[from Hall Caine The Deemster]
IT was not for long that Dan bore the signs of contrition. As soon as Ewan's pale face had lost the weight of its gloom, Dan's curly poll knew no more of trouble. He followed the herrings all through that season, grew brown with the sun and the briny air, and caught the sea's laughter in his rollicking voice. He drifted into some bad habits from which he had hitherto held himself in check. Every morning when the boats ran into harbour, and Teare, the mate, and Crennel, the cook, stayed behind to sell the fish, Dan and old Billy Quilleash trooped up to the "Three Legs of Man" together. There Dan was made much of, and the lad's spirit was not proof against the poor flattery. It was Mastha Dan here, and Mastha Dan there, and Where is Mastha Dan? and What does Mastha Dan say? and great shoutings, and tearings, and sprees ; and all the time the old cat with the whiskers who kept the pot-house was scoring up against Dan at the back of the cupboard door.
Did the Bishop know? Know? Did ever a young fellow go to the dogs but some old woman of either sex found her way to the very ear that ought not to be tormented with
Job's comfort, and whisper, "Aw, dear ! aw dear !" and " Lawk-a-day !" and " I'm the last to bring bad newses, as the saying is," and " Och, and it's a pity, and him a fine, brave young fellow too !" and "I wouldn't have told it on no account to another living soul !"
The Bishop said little, and tried not to hear; but when Dan would have hoodwinked him, he saw through the device as the sun sees through glass. Dan never left his father's presence with out a sense of shame that was harder to bear than any reproach would have been. Some thing patient and trustful, and strong in hope, and stronger in love, seemed to go out from the Bishop's silence to Dan's reticence. Dan would slink off with the bearing of a whipped hound, or, perhaps, with a muttered curse under his teeth, and always with a stern resolve to pitch himself or his cronies straightway into the sea. The tragical purpose usually lasted him over the short mile and a half that divided Bishop's Court from the "Three Legs of Man," and then it went down with some other troubles and a long pint of Manx jough.
Of all men, the most prompt to keep the Bishop informed of Dan's sad pranks was no other than the Deemster. Since the death of Ewan's wife the Deemster's feelings towards Dan had undergone a complete change. From that time forward he looked on Dan with eyes of distrust, amounting in its intensity to hatred. He forbade him his house, though Dan laughed at the prohibition and ignored it. He also went across to Bishop's Court for the first time for ten years, and poured into the Bishop's ears the story of every bad bit of business in which Dan got involved. Dan kept him fully employed in this regard, and Bishop's Court saw the Deemster at frequent intervals.
If it was degrading to the Bishop's place as father of the Church that his son should consort with all the "raggabash" of the island, the scum of the land, and the dirtiest froth of the sea, the Bishop was made to know the full bitterness of that degradation. He would listen with head held down, and when the Deemster, passing from remonstrance to re proach, would call upon him to set his own house in order before he ever ascended the pulpit again, the Bishop would lift his great heavy eyes with an agonised look of appeal, and answer in a voice like a sob, "Have patience, Thorkell, have patience with the lad; he is my son, my only son."
It chanced that towards the end of the herring season an old man of eighty, one William Callow, died, and he was the captain of the parish of Michael. The captaincy was a semi-civil, semi-military office, and it in cluded the functions of parish head-constable. Callow had been a man of extreme probity, and his walk in life had been without a slip. "The ould man's left no living craythur to fill his shoes," the people said when they buried him; but when the name of the old man's successor came down from Castletown, who should be the new captain but Daniel Myl rea ? The people were amazed, the Deemster laughed in his throat, and Dan himself looked appalled.
Hardly a month after this event, the rela tions of Dan and the Deemster, and Dan and the Bishop, reached a climax.
For months past the Bishop had been hatching a scheme for the subdivision of his episcopal glebe, the large extent of which had long been a burden on the dwindling energies of his advancing age; and he had determined that, since his son was not to be a minister of the Church, he should be its tenant, and farm its lands. So he cut off from the demesne a farm of eighty acres of fine Curragh land, well drained and tilled. This would be a stay and a solid source of livelihood to Dan when the herring fishing had ceased to be a pastime. There was no farm-house on the eighty acres, but barns and stables were to be erected, and Dan was to share with Ewan the old Ballamona as a home.
Dan witnessed these preparations, but entered into them with only a moderate enthusiasm. The reason of his lukewarmness was that he found himself deeply involved in debts whereof his father knew nothing. When the fishing season finished and the calculations were made, it was found that the boat had earned no more than £240. Of this old Billy Quilleash took four shares, every man took two shares, there was a share set aside for Davy, the boy, and the owner was entitled to eight shares for himself, his nets, and his boat. So far all was reasonably satisfactory. The difficulty and dissatisfaction arose when Dan began to count the treasury. Then it was discovered that there was not enough in hand to pay old Billy and his men and the boy, leaving Dan's eight shares out of the count.
Dan scratched his head and pondered. He was not brilliant at figures, but he totted up his numbers again with the same result. Then he computed the provisioning-tea, at four shillings a pound, besides fresh meat four times a week, and fine flour biscuits. It was heavy but not ruinous, and the season had been poor but not bad, and, whatever the net results, there ought not to have been a deficit where the principle of co-operation between master and man was that of share and share.
Dan began to see his way through the mystery-it was most painfully transparent in the light of the score that had been chalked up from time to time on the inside of the cupboard of the "Three Legs of Man." But it was easier to see where the money bad gone than to make it up, and old Billy and his chums began to mutter and to grumble.
"It's raely wuss till ever," said one.
The tack we've been on hasn't been worth workin'," said another.
Dan heard their murmurs, and went up to Bishop's Court. After all, the deficit was only forty pounds, and his father would lend him that much. But hardly had Dan sat down to breakfast than the Bishop, who was clearly in lower spirits than usual, began to lament that his charities to the poor bad been interrupted by the cost of building the barns and stables on the farm intended for his son.
" I hope your fishing will turn out well, Dan," he said, "for I've scarce a pound in hand to start you."
So Dan said nothing about the debt, and went back to the fisher-fellows with a face as long as a haddock's. " I'll tell you, men, the storm is coming," he said.
Old Billy looked as black as thunder, and answered with an impatient gesture, "Then keep your weather eye liftin', that's all."
Dan measured the old salt from head to foot, and hitched his hand into his guernsey. "You wouldn't talk to me like that, Billy Quilleash, if I hadn't been a fool with you. It's a true saying, that when you tell your servant your secret you make him your master."
Old Billy sniggered, and his men snorted. Billy wanted to know why he had left Kinvig's boat, where he had a sure thirty pounds for his season; and Ned There wished to be told what his missus would say when he took her five pound ten; and Crennel, the slushy, asked what sort of a season the mastha was afther callin' it, at all, at all.
Not a man of them remembered his share of the long scores chalked up on the inside of the cupboard door.
"Poor old dad," thought Dan, " he must find the money after all-no way but that," and once again he turned towards Bishop's Court.
Billy Quilleash saw him going off, and followed him. "I've somethin' terrible fine up here," said Billy, tapping his forehead mysteriously.
" What is it ? " Dan asked:
"Och, a shockin' powerful schame. It'll get you out of the shoal water anyways,'I said Billy.
It turned out that the 'shockin' powerful schame" was the ancient device of borrowing the money from a money-lender. Old Billy knew the very man to serve the turn. His name was Kisseck, and he kept the "Jolly Herrings " in Peeltown, near the bottom of the crabbed little thoroughfare that wound and twisted and descended to that part of the quay which over looked the castle rock.
" No, no; that'll not do," said Dan. " Aw, and why not at all?"
"Why not? Why not ? Because it's blank robbery to borrow what you can't pay back." "Robbery? Now, what's the use of sayin' the like o' that? Aw, the shockin' notions l Well, well, and do you raely think a person's got no feelin's ? Robbery? Aw, well now, well now."
And old Billy tramped along with the air of an injured man.
But the end of it was that Dan said nothing to the Bishop that day, and the same night found him at the "Jolly Herrings." The landlord had nothing to lend, not he, but he knew people who would not mind part ing with money on good security, or on anybody's bail, as the sayin' was. Couldn't Mastha Dan get a good man's name to a bit o' paper, like? Coorse he could, and nothing easier, for a gentl'man same as him. Who was the people? They belonged to Liverpool, the Goree Peaizy-Benas they were callin' them.
Three days afterwards the forty pounds, made up to fifty for round numbers, came to Kisseck, the landlord, and the bit o' paper came with it. Dan took the paper and went off with it to the old Ballamona. Ewan would go bail for him, and so the Bishop need know nothing of the muddle. But when Dan reached his new home Ewan was away-a poor old Quaker named Christian, who had brought himself to beggary by neglecting Solomon's injunction against suretyship, was dying, and had sent for the parson.
Dan was in a burry ; the fisher-fellows were grumbling, and their wives were hanging close about their coat-tails; the money must be got without delay, and of course Ewan would sign for it straight away if he were there. An idea struck Dan, and made the sweat to start from his forehead. He had put the paper on the table and taken up a pen when he heard Ewan's voice outside, and then he threw the pen down, and his heart leapt with a sense of relief.
Ewan came in, and rattled on about old Christian, the Quaker. He hadn't a week to live, poor old soul, and he hadn't a shilling left in the world. Once he farmed his hun dred acres, but he had stood surety for this man and surety for that man, and paid up the defalcations of both, and now, while they were eating the bread of luxury, he was dying as a homeless pauper.
" Well, he has been practising a bad virtue," said Ewan. "I wouldn't stand surety for my own brother-not for my own brother if I had one. It would be helping him to eat to-day the bread he earns to-morrow."
Dan went out without saying anything of the bit of paper from Liverpool. The fisher fellows met him, and when they heard what he had to say their grumblings broke out again.
" Well, I'm off for the Bishop, and no disrespec'," said old Billy.
He did not go; the bit o' paper was signed, but not by Ewan ; the money was paid; the grateful sea-dogs were sent home with their wages in their pockets and a smart cuff on either ear.
A month or two went by, and Dan grew quiet and thoughtful, and sometimes gloomy, and people began to say, "It's none so wild the young mastha is at all at all," or perhaps, "Wonderful studdv he's growing," or even, "I wouldn't trust but he'll turn out a parson after all." One day in November Dan went fiver to new Ballamona and asked for Mona, and sat with her in earnest talk. He told her of some impending disaster, and she listened with a whitening face. From that day forward Mona was a changed woman. She seemed to share some great burden of fear with Dan, and it lay heavy upon her, and made the way of life very long and cheerless to the sweet and silent girl.
Towards the beginning of December sundry letters came out of their season from the young clerk of Benas Brothers, Jarvis Ker ruish. Then the Deemster went over more than once to Bishop's Court, and had grave interviews with the Bishop.
"If you can prove this that you say, Thor kell, I shall turn my back on him for ever yes, for ever," said the Bishop, and his voice was husky and his sad face was seamed with lines of pain.
A few days passed and a stranger appeared at Ballamona, and when the stranger bad gone the Deemster said to Mona, "Be ready to go to Bishop's Court with me in the morning."
Mona's breath seemed to be suddenly arrested. " Will Ewan be there ? " she asked.
"Yes; isn't it the day of his week-day service at the chapel-Wednesday-isn't it?"
" And Dan ? " she said.
" Dan ? Why Dan ? Well, woman, perhaps Dan too-who knows?"
The Bishop had sent across to the old Balla mona to say that he wished to see his son in the library after service on the following morning.
At twelve next day, Dan, who had been ploughing, turned in at Bishop's Court in his long boots and rough red shirt, and there in the library he found Mona and the Deemster seated. Mona did not speak when Dan spoke to her. Her voice seemed to fail; but the Deemster answered in a jaunty word or two; and then the Bishop, looking very thoughtful, came in with Ewan, whose eyes were brighter than they had been for many a day, and behind them walked the stranger whom Mona had seen at Ballamona the day before.
"Why, and how's this?" said Ewan, on per ceiving that so many of them were gathered there.
The Bishop closed the door, and then an swered with averted face, " We have a painful interview before us, Ewan-be seated."
It was a dark day; the clouds hung low, and the dull rumble of the sea came through the dead air. A fire of logs and peat burned on the hearth, and the Deemster rose and stood with his back to it, his hands interlaced behind him. The Bishop sat in his brass clamped chair at the table, and rested his pale cheek on his hand. There was a pause, and then, without lifting his eyes, the Bishop said, "Ewan, do you know that it is contrary to the customs of the Church for a minister to stand security for a debtor ? "
Ewan was standing by the table fumbling the covers of a book that he had lifted. "I know it," he said quietly.
"Do you know that the minister who disregards that custom stands liable to suspension at the hands of his Bishop?"
Ewan looked about with a stare of bewilderment, but he answered again and as quietly, " I know it."
There was silence for a moment, and then the Deemster, clearing his throat noisily, turned to where Dan was pawing up a rug that lay under a column and bust of Bunyan.
"And do you know, air," said the Deemster in his shrill tones, "what the punishment of forgery may be ? "
Dan's face had undergone some changes during the last few minutes, but when he lifted it to the Deemster's it was as firm as a rock.
"Hanging, perhaps," he answered sullenly; " transportation, perhaps. What of it ? Out with it-be quick."
Dan's eyes flashed; the Deemster tittered audibly; the Bishop looked up at his son from tinder the rims of his spectacles and drew a long breath. Mona had covered her face in her hands where she sat in silence by the ingle, and Ewan, still fumbling the book in his nervous fingers, was glancing from Dan to the Deemster, and from the Bishop to Dan, with a look of blank amazement.
The Deemster motioned to the stranger, who thereupon advanced from where he had stood by the door, and stepped up to Ewan.
"May I ask if this document was drawn by your authority ? " and saying this the stranger held out a paper, and Ewan took it in his listless fingers.
There was a moment's silence. Ewan glanced down at the document. It showed that fifty pounds had been lent to Daniel Mylrea, by Benas Brothers, of the Goree Piazza, Liverpool, and it was signed by Ewan's own name as that of surety.
"Is that your signature?" asked the stranger, Ewan glanced at Dan, and Dan's head was on his breast and his lips quivered. The Bishop was trembling visibly, and sat with head bent low by the sorrow of a wrecked and shattered hope.
The stranger looked from Ewan to Dan, and from Dan to the Bishop. The Deemster gazed steadily before him, and his face wore a ghostly smile.
"Is it your signature?" repeated the stranger, and his words fell on the silence like the clank of a chain.
Ewan saw it all now. He glanced again at the document, but his eyes were dim, and he could read nothing. Then he lifted his face, and its lines of agony told of a terrible struggle.
"Yes," he answered, "the signature is mine -what of it ? "
At that the Bishop and Mona raised their eyes together. The stranger looked incredulous.
" It is quite right if you say so," the stranger replied, with a cold smile.
Ewan trembled in every limb. " I do say so," he said.
His fingers crumpled the document as he spoke, but his head was erect, and the truth seemed to sit on his lips. Dan dropped heavily into a chair and buried his face in his hands.
The stranger smiled again the same cold smile. "The lenders wish to withdraw the loan," he said.
"They may do so-in a month," said Ewan.
"That will suffice."
The Deemster's face twitched; Mona's cheeks were wet with tears; the Bishop had risen and gone to the window, and was gazing out through blurred eyes into the blinding rain that was now pelting against the glass.
" It would be cruel to prolong a painful interview," said the stranger; and then, with a glance towards Dan where he sat convulsed with distress that he made no effort to conceal, he added in a hard tone
" Only the lenders came to have reasons to fear that perhaps the document had been drawn without your knowledge."
Ewan handed the paper back with a nerve less hand. He looked at the stranger through swimming eyes, and said gently, but with an awful inward effort, "You have my answer, sir, -I knew of it."
The stranger bowed and went out. Dan leapt to his feet and threw his arms about Ewan's neck, but dared not to look into his troubled face. Mona covered her eyes and sobbed.
The Deemster picked up his hat to go, and in passing out he paused in front of Ewan and said in a bitter whisper
"Fool ! fool ! You have taken this man's part to your own confusion."
When the door closed behind the Deemster the Bishop turned from the window. "Ewan," he said, in a voice like a cry, "the Recording Angel has set down the lie you have told to-day in the Book of Life to your credit in heaven."
Then the Bishop paused, and Dan lifted his head from Ewan's neck.
"As for you, sir," the Bishop added, turning to his son, "I am done with you for ever; go from me ; let me see your face no more."
Dan went out of the room with betided, head.