders were for strapping him up to Jason as before, but while
they were in the act of doing so he fainted in their hands. Then
Jason swept them from him, and vowed that the first man that
touched Sunlocks again should lie dead at his feet.
"Send for the Captain," he cried, "and if the man has any
bowels of compassion let him come and see what you have
The warders took Jason at his word, and sent a message to the
office saying that one of their prisoners was mutinous, and the other
pretending to be ill. After a time the Captain despatched two other
warders to the help of the first two and these words along with
them for his answer : "If one rebels, punish both."
Nothing loth for such exercise, the four warders set themselves
to decide what the punishment should be, and while they laid their
heads together, Jason was bending over Sunlocks, who was now
recovered to consciousness, asking his pardon in advance for the
cruel penalty that his rash act was to bring on both of them.
"Forgive me," he said. "I couldn't help it. I didn't know what
I was doing."
"There is nothing to forgive, brother," whispered Michael Sun-
And thus with stammering tongues they comforted one another,
and with hands clasped together they waited for the punishment
that had to come.
At length the warders concluded that for refusing to work, for
obstinate disobedience, and for threatening, nothing would serve
but that their prisoners should straightway do the most perilous
work to be found that day at the sulphur mines.
Now this was the beginning of the end for Red Jason and
Michael Sunlocks, and if the evil chance had not befallen them,
God alone can say how long they might have lived together at
Krisuvik, or how soon or how late they would have become known
to one another by their true names and characters. But heaven
itself had its purposes, even in the barbarity of base-hearted men,
260 THE BONDMAN
as a means toward the great end that was near at hand. And
this was the way of its coming.
A strange change that no one could rightly understand had
lately come upon the natural condition of the sulphur mines. The
steam that rose from the solfataras had grown less and less week
by week and day by day, until in some places it had altogether sub-
sided. This was a grave sign, for in the steam lay the essence of
the sulphur, and if it ceased to rise from the pits the sulphur would
cease to grow.
Other changes came with this, such as that deep subterranean
noises arose from parts of the plain where no fissures had yet been
seen, and that footsteps on the earth around these places produced
a hollow sound.
From these signs, taken together, the Captain had concluded
that the life of the mines, the great infernal fire that raged be-
neath the surface, was changing ground, leaving the valley, where
it had lived for ages, for the mountain heights, where the low
grumblings were now heard to come from beneath the earth's crust
of lava and basaltic rock.
So, taking counsel of his people, he decided to bore the ground
in these new places in the hope of lighting on living solfataras
that would stand to him against the loss of the dead ones. And it
chanced that he was in the midst of many busy preparations for
this work when the report of the warders reached him, and the
boring was still uppermost in his mind when he sent back his
answer as he came upon the flogging and stopped it.
Thus it happened that the first thought that came to the warders
was to send their prisoners to one of the spots that had been marked
on the hillside for the test of bore and spade.
So, in less than half an hour more, Jason and Sunlocks, lashed
together, arm to arm and leg to leg, were being driven up the
mountain to the place assigned to them. They found it a hideous
and awesome spot. Within a circle of two yards across, the ground
; was white and yellow and scaly, like a scab on evil flesh. It was
hot, so that the hand could not rest upon it, and hollow, so that
the foot made it shake, and from unseen depths beneath it a dull
thud came up at intervals like nothing else but the knocking of a
man buried alive at the sealed door of his tomb.
Beneath this spot the heart of the solfatara was expected to lie,
and Jason and Sunlocks were commanded to open it. Obeying
gloomily, they took the bore first and pierced the scaly surface,
and instantly a sizzling and bubbling sound came up from below.
Then they followed with the spades, but scarcely had they lifted the
THE BONDMAN 261
top crust when twenty great fissures seemed to open under their
feet, and they could see lurid flames rushing in wild confusion, like
rivers of fire in the bowels of the earth.
It was a sight at which the stoutest heart might have quailed,
and Jason leaped back to the bank and dragged Sunlocks after
"This is not safe," he said.
"In with you," shouted the warders from their own safe footing
of four yards away. With a growl from between his clinched teeth,
Jason stepped back into the hole, and Sunlocks followed him. But
hardly had they got down to the fearsome spot again, when a layer
of clay fell in from it, leaving a deep wide gully, and then scarcely
a yard of secure footing remained.
"Let us stop while we are safe," Jason cried.
"Dig away," shouted the warders.
"If we do, we shall be digging our own graves," said Jason.
"Begin," shouted the warders.
"Listen to me," said Jason. "If we are to open this pit of fire
and brimstone, at least let us be free of these ropes. That's but
fair, that each man may have a chance of his life."
"Go on," shouted the warders.
"If we go on like this we shall be burned and boiled alive," said
"Get along," shouted the warders with one voice, and then an
awful light flashed in Jason's eyes, for he saw that out of revenge
for their paltry fines they had resolved to drive two living men to
"Now, listen again," said Jason, "and mark my words. We
will do as you command us, and work in this pit of hell. I will not
die in it that I know. But this man beside me is weak and ill,
heaven curse your inhumanity; and if anything happens to him,
and I am alive to see it, as sure as there is strength left in my
arms, and blood in my body, I will tear you limb from limb."
So saying, he plunged his spade into the ground beneath him,
with an oath to drive it, and at the next instant there was a flash
of blue flame, an avalanche of smoke, a hurricane of unearthly
noises, a cry like that of a dying man, and then an awful silence.
When the air had cleared, Jason stood uninjured, but Michael
Sunlocks hung by his side inert and quiet, and blinded by a jet of
What happened to Jason thereafter no tongue of man could
tell. All the fire of his spirit, and all the strength of all his days
seemed to flow back upon him in that great moment. He parted
262 THE BOXDMAN
the ropes that bound him as if they had been green withes that he
snapped asunder. He took Sunlocks in his arms and lifted him up
to his shoulder, and hung him across it, as if he had been a child
that he placed there. He stepped out of the deadly pit, and strode
along over the lava mountain as if he were the sole creature of the
everlasting hills. His glance was terrific, his voice was the voice
of a wounded beast. The warders dropped their muskets and fled
before him like affrighted sheep.
THROUGH THE CHASM OF ALL MEN
IT was still early morning; a soft gray mist lay over the moor-
lands, but the sun that had never set in that northern land was ris-
ing through clouds of pink and white over the bald crown of a
mountain to the northeast. And toward the rising sun Jason
made his way, striding on with the red glow on his own tanned and
blackened face, and its ghastly mockery of the hues of life on the
pallid cheeks and whitened lips of Sunlocks. From his right ankle
and right wrist hung the rings of his broken fetters, and from the
left ankle and left wrist of Sunlocks trailed the ropes that had
bound them both. Never a moment did he pause to breathe or
think or question himself. On and on he went, over lava blocks
and lava dust, basaltic rock and heavy clay, and hot blue earth
and scorched and withered moss. And still Sunlocks lay over his
right side and shoulder, motionless and unconscious, hardly breath-
ing, but alive, with his waist encircled by Jason's great right arm,
and his waist-belt grasped tight as with the grip of a talon by
Jason's hard right hand.
Before long, Sunlocks recovered some partial consciousness
and cried in a faint voice for water. Jason glanced around on the
arid plain as if his eyes would pierce the ground for a spring,
but no water could he see on any side of him, and so without a
word oi answer he strode along.
"Water, water," cried Sunlocks again, and just then Jason
caught the side-long glint of a river that ran like a pearl chain
down the black breast of a mountain.
"Water," cried Sunlocks again and yet again, in a voice of pain
and deep pleading, not rightly knowing yet where he was or what
bad chance had befallen him.
THE BONDMAN 263
"Yes, yes, one moment more, only a moment, there there
there !" whispered Jason.
And muttering such words of comfort and cheer, he quickened
his pace toward the river. But when he got near to it he stopped
short with a cry of dismay. The river bubbled and smoked.
"Hot ! It is hot," cried Jason. "And the land is accursed."
At that word, Sunlocks uttered a low groan, and his head, which
had been partly lifted, fell heavily backward, and his hair hung
over Jason's shoulder. He was again unconscious.
Then more than ever like a wild beast ranging the hills with
its prey, Jason strode along. And presently he saw a lake of
blue water far away. He knew it for cold water, blessed, ice-cold
water, water to bathe the hot forehead with, water to drink. With
a cry of joy, which there was no human ear to hear, he turned
and made toward it; but just as he did so, softening as he went,
and muttering from his own parched throat words of hope and
comfort to the unconscious man he carried, a gunshot echoed
through the mountains above his head.
He knew what the shot was; it was the signal of his escape.
And looking down to the valley, he saw that the guards of the set-
tlement were gathering on their ponies in the very line of the
plain that he must traverse to reach the water for which Sunlocks
Then "Water, water," came again in the same faint voice as
before, and whether with his actual ear he heard that cry, or in
the torment of his distraught sense it only rang out in his empty
heart, no man shall say. But all the same he answered it from
his choking throat, "Patience, patience."
And then, with another look downward, the look of a human
stag, at the cool water which he might not reach and live, he turned
himself back to the mountains.
What happened to him then, and for many weary hours there-
after, it would weary the spirit to tell: what plains he crossed,
what hills he climbed, and in what desolate wilderness tie walked
alone, with no one for company save the unconscious man across
his shoulder, and no eye to look upon him save the eye of God.
And first he crossed a wide sea of lava 'dust, black as tfie ravens
that flew in the air above it, and bounded by hills as dark as the
earth that were themselves vast sand drifts blown up into strange
and terrible shapes by mighty tempests. Then he came upon a
plain strewn over with cinders, having a grim crag frowning upon
it, like the bank of a smelting-house, with its screes of refuse roll-
ing down. By this time the sun had risen high and grown hot,
264 THE BONDMAN
and the black ground under his feet began to send up the reflec-
tion of the sun's rays into his face to scorch it.
And still the cry of "Water, water," rang in his ears, and his
eyes ranged the desolate land to find it, but never a sign of it
could he see, and his strong heart sank. Once, when he had
mounted with great toil to the top of a hill, where all behind him
had been black and burnt and blistered, he saw a wide valley
stretching in front of him that was as green as the grass of spring.
And he thought that where there was grass there would surely
be water, streams of water, rivers of water, pools of water, sunny
stretches of sweet water lying clear and quiet over amber pebbles
and between soft brown banks of turf.
So at this sight his heart was lifted up, and bounding down
the hillside, over the lava blocks, as fast as he could go for his
burden, he began to sing from his cracked throat in his hoarse and
quavery voice. But when he reached the valley his song stopped,
and his heart sank afresh, for it was not grass, but moss that grew
there, and it lay only on big blocks of lava, with never a drop of
moisture or a handful of earth between them.
He was crushed, but he was strong of heart and would not
despair. So he pushed on over this green plain, through a hundred
thousand mossy mounds that looked like the graves of a world of
But when he came out of it his case seemed yet more forlorn,
for leaving the soft valley behind he had come upon a lava stream,
a sea of stones, not dust or cinders, but a bleached cake of lava
rock, with never a soft place for the foot, and never a green spot
for the eye. Not a leaf to rustle in the breeze, not a blade of grass
to whisper to it, not a bird's sweet voice, or the song of running
water. Nothing lived there but dead silence on earth and in air.
Nothing but that, or in other hours the roar of wind, the rattle
of rain, and the crash of thunder.
All this time Jason had walked on under the sweltering sun,
never resting, never pausing, buoyed up with the hope of water
water for the fainting man that he might not die. But in the
desolation of that moment he dropped Sunlocks from his shoulder,
and threw himself down beside him.
And sitting there, with the head of his unconscious comrade
upon his knees, he put it to himself to say what had been the good of
all that he had done, and if it would not have been better for both
of them if he had submitted to base tyranny and remained at the
Mines. Had he not brought this man out to his death ? What else
was before him in this waste wilderness, where there was no drop
THE BONDMAN 265
of water to cool his hot forehead or moisten his parched tongue?
And thinking that his yoke-fellow might die, and die at his hands,
and that he would then be alone, with the only man's face
gone from him that had ever brightened life for him, his heart
began to waver and to say, "Rise up, Jason, rise up and go
But just then he was conscious of the click-clack of horses'
hoofs on the echoing face of the stony sea about him, and he shaded
his eyes and looked around, and saw in the distance a line of men
on ponies coming on in his direction. And though he thought of
the guards that had been signaled to pursue him, he made no effort
to escape. He did not stir or try to hide himself, but sat as before
with the head of his comrade on his knees.
The men on the ponies came up and passed him closely by with-
out seeing him. But he saw them clearly and heard their talk.
They were not the guard from the settlement, but Thing-men bound
for Thingvellir and the meeting of the Althing there. And while
they were going on before him in their laughter and high spirits,
Jason could scarce resist the impulse to cry out to them to stop
and take him along with them as their prisoner, for that he was
an outlaw who had broken his outlawry, and carried away with him
this fainting man at his knees.
But before the words would form themselves, and while his
blistering lips were shaping to speak them, a great thought came
to him, and struck him back to silence.
Why had he torn away from the Sulphur Mines? Only from
a gloomy love of life, life for his comrade, and life for himself.
And what life was there in this trackless waste, this moldering
dumb wilderness ? None, none. Nothing but death lay here ; death
in these gaunt solitudes; death in these dry deserts; death amid
these ghastly, haggard wrecks of inhuman things. What chance
could there be of escape from Iceland? None, none, none.
But there was one hope yet. Who were these men that had
passed him? They were Thing-men; they were the lawmakers.
Where were they going ? They were going to the Mount of Laws.
Why were they going there? To hold their meeting of the Althing.
What was the Althing? The highest power of the State; the
supreme Court of legislature and law.
What did all this mean? It meant that Jason as an Icelander
knew the laws of his country, and that one great law above all
other laws he remembered at that instant. It concerned outlaws.
And what were they but outlaws, both of them? It ordered that
the condemned could appeal at the Althing against the injustice of
12 Vol. H.
266 THE BONDMAN
his sentence. If the ranks of the judges opened for his escape,
then he was saved.
Jason leaped to his feet at the thought of it. That was what he
would do for his comrade and for himself. He would push on to
Thingvellir. It was five-and-thirty heavy miles away ; but no mat-
ter for that. The angel of hope would walk with him. He would
reach the Mount of Laws, carrying his comrade all the way. And
when he got there, he would plead the cause of both of them. Then
the judges would rise, and part, and make way for them, and they
would be free men thereafter.
Life, life, life ! There was life left for both of them, and very
sweet it seemed after the shadow of death that had so nearly en-
compassed them. Only to live ! Only to live ! They were young
yet and loved one another as brothers.
And while thinking so, in the whirl of his senses as he strode
to and fro over the lava blocks, Jason heard what his ear had
hitherto been too heavy to catch, the thin music of falling water
near at hand. And, looking up, he saw a tiny rivulet like a lock