mark in his own person; and once from London, whereto he had
followed on when that bold design had failed him. But Adam's
letter shared the fate of the letter of Sunlocks, and thus through
THE BONDMAN 307
two long years no news of the world without had broken the silence
of that lonely home on the rock of the Arctic seas.
But during that time there had been three unwritten communi-
cations from Jorgen Jorgensen. The first came after some six
months in the shape of a Danish sloop of war, which took up its
moorings in the roadstead outside ; the second after a year, in the
shape of a flagstaff and flag which were to be used twice a day for
signaling to the ship that the prisoner was still in safe custody;
the third after two years, in the shape of a huge lock and key, to
be placed on some room in which the prisoner was henceforward to
be confined. These three communications, marking in their con-
trary way the progress of old Adam's persistent suit, first in Den-
mark and then in England, were followed after a while by a fourth.
This was a message from the Governor at Reykjavik to the old
priest of Grimsey, that, as he valued his livelihood and life he was
to keep close guard and watch over his prisoner, and, if need be,
to warn him that a worse fate might come to him at any time.
Now, the evil hour when this final message came was just upon
the good time when the apothecary from Husavik brought the joy-
ful tidings that Sunlocks might recover his sight, and the blow was
the heavier for the hope that had gone before it. All Grimsey shared
both, for the fisher-folk had grown to like the pale stranger who,
though so simple in speech and manner, had been a great man in
some way that they scarcely knew having no one to tell them,
being so far out of the world but had fallen upon humiliation and
deep dishonor. Michael Sunlocks himself took the blow with com-
posure, saying it was plainly his destiny and of a piece with the
rest of his fate, wherein no good thing had ever come to him with-
out an evil one coming on the back of it. The tender heart of the
old priest was thrown into wild commotion, for Sunlocks had be-
come, during the two years of their life together, as a son to him,
a son that was as a father also, a stay and guardian, before whom
his weakness that of intemperance stood rebuked.
But the trouble of old Sir Sigfus was as nothing to that of
Greeba. In the message of the Governor she saw death, instant
death, death without word or warning, and every hour of her life
thereafter was beset with terrors. It was the month of February;
and if the snow fell from the mossy eaves in heavy thuds, she
thought it was the muffled tread of the guards who were to come
for her husband ; and if the ice-floes that swept down from Green-
land cracked on the coast of Grimsey, she heard the shot that was
to end his life. When Sunlocks talked of destiny she cried, and
when the priest railed at Jorgen Jorgensen (having his own reason
308 THE BONDMAN
to hate him) she cursed the name of the tyrant. But all the while
she had to cry without tears and curse only in the dark silence of
her heart, though she was near to betraying herself a hundred
times a day.
"Oh, it is cruel," she thought, "very, very cruel. Is this what
I have waited for all this weary, weary time?"
And though so lately her love had fought with her pity to prove
that it was best for both of them that Sunlocks should remain blind,
she found it another disaster now, in the dear inconsistency of
womanhood, that he should die on the eve of regaining his sight.
"He will never see his boy," she thought, "never, never, never
Yet she could hardly believe it true that the cruel chance could
befall. What good would the death of Sunlocks do to any one?
What evil did it bring to any creature that he was alive on that
rock at the furthest ends of the earth and sea? Blind, too, and
helpless, degraded from his high place, his young life wrecked, and
his noble gifts wasted ! There must have been some mistake. She
would go out to the ship and ask if it were not so.
And with such wild thoughts she hurried off to the little village
at the edge of the bay. There she stood a long tour by the fisher-
men's jetty, looking wistfully out to where the sloop-of-war lay,
like a big woden tub, between gloomy sea and gloomy sky, and her
spirit failed her, and though she had borrowed a boat she could
go no further.
"They might laugh at me, and make a jest of me," she thought,
"for I can not tell them that I am his wife."
With that she went her way back as she came, crying on the
good powers to tell her what to do next, and where to look for
help. And entering in at the porch of her own apartments, which
stood aside from the body of the house, she heard voices within,
and stopped to listen. At first she thought they were the voices of
her child and her husband ; but though one of them was that of little
Michael, the other was too deep, too strong, too sad for the voice
"And so your name is Michael, my brave boy. Michael !
Michael !" said the voice, and it was strange and yet familiar.
"And how like you are to your mother, too! How like! How
very like !" And the voice seemed to break in the speaker's throat.
Greeba grew dizzy, and stumbled forward. And, as she entered
the house, a man rose from the settle, put little Michael to the
ground, and faced about to her. The man was Jason.
THE BONDMAN 309
THE GOSPEL OF RENUNCIATION
WHAT had happened in the great world during the two years
in which Michael Sunlocks had been out of it is very simple and
easily told. Old Adam Fairbrother had failed at London as he
had failed at Copenhagen, and all the good that had come of his
efforts had ended in evil. It was then that accident helped him in
The relations of England and Denmark had long been doubtful,
for France seemed to be stepping between them. Napoleon was
getting together a combination of powers against England, and in
order to coerce Denmark into using her navy a small but efficient
one on the side of the alliance, he threatened to send a force
overland. He counted without the resources of Nelson, who, with
no more ado than setting sail, got across to Copenhagen, took pos-
session of every ship of war that lay in Danish waters, and brought
them home to England in a troop.
When Adam heard of this he saw his opportunity in a moment,
and hurrying away to Nelson at Spithead he asked if among the
Danish ships that had been captured there was a sloop-of-war that
had lain near two years off the island of Grimsey. Nelson an-
swered, No, but that if there was such a vessel still at liberty he
was not of a mind to leave it to harass him. So Adam told why the
sloop was there, and Nelson, waiting for no further instructions,
despatched an English man-of-war, " with Adam aboard of her, to
do for the last of the Danish fleet what had been done for the body
of it, and at the same time to recover the English prisoner whom
she had been sent to watch.
Before anything was known of this final step of Nelson, his
former proceeding had made a great noise throughout Europe,
where it was loudly condemned as against the law of nations, by
the racals who found themselves outwitted. When the report
reached Reykjavik, Jorgen Jorgensen saw nothing that could come
of it but instant war between Denmark and England, and nothing
that could come of war with England but disaster to Denmark, for
he knew the English navy of old. So to make doubly sure of his
3 io THE BONDMAN
own position in a tumult wherein little things would of a certainty
be seized up with great ones, he conceived the idea of putting
Michael Sunlocks out of the way, and thus settling one harassing
complication. Then losing no time he made ready a despatch to the
officer in command of the sloop-of-war off Grimsey, ordering him to
send a company of men ashore immediately to execute the prisoner
lying in charge of the priest of the island.
Now this despatch, whereof the contents became known through-
out Reykjavik in less time than Jorgen took to write and seal it,
had to be carried to Grimsey by two of his body-guard. But the
men were Danes, and as they did not know the way across the
Bursting-sand desert, an Iceland guide had to be found for them.
To this end the two taverns of the town were beaten up for a man,
who at that season it was winter, and the snow lay thick over the
lava streams and the sand would adventure so far from home.
And now it was just at this time, after two and a half years
in which no man had seen him or heard of him, that Jason returned
to Reykjavik. Scare any one knew him. He was the wreck of him-
self, a worn, torn, pitiful, broken ruin of a man. People lifted both
hands at sight of him, but he showed no self-pity. Day after day,
night after night, he frequented the taverns. He drank as he had
never before been known to drink ; he laughed as he had never been
heard to laugh; he sang as he had never been heard to sing, and
to all outward appearance he was nothing now but a shameless,
graceless, disorderly, abandoned profligate.
Jorgen Jorgensen heard that Jason had returned, and ordered
his people to fetch him to Government House. They did so, and
Jorgen and Jason stood face to face. Jorgen looked at Jason as
one who would say, "Dare you forget the two men whose lives you
have taken?" And Jason looked back at Jorgen as one who would
answer, "Dare you remember that I spared your own life ?" Then,
without a word to Jason, old Jorgen turned to his people and said,
"Take him away." So Jason went back to his dissipations, and
thereafter no man said yea or nay to him.
But when he heard of the despatch, he was sobered by it in a
moment, and when the guards came on their search for a guide
to the tavern where he was, he leaped to his feet and said,
"You won't pass, my lad," said one of the Danes, "for you
would be dead drunk before you crossed the Basket Slope Hill.''
"Would I ?" said Jason, moodily, "who knows ?" And with that
he shambled out. But in his heart he cried, "The hour has come at
last! Thank God! Thank God!"
THE BONDMAN 311
Before he was missed he had gone from Reykjavik, and made
his way to the desert with his face toward Grimsey.
The next day the guards found their guide and set out on their
The day after that a Danish captain arrived at Reykjavik from
Copenhagen, and reported to Jorgen Jorgensen that off the West-
mann Islands he had sighted a British man-of-war, making for the
northern shores of Iceland. This news put Jorgen into extreme
agitation, for he guessed at its meaning in an instant. As surely
as the warship was afloat she was bound for Grimsey, to capture the
sloop that lay there, and as surely as England knew of the sloop,
she also knew of the prisoner whom it was sent to watch. British
sea-captains, from Drake downward, had been a race of pirates and
cutthroats, and if the captain of this ship, on landing at Grimsey,
found Michael Sunlocks dead, he would follow on to Reykjavik and
never take rest until he had strung up the Governor and his people
to the nearest yardarm.
So thinking in the wild turmoil of his hot old head, wherein
everything he had thought before was turned topsy-turvy, Jorgen
Jorgensen decided to countermand his order for the execution of
Sunlocks. But his despatch was then a day gone on its way. Ice-
land guides were a tribe of lazy vagabonds, not a man or boy about
his person was to be trusted, and so Jorgen concluded that nothing
would serve but that he should set out after the guards himself.
Perhaps he would find them at Thingvellir, perhaps he would cross
them on the desert, but at least he would overtake them before they
took boat at Husavik. Twelve hours a day he would ride, old as he
was, if only these skulking Iceland giants could be made to ride
Thus were four several companies at the same time on their
way to Grimsey: the English man-of-war from Spithead to take
possession of the Danish sloop; the guards of the Governor to
order the execution of Michael Sunlocks; Jorgen Jorgensen to
countermand the order; and Red Jason on his own errand known
to no man.
The first to reach was Jasn.
When Jason set little Michael from his knee to the floor, and
rose to his feet as Greeba entered, he was dirty, bedraggled, and
unkempt; his face was jaded and old-looking, his skin shoes were
splashed with snow, and torn, and his feet were bleeding ; his neck
312 THE BONDMAN
was bare, and his sheepskin coat was hanging to his back only by
the woolen scarf that was tied about his waist. Partly from shock
at this change, and partly from a confused memory of other scenes
the marriage festival at Government House, the night trial in
the little chamber of the Senate, the jail, the mines, and the Mount
of Laws Greeba staggered at sight of Jason and would have cried
aloud and fallen. But he caught her in his arms in a moment,
and whispered her in a low voice at her ear to be silent, for that
he had something to say that must be heard by no one beside herself.
She recovered herself instantly, drew back as if his touch had
stung her, and asked with a look of dread if he had known she was
"Yes," he answered.
"Where have you come from?"
She glanced down at his bleeding feet, and said, "On foot?"
"On foot," he answered.
"When did you leave ?"
"Five days ago."
"Then you have walked night and day across the desert ?"
"Night and day."
She had become more eager at every question, and now she
cried, "What has happened? What is going to happen? Do not
keep it from me. I can hear it, for I have borne many things.
Tell me why have you come?"
"To save your husband," said Jason. "Hush ! Listen !"
And then he told her, with many gentle protests against her
ghastly looks of fear, of the guards that were coming with the
order for the execution of Michael Sunlocks. Hearing that, she
waited for no more, but fell to a great outburst of weeping. And
until her bout was spent he stood silent and helpless beside her,
with a strong man's pains at sight of a woman's tears.
"How she loves him!" he thought, and again and again the
word rang in the empty place of his heart.
But when she had recovered herself he smiled as well as he was
able for the great drops that still rolled down his own haggard
face, and protested once more that there was nothing to fear, for
he himself had come to forestall the danger, and things were not
yet so far past help but there was still a way to compass it.
"What way?" she aeked.
The way of escape," he answered.
THE BONDMAN 313
"Impossible," she said. There is a warship outside, and every
path to the shore is watched."
He laughed at that, and said that if every goat track were
guarded, yet would he make his way to the sea. And as for the
warship outside, there was a boat within the harbor, the same that
he had come by, a Shetland smack that had made pretense to put
in for haddock, and would sail at any moment that he gave it
She listened eagerly, and, though she saw but little likelihood of
escape, she clutched at the chance of it.
"When will you make the attempt?" she asked.
"Two hours before dawn to-morrow," he answered.
"Why so late?"
"Because the nights are moonlight."
"I'll be ready," she whispered.
"Make the child ready also," he said.
"Indeed, yes," she whispered.
"Say nothing to any one, and if any one questions you, answer
as little as you may. Whatever you hear, whatever you see, what-
ever I may do or pretend to do, speak not a word, give not a sign,
change not a feature. Do you promise ?"
"Yes," she whispered, "yes, yes."
And then suddenly a new thought smote her.
"But, Jason," she said, with her eyes aside, and her fingers run-
ning through the hair of little Michael, "but, Jason," she faltered,
"you will not betray me?"
"Betray you ?" he said, and laughed a little.
"Because," she added quietly, "though I am here, my husband
does not know me for his wife. He is blind, and can not see me,
and for my own reasons I have never spoken to him since I came."
"You have never spoken to him?" said Jason.
"And how long have you lived in this house ?"
Then Jason remembered what Sunlocks had told him at the
mines, and in another moment he had read Greeba's secret by the
light of his own.
"I understand," he said, sadly, "I think I understand."
"* She caught the look of sorrow in his eyes, and said, "But, Jason,
what of yourself?"
At that he laughed again, and tried to carry himself off with
a brave gaiety.
"Where have you been ?" she asked.
14 Vol. II.
"At Akuyeri, Husavik, Reykjavik, the desert everywhere, no-
where," he answered.
"What have you been doing?"
"Drinking, gaming, going to the devil everything, nothing."
And at that he laughed once more, loudly and noisily, forget-
ting his own warning.
"Jason," said Greeba, "I wronged you once, and you have done
nothing since but heap coals of fire on my head."
"No, no ; you never wronged me," he said. "I was a fool that
was all. I made myself think that I cared for you. But it's all
"Jason," she said again, "it was not altogether my fault. My
husband was everything to me; but another woman might have
loved you and made you happy."
"Ay, ay," he said, "another woman, another woman."
"Somewhere or other she waits for you," said Greeba. "Depend
"Ay, somewhere or other," he said.
"So don't lose heart, Jason," she said ; "don't lose heart."
"I don't," he said, "not I;" and yet again he laughed. But,
growing serious in a moment, he said, "And did you leave home and
kindred and come out to this desolate place only that you might
live under the same roof with your husband ?"
"My home was his home," said Greeba, "my kindred his kin-
dred, and where he was there had I to be."
"And have you waited through these two long years," he said,
"for the day and the hour when you might reveal yourself to him ?"
"I could have waited for my husband," said Greeba, "through
twice the seven long years that Jacob waited for Rachel."
He paused a moment, and then said, "No, no, I don't lost heart.
Somewhere or other, somewhere or other that's the way of it."
Then he laughed louder than ever, and every hollow note of his
voice went through Greeba like a knife. But in the empty cham-
ber of his heart he was crying in his despair, "My God ! how she
loves him ! How she loves him !"
Half-an-hour later, when the winter's day was done, and the
candles had been lighted, Greeba went in to the priest, where he
sat in his room alone, to say that a stranger was asking to see him.
"Bring the stranger in," said the priest, putting down his spec-
tacles on his open book, and then Jason entered.
THE BONDMAN 315
"Sir Sigfus," said Jason, "your good name has been known to
me ever since the days when my poor mother mentioned it with
gratitude and tears."
"Your mother?" said the priest; "who was she?"
"Rachel Jorgensen's daughter, wife of Stephen Orry."
"Then you must be Jason."
"Yes, your reverence."
"My lad, my good lad," cried the priest, and with a look of joy
he rose and laid hold of both Jason's hands. "I have heard of
you. I hear of you every day, for your brother is with me. Come,
let us go to him. Let us go to him. Come !"
"Wait," said Jason. "First let me deliver you a message con-
The old priest's radiant face fell instantly to a deep sadness.
"A message?" he said. "You have never come from Jorgen
"From whom, then?"
"My brother's wife," said Jason.
"Has he never spoken of her?"
"Yes, but as one who had injured him, and bitterly and cruelly
wronged and betrayed him."
"That may be so, your reverence," said Jason, "but who can be
hard on the penitent and the dying?"
"Is she dying?" said the priest.
Jason dropped his head. "She sends for his forgiveness," he
said. "She can not die without it."
"Poor soul, poor soul!" said the priest.
"Whatever her faults, he can not deny her that little mercy,"
"God forbid it !" said the priest.
"She is alone in her misery, with none to help and none to
pity her," said Jason.
"Where is she ?" said the priest.
"At Husavik," said Jason.
"But what is her message to me?"
"That you should allow her husband to come to her."
The old priest lifted his hands in helpless bewilderment, but
Jason gave him no time to speak.
"Only for a day," said Jason, quickly, "only for one day, an
hour, one little hour. Wait, your reverence, do not say no. Think,
only think ! The poor woman is alone. Let her sins be wHat they
3i6 THE BONDMAN
may, she is penitent. She is calling for her husband. She is call-
ing on you to send him. It is her last request her last prayer.
Grant it, and Heaven will bless you."
The poor old priest was cruelly distressed.
"My good lad," he cried, "it is impossible. There is a ship
outside to watch us. Twice a day I have to signal with the flag
that the prisoner is safe, and twice a day the bell of the vessel
answers me. It is impossible, I say, impossible, impossible ! It
can not be done. There is no way."
"Leave it to me, and I will find a way," said Jason.
But the old priest only wrung his hands, and cried, "I dare not ;
I must not; it is more than my place is worth."
"He will come back," said Jason.
"Only last week," said the priest. "I had a message from
Reykjavik which foreshadowed his death. He knows it, we all
"But he will come back," said Jason, again.
"My good lad, how can you say so? Where have you lived
to think it possible? Once free of the place where the shadow of
death hangs over him, what man alive would return to it ?"
"He will come back," said Jason firmly; "I know he will, I
swear he will."
"No, no," said the old man. "I'm only a simple old priest,
buried alive these thirty years, or nearly, on this lonely island of
the frozen seas, but I know better than that. It isn't in human
nature, my good lad, and no man that breathes can do it. Then
think of me, think of me !"
"I do think of you," said Jason, "and to show you how sure I
am that he will come back, I will make you an offer."
"What is it?" said the priest.
"To stand as your bondman while he is away," said Jason.
"What ! Do you know what you are saying," cried the priest.
"Yes," said Jason, "for I came to say it."
"Do you know," said the priest, "that any day, at any hour, the
sailors from yonder ship may come to execute my poor prisoner?"
"I do. But what of that?" said Jason. "Have they ever been
"Never," said the priest.
"Do they know your prisoner from another man?"
"Then where is your risk?" said Jason.
"My risk? Mine?" cried the priest, with the great drops burst-
ing from his eyes, "I was thinking of yours. My lad, my good
THE BONDMAN 317
lad, you have made me ashamed. If you dare risk your life, I
dare risk my place, and I'll do it ; I'll do it."
"God bless you!" said Jason.
"And now let us go to him," said the priest. "He is in yonder
room, poor soul. When the order came from Reykjavik that I
was to keep close guard and watch on him, nothing would satisfy
him but that I should turn the key on him. That was out of
fear of me. He is as brave as a lion, and as a gentle as a lamb.
Come, the sooner he hears his wife's message the better for all
of us. It will be a sad blow to him, badly as she treated him. But
So saying, the old priest was fumbling his deep pockets for a
key, and shuffling along, candle in hand, toward a door at the end
of a low passage, when Jason laid hold of his arm and said in a
whisper, "Wait !" It isn't fair that I should let you go farther in
this matter. You should be ignorant of what we are doing until
it is done."
"As you will," said the priest.
"Can you trust me?" said Jason.
"That I can."
"Then give me the key."
The old man gave it.
"When do you make your next signal?"
"At daybreak to-morrow."
"And when does the bell on the ship answer it?"
"Go to your room, your reverence," said Jason, "and never stir
out of it until you hear the ship's bell in the morning. Then come
here, and you will find me waiting on this spot to return this key to
you. But first answer me again, Do you trust me?"
"I do," said the old priest.
"You believe I will keep to my bargain, come what may?"
"I believe you will keep to it."
"And so I will, as sure as God's above me."