[from Hall Caine The Deemster]
THE Bishop had gone into the hall for his cloak and hat when he came face to face with the Deemster, who was entering the house. At sight of his brother his bewildered mind made some feeble efforts to brace itself up.
" Ah ! is it you, Thorkell ? Then you have come at last ! I had given you up. But I am going out to-night. Will you not come into the
library with me? But perhaps you are going somewhere ?"
It was a painful spectacle, the strong brain of the strong man tottering visibly. The Deemster set down his hat and cane, and looked up with a cold mute stare in answer to his brother's inconsequent questions. Then, without speaking, he went into the library, and the Bishop followed him with a feeble, irregular step, humming a lively tune-it was " Sally in our Alley"-and smiling a melancholy, jaunty; bankrupt' smile.
"Gilcrist;" said the Deemster imperiously, and he closed the door behind them as he spoke, "let us put away all pretence, and talk like men. We have serious work before us, I promise you."
By a perceptible spasm of will the Bishop seemed to regain command of his faculties, and his countenance, that had been mellowed down to most pitiful weakness, grew on the instant firm and pale.
"What is it, Thorkell?" he said in a more resolute tone.
Then the Deemster asked deliberately, "What do you intend to do with the murderer of my son ? "
"What do I mean to do ? I ? Do you ask
me what I intend to do?" said the Bishop in a husky whisper.
"I ask you what you intend to do," said the Deemster firmly. "Gilcrist, let us make no faces. You do not need that I should tell you what powers of jurisdiction over felonies are held by the Bishop of this island as its spiritual baron. More than once you have reminded me, and none too courteously, of those same powers when they have served your turn. They are to-day what they were yesterday, and so I ask you again, what do you intend to do with the murderer of my son ? "
The Bishop's breath seemed suspended for a moment, and then, in broken accents he said softly
" You ask me what I intend to do with the murderer of our Ewan-his murderer, you say?"
In a cold and resolute tone the Deemster said again, " His murderer," and bowed stiffly.
The Bishop's confusion seemed to over. whelm him. "Is it not assuming too much, Thorkell ? " he said, and while his fingers trembled as he unlaced them before him, the same sad smile as before passed across big face.
"Listen, and say whether it is so or not," said the Deemster, with a manner of rigid impassibility. "At three o'clock yesterday my son left me at my own house with the declared purpose of going in search of your son. With what object? Wait. At half-past three he asked for your son at the house they
shared together. He was then told that your son would be found at the village. Before four o'clock he inquired for him at the village pot-house, your son's daily and nightly haunt. There he was told that the man he wanted had been seen going down towards the creek, the frequent anchorage of the fishing-smack, the Ben-my-Chree, with which he has frittered away his time and your money. As the parish clock was striking four he was seen in the lane leading to the creek, walking briskly down to it. He was never seen again."
"My brother, my brother, what proof is there in that?" said the Bishop, with a gesture of protestation.
" Listen. That creek under the Head of Orrisdale is known to the fisher-folk as the Lockjaw. Do you need to be told why? Because there is only one road out of it. My son went into the creek, but he never left it alive."
"How is this known, Thorkell ? "
"How? In this way. Almost immediately my son had gone from my house, Jarvis Kerruish went after him, to overtake him and bring him back. Not knowing the course, Jarvis had to feel his way and inquire, but he came upon his trace at last, and followed Ewan on the road he had taken, and reached the creek soon after the parish' clock struck five. Now, if my son had returned as he went, Jarvis Kerruish must have met him."
" Patience, Thorkell, have patience," said the
Bishop. "If Ewan found Dan at the Lockjaw Creek, why did not the young man Jarvis find both of them there ? "
" Why ? " the Deemster echoed, "because the one was dead, and the other in hiding."
The Bishop was standing at that moment by the table, and one hand was touching something that lay upon it. A cry that was half a sigh and half a suppressed scream of terror burst from him. The Deemster understood it not, but set it down to the searching power of his own words. Shuddering from head to foot, the Bishop looked down at the thing his hand had touched. It was the militia belt. He had left it where it had fallen from his fingers when the men brought it to him. Beside it, half hidden by many books and papers, the two small daggers lay.
Then a little low cunning crept over the heart of that saintly man, and he glanced up into his brother's face with a dissembled look, not of inquiry, but of supplication. The Deemster's face was imperious, and his eyes betrayed no discovery. He had seen nothing.
"You make me shudder, Thorkell," the Bishop murmured, and while he spoke he lifted the belt and daggers furtively amid a chaos of loose papers, and whipped them into the door of a cabinet that stood open.
His duplicity had succeeded; not even the hollow ring of his voice had awakened suspicion, but' he sat down with a crushed and abject mien. His manhood had gone, shame overwhelmed him, and he ceased to contend.
"T said there was only one way out of the creek," said the Deemster, "but there are two."
" The other way is by the sea. My son took that way, but he took it as a dead man, and when he came ashore he was wrapped for sea-burial-by ignorant bunglers who had never buried a body at sea before-in a sailcloth of the Ben-my-CAree."
The Bishop groaned and wiped his forehead.
"Do you ask for further evidence?" said the Deemster in a relentless voice. "If so, it is at hand. Where was the Ben-my-CAree last night? It was on the sea. Last night was Christmas Eve, a night of twenty old Manx customs. Where were the boat's crew and owner ? They were away from their homes. To-'day was Christmas Day. Where were the men? Their wives and children were waiting for some of them to eat with them their Christmas dinner and drink their Christmas ale. But they were not in their houses, and no one knew where they were. Can circumstances be more damning? Speak, and say. Don't wring your hands; be a man and look me in the face."
"Have mercy, Thorkell," the Bishop murmured, utterly prostrate. But the Deemster went on to lash him as a brutal master whips a broken-winded horse.
"When the Ben-my-Chree came into harbour
to-night, what was the behaviour of crew and owner? Did they go about their business as they are wont to do when wind and tide has kept them too long at sea? Did they show their faces before suspicion as men. should who have no fear? No. They skulked away. They fled from question. At this moment they are being pursued."
The Bishop covered his face with his hands.
"And so I ask you again," resumed the Deemster, "what do you intend to do with the murderer of my son?"
" Oh, Dan, Dan, my boy, my boy ! " the Bishop sobbed, and for a moment his grief mastered all other emotions.
Ah ! see how it is ! You name your son, and you know that he is guilty."
The Bishop lifted up his head, and his eyes flashed.
" I do not know that my son is guilty," he said in a tone that made the Deemster pause. But, speedily recovering his self-command, the Deemster continued in a tone of confidence, "Your conscience tells you that it is so."
The Bishop's spirit was broken in a moment. "What would you have me do, Thorkell2"
" To present your son for murder in the court of your barony."
"Man, man, do you wish to abase me ?" said the Bishop. "Do you come to drive me to despair? Is it not enough that I am bent to the very earth with grief but that you of all men should crush me to the dust itself with shame ? Think of it my son is my only tie to earth, I have none left but him; and, because I am a judge in the island as well as its poor priest, I am to take him and put him to death."
Then his voice, which had been faint, grew formidable.
" What is it you mean by this cruel torture ? If my son is guilty, must his crime go unpunished though his father's hand is not lifted against him ? For what business are you yourself on this little plot of earth? You are here to punish the evildoer. It is for you to punish him if he is guilty. But no, for you to do that would be for you to be merciful. Mercy you will not show to him or me. And, to make a crime that is terrible at the best, thrice shameful as well, you would put a father as judge over his son. Man, man, have you no pity ? - no bowels of compassion ? Think of it! My son is myself, life of my life. Can I lop away my right hand and still keep all my members? Only think of it. Thorkell, Thorkell, my brother, think of it. I am a father, and so are you. Could you condemn to death your own son ? "
The sonorous voice had broken again to a sob of supplication.
"Yes, you are a father," said the Deemster, unmoved, "but you are also, a priest and a judge. Your son is guilty of a crime-"
" Who says be is guilty?"
"Yourself said as much a moment since."
"Have I said so? What did I say? They had no cause of quarrel -Dan and Ewan. They loved each other. But I cannot think. My head aches. I fear my mind is weakened by these terrible events."
The Bishop pressed his forehead hard like a man in bodily pain, but the Deemster showed no ruth.
"It is now for you to put the father aside and let the priest-judge come forward. It is your duty to God and your Church. Cast your selfish interests behind you and quit yourself like one to whom all eyes look up. The Bishop has a sacred mission. Fulfil it. You have punished offenders against God's law and the Church's rule beforetime. Don't let it be said that the laws of God and Church are to pass by the house of their Bishop."
"Pity! pity I have pity," the Bishop murmured.
"Set your own house in order, or with what courage will you ever again dare to intrude upon the houses of your people? Now is your time to show that you can practise the hard doctrine that you have preached. Send him to the scaffold, yes, to the scaffold="
The Bishop held up his two hands and cried, "Listen, listen ! What would it avail you though my son's life were given in forfeit for the life of your son? You never loved Ewan. Ah I it is true, as Heaven is my witness, yon never loved him. While I shall have lost two sons at a blow. Are you a Christian, to thirst like this for blood? It is not justice you want; it is vengeance. But vengeance belongs to God."
"Is he not guilty?" the Deemster answered. "And is it not your duty and mine to punish the guilty? "
But the Bishop went on impetuously, panting as he spoke, and in a faint, broken tone
"Then if you should be mistaken-if all this that you tell me should be a fatal coincidence that my son cannot explain away? What if I took him and presented him, and sent him to the gallows, as you say, and some day, when all that is now dark became light, and the truth stood revealed, what if then I had to say to myself before God, ` I have taken the life of my son?' Brother, is your heart brazed out that you can think of it without pity ? "
The Bishop had dropped to his knees.
" I see that you are a coward," said the Deemster contemptuously. "And so this is what your religion comes to 1 I tell you that the eyes of the people of this island are on you. If you take the right course now, their reverence is yours; if the wrong one, it will be the worst evil that has ever befallen you from your youth upwards."
The Bishop cried, "Mercy, mercy I for Christ's sake, mercy I " and he looked about the room with terrified eyes, as if he would fly from it if he could.
But the Deemster's lash had one still heavier blow.
" More, more," he said; your Church is on[its trial also, and if you fail of your duty now, the people will rise and sweep it away."
Then a great spasm of strength came to the Bishop, and he rose to his feet.
" Silence, sir! " he said, and the Deemster quailed visibly before the heat and flame of his voice and manner.
But the spasm was gone in an instant, for his faith was dead as his soul was dead, and only the galvanic impulse of the outraged thing remained. And truly his faith had taken his manhood with it, for he sat down and sobbed. In a few moments more the Deemster left him without another word. Theirs had been a terrible interview, and its mark remained to the end like a brand of iron on the hearts of both the brothers.
The night was dark but not cold,"'and the roads were soft and draggy. Over the long mile that divided Bishop's Court from Ballamona the old Deemster walked home with a mind more at ease than he had known for a score of years. `° It was true enough, as he said, that I never loved Ewan," the Deemster thought. "But then whose was the fault but Ewan's own? At every step he was against me, and if he took the side of the Bishop and his waistrel son, he did it to his own confusion. And he had his good parts, too. Patient and long-suffering like his mother, poor woman, dead and gone. A little like my old father also, the simple soul. With fire, too, and rather headstrong at times. I wonder how it all happened."
Then, as he trudged along through the dark roads, his mind turned full on Dan.
"He must die," he thought with content and a secret satisfaction. "By Bishop's law or Deemster's he cannot fail but be punished with death. And so this is the end ! He was to have his foot on my neck some day. So much for the brave vaunt and prophecy. And when he is dead my fate is broken. Tut ! who talks of fate in these days ? Idle chatter and balderdash !"
When the Deemster got to Ballamona, he found the coroner, Quayle the Gyke, in the hall awaiting him. Jarvis Kerruish was on the settle pushing off his slush-covered boots with a boot-jack.
" Why, what? How's this ? " said the Deemster.
" They've escaped us so far," said the coroner meekly.
"Escaped you? What? In this little rathole of an island, and they've escaped you?" "We gave them chase for six miles, sir. They've taken the mountains for it. Up past the Sherragh Vane at Sulby, and under Snaefell and Beinn-y-Phott-that's their way, sir. And it was black dark up yonder, and we had to leave it till the morrow. We'll take them, sir, make yourself easy."
"Had any one seen them? Is he with them?"
"Old Moore, the miller at Sulby, saw them as they went by the mill, running mortal hard. But he told us no, the captain wasn't among them."
"What 1 then you've been wasting your wind over the fishermen while he has been clearing away? "
Jarvis Kerruish raised his head from where he was pulling on his slippers.
"Set your mind at rest, sir," he said calmly. "We will find him, though he lies like a toad under a stone."
"Mettle, mettle," the Deemster chuckled into his breast, and proceeded to throw off his cloak. Then be turned to the coroner again.
"Have you summoned the jury of inquiry?" " I have, sir-six men of the parish-courthouse at Ramsey-eight in the morning."
" We must indict the whole six of them. You have their names ? Jarvis will write them down for you. We cannot have five of them giving evidence for the sixth."
The Deemster left the hall with his quick and restless step, and turned into the diningroom, where Mona was helping to lay the supper. Her face was very pale, her eyes were red with long weeping, she moved to and fro with a slow step, and misery itself seemed to sit on her. But the Deemster saw nothing of this.
"Mona," he said, "you must be stirring before daybreak to-morrow."
She lifted her face with a look of inquiry.
" We breakfast at half-past six, and leave in the coach at seven."
With a puzzled expression she asked in a low tone where they were to go.
"To Ramsey, for the court of inquiry," he answered with complacency.
Mona's left hand went up to her breast, and her breath came quick.
"But why am I to go?" she asked timidly. "Because in cases of this kind, when the main evidence is circumstantial, it is necessary to prove a motive before it is possible to frame an indictment."
"Well, father?" Mona's red eyes opened wide with a startled look, and their long lashes trembled.
" Well, girl, you shall prove the motive." The Deemster opened the snuff-horn on the mantel-shelf.
" I am to do so ? "
The Deemster glanced up sharply under his spectacles. "Yes, you, child, you," he said, with quiet emphasis, and lifted his pinch of snuff to his nose.
Mona's breast began to heave, and all her slight frame to quiver.
"Father," she said faintly, "do you mean that I am to be the chief witness against the man who took my brother's life?"
"Well, perhaps, but we shall see. And now for supper, and then to bed, for we must be stirring before the lark,"
Mona was going out of the room with a heavy step when the Deemster, who had seated himself at the table, raised his eyes. "Wait," he said; "when were you last out of the house?"
"Yesterday morning, sir. I was at the ploughing match."
"Have you had any visitors since five last night? "
" Visitors-five-I do not understand-" That will do, child."
Jarvis Kerruish came into the room at this moment. He was the Deemster's sole companion at supper that night. And so ended that terrible Christmas Day.