seemed to be spoken from the Mount. Some one was asking why
he had come there, and brought Michael Sunlocks along with him.
THE BONDMAN 287
So he lifted his hand, partly to call attention, partly to steady him-
self, and in a broken voice he said these words :
"Men and women, if you could only know what it means that
you have just witnessed, I think it would be enough to move any
men. You know what I am a sort of bastard who has never been
a man among men, but has walked alone all the days of his life.
My father killed my mother, and so I vowed to kill my father. I
did not do it, for I saved him out of the sea, and he died in my
arms, as you might say, doting on the memory of another son.
That son's mother had supplanted my mother and that son himself
had supplanted me, so I vowed to kill him for his father's sake. I
did not do that either. I had never once set eyes on my enemy,
I had done nothing but say what I meant to do, when you took me
and tried me and condemned me. Perhaps that was injustice, such
as could have been met with nowhere save here in Iceland, yet I
thank God for it now. By what chance I do not know, but in that
hell to which you sent me, where all names are lost and no man
may know his yoke-fellow, except by his face if he has seen it, I
met with one who became my friend, my brother, my second self.
I loved him, as one might love a little child. And he loved me
yes, me I could swear it. You had thought me a beast, and shut
me out from the light of day and the company of Christian men.
But he made me a man, and lighted up the darkness of my
His deep strong voice faltered, and he stopped, and nothing
was audible save the excited breathing of the people. Greeba was
looking up into his haggard face with amazement written upon her
"Must I go on ?" he cried, in a voice rent with agony. "I have
brought him here, and he is Michael Sunlocks. My brother in suf-
fering is my brother in blood. The man I have vowed to slay is
the man I have tried to save."
Some of the people could not restrain their tears, and the white
faces of the others quivered visibly.
"Why have you brought him here ?" asked the Judge.
At that moment Michael Sunlocks began to move and to moan,
as if consciousness were coming back to him. Jorgen Jorgensen
saw this, and the proud composure with which he had looked on
and listened while Sunlocks lay like a man dead left him in an
"Why have you brought Michael Sunlocks here?" said the
"Why has he brought him here?" said Jorgen Jorgensen bit-
288 THE BONDMAN
terly. "To be arrested. That's why he has brought him here. See,
the man is coming to. He will do more mischief yet, unless he is
prevented. Take him," he shouted to two of the guards from
Krisuvik, who had come with Greeba, and now stood behind her.
"Wait !" cried the Judge, lifting his hand.
There was no gainsaying his voice, and the guards who had
stepped forward dropped back.
Then he turned to Jason again and repeated his question, "Why
have you brought Michael Sunlocks here ?"
At that, Jorgen Jorgensen lost all self-control and shouted,
"Take him, I say !" And facing about to the Judge he said, "I
will have you know, sir, that I am here for Denmark and must be
The guards stepped forward again, but the crowd closed around
them and pushed them back.
Seeing this, Jorgen Jorgensen grew purple with rage, and turn-
ing to the people, he shouted at the full pitch of his voice, "Listen
to me. Some minutes past, I put a price on that man's head. I
said I would give you twenty thousand kroner. I was wrong. I
will give you nothing but your lives and liberty. You know what
that means. You have bent your necks under the yoke already, and
you may have to do it again. Arrest that man arrest both men !"
"Stop !" cried the Judge.
"Those men are escaped prisoners," said Jorgen Jorgensen.
"And this is the Mount of Laws, and here is the Althing," said
the Judge ; "and prisoners or no prisoners, if they have anything to
say, by the ancient law of Iceland they may say it now."
"Pshaw ! your law of Iceland is nothing to me," said Jorgen
Jorgensen, and turning to the crowd he cried, "In the name of the
King of Denmark I command you to arrest those men."
"And in the name of the King of Kings," said the Judge, turn-
ing after him, "I command you to let them alone."
There was a dead hush for a moment, and then the Judge looked
down at Jason and said once more. "Why have you brought Michael
Sunlocks here? Speak!"
But before Jason could make answer, Jorgen Jorgensen had
broken in again :
"My guards are at Reykjavik," he cried, "and I am here alone.
You are traitors, all of you, and if there is no one else to arrest
that enemy of my country I will do it myself. He shall go no
further. Step back from him."
So saying, he opened his cloak, drew a pistol from his belt and
cocked it A shrill cry arose from the crowd. The men on the
THE BONDMAN 289
Mount stood quaking with fear, and Greeba flung herself over the
restless body of Michael Sunlocks. '
But Jason did not move a feature.
"Old man," he said, looking up with eyes as steadfast as the
sun into Jorgensen's face, and pointing toward Sunlocks, "if you
touch one hair of this head, these hands will tear you to pieces."
Then one of the men who had stood near, a rough fellow with
a big tear-drop rolling down his tanned cheeks, stepped up to
Jason's side, and without speaking a word offered him his musket;
but Jason calmly pushed it back. There was dead silence once
more. Jorgen Jorgensen's uplifted hand fell to his side, and he
"Speak now," said the Judge. "Why have you brought Michael
Jason stood silent for a moment as if to brace himself up, and
then he said, "I have laid my soul bare to your gaze already, and
you know what I am and where I come from."
A low moan seemed to echo him.
"But I, too, am an Icelander, and this is our ancient Mount of
Laws, the sacred ground of our fathers and our fathers' fathers for
a thousand years."
A deep murmur rose from the vast company.
"And I have heard that if any one is wronged and oppressed
and unjustly punished, let him but find his way to this place, and
though he be the meanest slave that wipes his forehead, yet he
will be a man among you all."
There were loud cries of assent.
"I have also heard that this Mount, on this day, is as the gate
of the city in old time, when the judges sat to judge the people;
and that he who is permitted to set foot on it, and cross it, though
he were as guilty as the outlaws that hide in the desert, is inno-
cent and free forever after. Answer me is it true ? Yes or no ?"
"Yes ! yes !" came from a thousand throats.
"Then, judges of Iceland, fellow-men, and brothers, do you ask
why I have brought this man to this place ? Look at this bleeding
hand." He lifted the right hand of Sunlocks. "It has been pierced
with a nail." A deep groan came from the people. He let the hand
fall back. "Look at these poor eyes. They are blind. Do you
know what that means? It means hellish barbarity and damned
His voice swelled until it seemed to shake the very ground on
which he stood. "What this man's crime may be I do not know,
and I do not care. Let it be what it will, let the man be what he
13 Vol. II.
290 THE BONDMAN
may a xelon like myself, a malefactor, a miscreant, a monster
yet what crime and what condition deserves punishment that is
worse than death and hell ?"
"None, none," shouted a thousand voices.
"Then, judges of Iceland, fellow-men, and brothers, I call on
you to save this man from that doom. Save him for his sake
save him for your own, for He that dwells above is looking down
He paused a moment and then cried, "Listen !"
There was a low rumble as of thunder. It came not from the
clouds, but from the bowels of the earth. The people turned pallid
with dismay, but Jason's face was lighted up with a wild frenzy.
"Do you hear it? It is the voice that was heard when these
old hills were formed, and the valleys ran like fire. It is the voice
of the Almighty God calling on you."
The word was like a war cry. The people answered it with a
shout. And still Jason's voice pealed over their heads.
"Vengeance is God's, but mercy belongs to man."
He stooped to Michael Sunlocks, where Greeba held him at her
bosom, picked him up in his arms as if he had been a child, turned
his face toward the Mount and cried, "Let me pass."
Then at one impulse, in one instant, the Judge and the Bishop
parted and made a way, and Jason, carrying Sunlocks, strode up the
causeway and swept through.
There was but one voice then in all that great assembly, and
it was a mighty shout that seemed to rend the dome of the heavy
sky. "Free ! Free ! Free !"
But the end was not yet. More, and more terrible, is to follow,
though the spirit is not fain to tell of it, and the hand that sets it
down is trembling. Let him who thinks that this world of time is
founded in justice wait long and watch patiently, for up to the
eleventh hour he may see the good man sit in misery, and the evil
man carried in honor. And let him who thinks that Nature is
sweet and benignant and that she leaps to the aid of the just, learn
from what is to come that she is all things to all men and nothing
to any man.
Now when Jason had crossed the Mount of Laws with Sun-
locks, thinking that by virtue of old custom he had thereby set him
free of tyranny, Jorgen Jorgensen did what a man of shallow soul
must always do when he sees the outward signs of the holy things
THE BONDMAN 291
that move the deeper souls of other men. He smiled with bitterness
and laughed with contempt.
"A pretty thing, truly," he sneered, "out of some forgotten age
of musty laws and old barbarians. But there is something else
that is forgotten. It is forgotten that between these two men,
Jason and Michael Sunlocks, there is this difference, that the one
is a prisoner of Iceland, and the other of Denmark. Jason is a
prisoner of Iceland, a felon of Iceland, therefore Iceland may
pardon him, and if this brave mummery has made him free, then
so be it, and God pity you! But Michael Sunlocks is a prisoner
of Denmark, a traitor against the crown of Denmark, therefore
Denmark alone may pardon him and he is still unpardoned."
The clamorous crowd that had gathered about Michael Sun-
locks looked up in silence and bewilderment at this fresh blow.
And Jorgen Jorgensen saw his advantage and went on.
"Ask your Lagmann and let him answer you. Is it as I say or
is it not? Ask him."
The people looked from face to face of the men on the Mount,
from Jorgen Jorgensen to the Judge and from the Judge to the
"Is this true?" shouted a voice from the crowd.
But the Judge made no answer, and the Bishop said, "Why all
this wrangling over the body of a dying man?"
"Dying indeed !" said Jorgen Jorgensen, and he laughed. "Look
at him." Michael Sunlocks, again lying in the arms of Greeba, was
showing signs of life. "He will recover fast enough when all is
"Is it true?" shouted the same voice from the crowd.
"Yes," said the Judge.
Then the look of bewilderment in the faces of the people deep-
ened to consternation. At that moment Michael Sunlocks was
raised to his feet. And Jorgen Jorgensen, standing like an old
snuffy tiger on the watch, laughed again, and turning to Jason he
pointed at Sunlocks and said, "What did I say? A pretty farce
truly, this pretense at unconsciousness. Small good it has done
him. And he has little to thank you for. You have brought him
here to his death."
What answer Jason would have made him, no man may say,
for at that moment the same terrestrial thunder that had been
heard before was heard again, and the earth became violently agi-
tated as with a deep pulsation. The people looked into each other's
faces with dismay, and scarcely had they realized the horror that
waited to pour out on the world, when a man came galloping from
292 THE BONDMAN
the south and crying, "The mountains are coming down at Skaptar.
They stopped the man and questioned him, and he answered,
with terror in his eyes, that the ice-mountain itself was sweeping
down into the plain. Then he put his heels to his horse and broke
Hardly had the people heard this dread word when another
man came galloping from the southwest, and crying, "The sea is
throwing up new islands at Reykianess, and all the rivers are
They stopped this man also, and questioned him, and he an-
swered that the sky at the coast was raining red-hot stones, so
that the sea hissed with them, and all the land was afire. Then
he, too, put his heels to his horse and broke away.
Scarcely had he gone, when a third man came galloping from
the southeast, and crying, "The land around Hekla is washed away,
and not a green place is left on the face of the earth."
This man also they stopped and questioned, and he answered
that a torrent of boiling water was rolling down from the Kotlugia
jokull, hurling ice-blocks before it, and sweeping farms, churches,
cattle, horses, and men, women, and children into the sea. Then
this man also put his heels to his horse and broke away, like one
pursued by death itself.
For some moments thereafter the people stood where the men
had left them, silent, helpless, unable to think or feel. Then there
rose from them all, as from one man, such a shriek of mortal agony
as never before came from human breasts. In their terror they
ran hither and thither, without thought or intention. They took
to their tents, they took to their ponies, they galloped north, they
galloped south, they galloped east, they galloped west, and then
came scurrying back to the Mount from which they had started. A
great danger was about to burst upon them, but they could not tell
from what direction it would come. Some remembered their homes
and the wives and children they had left there. Others thought
only of themselves and of the fire and water that were dealing out
In two minutes th'e Mount was a barren waste, the fissures on
its sides were empty, and the seats on the crags were bare. The
Thing-men and the clergy were rushing to and fro in the throng,
and the old Bishop and the Judge were seeking their horses.
Greeba stood, with fear on her face, by the side of Michael
Sunlocks, who, blind and maimed, unable to see what was going
on about him, not knowing yet where he was and what new evil
THE BONDMAN 293
threatened him, looked like a man who might have been dead and
was awakening- to consciousness in a world of the damned.
Two men, and two only, of all that vast multitude, kept their
heads and were cool through this mad panic. One of these was
Jorgen Jorgensen ; the other was Red Jason. They watched each
other constantly, the one with the eyes of the lynx, the other with
the eyes of a lion.
A troop of men came riding through the throng from the direc-
tion of the Chasm of Ravens. Twenty of them were the body-
guard of the Governor, and they pushed their way to the feet of
"Your Excellency," said one of them, "we had news of you that
you would want us; so we made bold to come."
"You have come in time," said Jorgen Jorgensen, and his cruel
eyes flashed with the light of triumph.
"There has been a great eruption of Skaptar," said the man,
"and the people of the south are flocking into Reykjavik."
"Leave old Skaptar to take care of itself," said Jorgen Jorgen-
sen, "and do you take charge of that man there, and the woman
So saying, he pointed toward Michael Sunlocks, who, amid
the whirl of the crowd around, had stood still in his helpless
Jason saw and heard all, and he shouted to the people to come
to his help, for he was one man against twenty. But the people
paid no heed to his calling, for every man was thinking of himself.
Then Jason fell on the guards with his bare hands only. And his
mighty muscles would have made havoc of many of them, but that
Jorgen Jorgensen drew his pistol again and fired at him, and
wounded him. Jason knew nothing of his injury until his right
arm fell to his side, bleeding and useless. After that, he was seized
from behind and from before, and held to the ground while Michael
Sunlocks and Greeba were hurried away.
Then the air began to be filled with smoke, a wind that was
like a solid wall of black sand swept up from the south, and sudden
darkness covered everything.
"It is the lava !" shouted one.
"It's the fiery flood !" shouted another.
"It's the end of the world !" shouted a third.
And at one impulse the people rushed hither, thither north,
south, east, west some weeping, some shrieking, some swearing,
some laughing like demons all wild with frenzy and mad with
Torgen Jorgensen found 'his little piebald pony where he had
left'it, for the docile beast, with the reins over its head, was munch-
ing the grass at the foot of the causeway. He mounted, and rode
past Jason as the men were loosening their hold of him, and peer-
ing into his face he said with a sneer, "If this is the end of the
.world, as they say, make the best of what is left of it, and fly."
With that, he thrust spurs into his horse's sides, and went off
at utmost speed.
Then Jason was alone on the plain. Not another human soul
was left. The crowd was gone; the Mount of Laws was silent,
and a flock of young sheep ran past it bleating. Over the moun-
tains to the south a red glow burned along the black sky, and lurid
flames shot through it.
Such was the beginning of the eruption of Skaptar. And Jason
staggered along in the day-darkness, alone, abandoned, shouting
like a maniac, swearing like a man accursed, crying out to the deso-
late waste and the black wind sweeping over it, that if this were
the end of the world, he had a question to ask of Him who made it :
Why He had broken His word, which said that the wages of sin
was death why the avenger that was promised had not come to
smite down the wicked and save the just?
In this valley of the Loberg there is a long peninsula of rock
stretching between the western bank of the lake and the river called
the Oxara. It begins in a narrow neck where is a pass for one
horse only, and ends in a deep pool over a jagged precipice, with
a mighty gorge of water falling from the opposite ravine. It is
said that this awful place was used in ancient days for the execution
of women who had killed their children, and of men who had robbed
the widow and the orphan.
Near the narrowest part of the peninsula a man was plunging
along in the darkness, trusting solely to the sight of his pony, for
his own eyes could see nothing. Two long hours he had been
groping his way from the Mount of Laws, and he was still within
one short mile of it. But at last he saw help at hand in his ex-
tremity, for a man on foot approached him out of the gloom. He
took him for a farmer of those parts, and hailed him with hearty
"Good man," he said, "put me on the right path for Reykjavik,
and you shall have five kroner, and welcome."
But scarcely had he spoken when he recognized the man he had
THE BONDMAN 295
met, and the man recognized him. The one was Jason, and the
other Jorgen Jorgensen.
Jorgen Jorgensen thought his hour had come, for, putting his
hand to his weapon, he remembered that he had not reloaded it
since he had shot at Jason, and so he flung it away. But the old
tiger was not to be subdued. "Come," he said, out of the black
depths of his heart, "let us have done. What is it to be ?"
Then Jason stepped back, and said: "That is the way to Rey-
kjavik over the stream and through the first chasm on the left."
At this, Jorgen Jorgensen seemed to catch his breath. He tried
to speak and could not.
"No," said Jason. "It may be weakness, it may be folly, it may
be madness, but you were my mother's father, God pity her and
forgive you, and not even at the price of my brother's life will I
have your blood on my hands. Go !"
Jorgen Jorgensen touched his horse and rode on, with his gray,
dishonored head deep in his breast. And, evil man as he was,
surely his cold heart was smitten with shame.
THE GOSPEL OF LOVE
No Althing was held in Iceland in that year of the great erup-
tion of Skaptar. The dread visitation lasted six long months, from
the end of June to the beginning of January of the year following.
During that time the people of the south and southeast, who had
been made homeless and penniless, were constantly trooping into
Reykjavik in hundreds and tens of hundreds. The population of
the capital rose from less than two thousand to more than twenty
thousand. Where so many were housed no man ever knew, and how
they lived none can say. Every hut, every hovel, every hole was
full of human beings. Men, women, and children crawled like
vermin in every quarter. For food, they had what fish came out
of the sea, and when the frost covered the fiord a foot deep with
ice, they starved on fish bones and moss and seaweed.
By this time a cry for help had gone up throughout Europe, and
Denmark and England had each sent a shipload of provisions, corn
and meal and potatoes. The relief came late, the ships were caught
in the ice, and held ice-bound a long month off Reykianess, and
.when at length the food for which the people famished was brought
296 THE BONDMAN"
into Reykjavik harbor, the potatoes were like slabs of leather and
the corn and meal like blocks of stone.
But even in this land of fire and frost, the Universal Mother is
good to her children, and the people lived through their distresses.
By the end of February they were trooping back to the scenes
of their former homes, for, desolate as those places were, they
loved them and clung to them still.
In the days of this awful calamity there were few that remem-
bered Michael Sunlocks. Jorgen Jorgensen might have had his
will of him then, and scarce anybody the wiser. That he held his
hand was due first to fear and then to contempt; fear of Copen-
hagen, contempt of the man who had lost his influence over the peo-
ple of Iceland. He was wrong on both counts. Copenhagen cared
nothing for the life of Michael Sunlocks, and laughed at the revolu-
tion whereof he had been the head and centre. But when the peo-
ple of Iceland recovered from the deadly visitation, their hearts
turned back to the man who had suffered for their sakes.
* Then it appeared that through these weary months Michael
Sunlocks had been lying in the little house of detention at Reykja-
vik, with no man save one man, and that was old Adam Fair-
brother, to raise a voice on his behalf, and no woman save one
woman, and that was Greeba, to cling to him in his extremity.
Neither of these had been allowed to come near to him, but both
had been with him always. Again and again old Adam had
forced his way to the Governor, and protested that Michael Sun-
locks was not being treated as a prisoner, but as a condemned
criminal and galley-slave; and again and again Greeba had come
and gone between her lodgings at the house of the Bishop and her
heart's home at the prison, with food and drink for him who lay in
darkness and solitude. Little he knew to whom he was thus be-
holden, for she took pains to keep her secret, but all Reykjavik saw
what she was doing. And the heart of Reykjavik was touched
when she brought her child from Krisuvik, thinking no shame of
her altered state, content to exist in simple poverty where she had
once lived in wealth, if so be that she might but touch the walls that
contained her husband.
Seeing how the sympathy was going, Jorgen Jorgensen set him-
self to consider what step to take, and finally concluded to remove
Michael Sunlocks as far as possible from the place where his
power was still great, and his temptation to use it was powerful.
The remotest spot under his rule was Grimsey, an island lying on
the Arctic circle, thirty-five miles from the mainland. It was small,
it was sparsely populated, its inhabitants were fishermen with no
THE BONDMAN 297
craft but open rowboats; it had no trade; no vessels touched at it,
and the sea that separated it from Iceland was frozen during many
months of the year. And to this Island Jorgensen decided that
Michael Sunlocks should go.
When the word was brought to Michael Sunlocks, he asked
what he was expected to do on that little rock at the end of the
world, and said that Grimsey would be his sentence of death.
"I prefer to die, for I have no great reason to wish for life,"