[from Hall Caine The Deemster]
IT was at the late dawn of the following morning that Dan Mylrea escaped from his night-long burial in the shaft of the disused lead mine. On his way to Ballamona he went by the little shed where Mrs. Kerruish lived with her daughter Mally. The sound of his footstep on the path brought the old woman to the doorway.
"Asking pardon, sir," the old body said, and which way may you be going ? "
Dan answered that he was going to Ballamona.
"Not to the Deemster's ? Yes? Och l no. Why, d'ye say? Well, my daughter was away at the Street last night-where she allis is o' nights, more's the pity, leaving me, a lone woman, to fret and fidget-and there in the house where they tell all the newses, the guzzling craythurs, they were sayin' that maybe it was yourself as shouldn't trouble the Deemster for a bit of a spell longer."
Dan took no further heed of the old woman's warning than to thank her as he passed on. When he got to Ballamona the familiar place looked strange and empty. He knocked, but there was no answer. He called, but there was no reply. Presently a foot on the gravel woke the vacant stillness. It was Hommybeg, and at sight of Dan he lifted both his hands.
Then, amid many solemn exclamations, slowly, disjointedly, explaining, excusing, Hominy told what had occurred. And no sooner bad Dan realised the business that was afoot, and that the Deemster, with Jarvis Kerruish and Mona, were gone to Ramsey on a court of inquiry touching Ewan's death, than he straightway set his face in the same direction.
"The court begins its business at eight, you say? Well, good-bye, Hommy, and God bless you 1" he said, and turned sharply away. But he stopped suddenly, and came back the pace or two. "Wait, let us shake hands, old
friend; we may not have another chance Good-bye."
In a moment Dan was going at a quick pac down the road.
It was a heavy morning. The mists wer gliding slowly up the mountains in grim hooded shapes, their long white skirts sweepin the meadows as they passed. Overhead th sky was dim and empty. Underfoot the roads were wet and thick. But Dan fel nothing of this wintry gloom. It did no touch his emancipated spirit. His face seemed to open as he walked, and his very stature
to increase. He reflected that the lumbering coach which carried the Deemster and his daughter and bastard son must now be far o its way through the ruts of this rough turnpike that lay between Michael and Ramsey. And he pushed on with new vigour.
He passed few persons on the roads. The houses seemed to be deserted. Here or there a little brood of children played about cottage door. He hailed them cheerily as he went by, and could not help observing that when the little ones recognised him they dropped their play and huddled together at the threshold like sheep affrighted.
As he passed into Ballaugh under the foot of Glen Dhoo he came upon Corlett Ballafayle. The great man opened his eyes wide at sight of Dan, and made no answer to his salutation; but when Dan had gone on some distance he turned, as if by a sudden impulse, and hailed him with scant ceremony.
"Ay, why do you take that road 4"
Dan twisted his head, but he did not stop, and Corlett Ballafayle laughed in his throat at a second and more satisfying reflection, and then, without waiting for an answer to his question, he waved the back of one hand, and said, "All right. Follow on. It's nothing to me."
Dan had seen the flicker of good-will, followed by the flame of uncharity, that flashed over the man's face, but he had no taste or time for parley. Pushing on past the muggy inn by the bridge, past the smithy that stood there and the brewery that stood opposite, he came into the village. There the women, standing at their doors, put their heads together, looked after him and whispered, and, like Corlett Ballafayle, forgot to answer his greeting. It was then that over his new. found elevation of soul Dan felt a creeping sense of shame. The horror and terror that had gone before had left no room for the lower emotion. Overwhelmed by a crushing idea of his guilt before God, he had not realised his position in the eyes of his fellowmen. But now he realised it and knew that his crime was known. He saw himself as a hunted man, a homeless, friendless wanderer on the earth, a murderer from whom all must shrink. His head fell into his breast as he walked, his eyes dropped to the ground, he lifted his face no more to the faces of the people whom he passed, and gave none his salutation.
The mists lifted off the mountains as the morning wore on, and the bald crowns were e seen against the empty sky. Dan quickened his pace. When he came to Sulby it had e almost quickened to a run, and as he went by the mill in the village he noticed that g old Moore, the miller, who was a square-set, e middle-aged man with a heavy jowl, stood at the open door and watched him. He did t not lift his eyes, but he was conscious that t Moore turned hurriedly into the mill, and that at the next instant one of his men came as hurriedly out of it.
g In a few minutes more he was at the bridge that crosses the Sulby river, and there he n was suddenly confronted by a gang of men,
with Moore at their head. They had crossed the river by the ford at the mill-side, and running along the southern bank of it, had come up to the bridge at the moment that Dan was about to cross it from the road.
a Armed with heavy sticks, which they carried threateningly, they called on Dan to surrender himself. Dan stopped, looked into their hot faces, and said
"Men, I know what you think, but you are wrong. I am not running away; 'I am going to Ramsey court-house."
At that the men laughed derisively, and the miller said with a grin that if Dan was on his road to Ramsey they would take the pleasure of his company, just to see him safely landed there.
Dan's manner was quiet. He looked about him with calm but searching looks. At the opposite bank of the river, close to the foot of the bridge, there was a smithy. At that moment the smith was hooping a cart.. wheel, and his striker set down his sledge and tied up his leather apron to look on and listen.
"Men," said Dan again in a voice that was low, but strong and resolute, "it is the truth that I am on my way to Ramsey courthouse, but I mean to go alone, and don't intend to allow any man to take me there as a prisoner."
"A likely tale," said the miller, and with that he stepped up to Dan and laid a hand upon his arm. At the next moment the man of flour had loosed his grip with a shout, and his white coat was rolling in the thick mud of the wet road. Then the other men closed around with sticks uplifted, but before they quite realised what they were to do, Dan bad twisted some steps aside, darted through them, laid hold of the rsmith's sledge, swung it on his shoulder, and faced about.
"Now, men," he said as calmly as before, "none of you shall take me', to Ramsey, and none of you shall follow me there. I must go alone."
The men had fallen quickly back. Dan's strength of muscle was known, and his stature was a thing to respect. They were silent for a moment and dropped their sticks. Then they began to mutter among themselves, and ask what it was to them after all, and what
for should they meddle, and what was a few shillin' anyway ?
Dan and his sledge passed through. The encounter had cost him some minutes of precious time, but the ardour of his purpose lZad suffered no abatement from the untoward event, though his heart was the heavier for it and the dreary day looked the darker.
Near the angle of the road that turns to the left to Ramsey and to the right to the Sherragh Vane, there was a little thatched cottage of one storey, with its window level with the road. It was the house of a cobbler named Callister, a lean, hungry, elderly man, who lived there alone under the ban of an old rumour of evil doings of some sort in his youth. Dan knew the poor soul. Such human ruins had never been quarry to him, the bighearted scapegrace, and now, drawing near, he heard the beat of the old man's hammer as he worked. The hammering ceased, and Callister appeared at his door.
"Capt'n," he stammered, "do you knowdo you know-?" He tried to frame his words and could not, and at last he blurted out, "Quayle the Gyke drove by an hour ago."
Dan knew what was in the heart of the poor battered creature, and it touched him deeply. He was moving off without speaking, merely waving his hand for answer and adieu, when the cobbler's dog, as lean and hungry as its master to look upon, came from the house and looked up at Dan out of its rheumy eyes and licked his hand.
The cobbler still stood at his door, fumbling in his fingers his cutting-knife, worn obliquely to the point, and struggling to speak more plainly.
"The Whitehaven packet leaves Ramsey tonight, capt'n," he said.
Dan waved his hand once more. His heart sank yet lower. Only by the very dregs of humanity, the very quarry of mankind, and by the dumb creatures that licked his hand, was his fellowship rewarded. Thus had he wasted his fidelity and thrown his loyalty away. In a day he had become a hunted man. So much for the world's gratitude and even the world's pity. And yet, shunned or hunted, a mark for the finger of shame or an aim for the hand of hate, he felt as be bad felt before, bound by strong ties to his fellow-creatures. He was about to part from them; he was meeting them for the last time. Not even their coldest glance of fear or suspicion made a call on his resolution.
At every step his impatience became more lively. Through Lezayre and past Milntown he walked at a quick pace. He dared not run, lest his eagerness should seem to betray him, and he should meet with another such obstacle as kept him back at Sulby Bridge. At length he was walking through the streets of Ramsey. He noticed that most of the people who passed him gave him a hurried and startled look, and went quickly on. He reached the court-house at last. Groups stood about the Saddle Inn, and the south side of the enclosure within the rails was crowded. The clock in the church tower in the marketplace beyond was striking nine. It was while building that square tower, twenty years before, that the mason Looney had dropped to his knees on the scaffold and asked the blessing of the Bishop as he passed. To the Bishop's son the clock of the tower seemed now to be striking the hour of doom.
The people within the rails of the courtyard fell aside as Dan pushed his way through, and the dull buzz of their gossip fell straightway to a great silence. But those who stood nearest the porch were straining their necks towards the inside of the court-house in an effort to see and hear. Standing behind them for an instant Dan beard what was said in whispers by those within to those without, and thus he learned what had been done.
The Deemster's inquest had been going on for an hour. First, the landlady of the "Three Legs of Man" had sworn that, at about three o'clock on Christmas Eve, Parson Ewan had inquired at her house for Mr. Dan Mylrea, and had been directed to the creek known some times as the Lockjaw. Then, the butcher from the shambles in the lane had sworn that Parson Ewan had passed him walking towards the creek; and the longshore fishermen who brought the body to Bishop's Court gave evidence as to when (ten o'clock on Christmas morning) and where (the coral ground for herrings, called the Mooragh) it came ashore. After these, Jarvis Kerruish had sworn to following Parson Ewan within half-an-hour of the deceased leaving Ballamona, to hearing a loud scream as he approached the lane leading to Orris Head, and to finding at the creek the fisher lad Davy Fayle, whose manner awakened strong suspicion when he was questioned as to whether he had seen Parson Ewan and his master, Mr. Daniel Mylrea. The wife of one of the crew of the Ben-my-Chree had next been called to say that the fishing-boat had been at sea from high-water on Christmas Eve. The woman had given her evidence with obvious diffidence and some confusion, repeating and contradicting herself, being sharply reprimanded by the Deemster, and finally breaking down into a torrent of tears. When she had been removed the housekeeper at old Ballamona, an uncomfortable, bewildered old body, stated that Mr. Dan Mylrea had not been home since the early morning on the day before Christmas Day. Finally, the harbour-master at Peel bad identified the sailcloth in which the body had been wrapt as a drift yawlsail of the Ben-vzy-Chree, and he had also sworn that the lugger of that name had come into the harbour at low-water the previous night, with the men Quilleash, Teare, Corkell, Crennell, and Davy Foyle, as well as the owner, Mr. Dan Mylrea, aboard of her.
Without waiting to hear more, Dan made one great call on his resolution and pushed his way through the porch into the court-house. Then he realised that there was still some virtue left in humanity. No sooner had the people in the court become aware of his presence among them than one stepped before him as if to conceal him from those in front, while another tapped him on the shoulder, and elbowed a way out, beckoning him to follow as if some pressing errand called him away.
But Dan's purpose was fixed, and no cover for cowardice availed to shake it. Steadfast and silent he stood at the back of the court, half hidden by the throng about him, trying to look on with a cool countenance, and to fix his attention on the proceedings of his own trial. At first he was conscious of no more than the obscurity of the dusky place and a sort of confused murmur that rose from a table at the farther end. For a while he looked stupidly on, and even trembled slightly. But all at once he found himself listening and seeing all that was going on before him.
The court-house was densely crowded. On the bench sat the Deemster, his thin, quick face as sharp as a pen within his heavy wig. Jarvis Kerruish and Quayle, the coroner, stood at a table beneath. Stretched on the top of this table was a canvas sail. Six men from Michael sat to the right as a jury. But Dan's eyes passed over all these as if scarcely conscious of their presence, and turned by an instinct of which he knew nothing towards the witness-bog. And there Mona herself was now standing. Her face was very pale and drawn hard about the lips, which were set firm, though the nostrils quivered visibly. She wore a dark cloak of half-conventual pattern, with a hood that fell back from the close hat that sat like a nun's cap about her smooth forehead. Erect she stood, with the fire of two hundred eager eyes upon her, but her bosom heaved and the fingers of her ungloved hand gripped nervously the rail in front of her.
In an instant the thin shrill voice of the Deemster broke on Dan's consciousness, and he knew that he was listening to his own trial, with Mona put up to give evidence against him.
" When did you see your brother last ? " "On the afternoon of the day before yesterday."
" At what hour?"
"At about two o'clock."
"What passed between you at that interview ? "
There was no answer to this question.
"Tell the jury if there was any unpleasantness between you and your brother at two o'clock the day before yesterday."
There was a pause, and then the silence was broken by the reply, meekly spoken, "It is true that he was angry."
" What was the cause of his anger? " Another pause and no answer. The Deemster repeated his question, and still there was no reply.
"Listen ; on your answer to this question the burden of the indictment must rest. Circumstance points but too plainly to a crime. It points to one man as perpetrator of that crime, and to five other men as accessories to it, But it is necessary that the jury should gather an idea of the motive that inspired it. And so I ask again, what was the difference between you and your brother at your interview on the afternoon of the day before yesterday ? "
There was a deep hush in the court. A gloomy, echoless silence, like that which goes before a storm, seemed to brood over the place. All eyes were turned to the witnessbox.
"Answer," said the Deemster with head aslant. "I ask for an answer-I demand it."
Then the witness lifted up her great, soft, liquid eyes to the Deemster's face and spoke
"Is it the judge or the father that demands an answer ? " she said.
"The judge, the judge," the Deemster repliedwith emphasis; "we know of no father here."
At that the burden that had rested on Mona's quivering face seemed to lift away.
"Then, if it is the judge that asks the question, I will not answer it."
The Deemster leaned back in his seat, and there was a low rumble among the people in the court. Dan found his breath coming audibly from his throat, his finger-nails digging trenches in his palms, and his teeth set so hard on his lips that both teeth and lips were bleeding.
After a moment's silence the Deemster spoke again, but more softly than before, and in a tone of suavity.
"If the judge has no power with you, make answer to the father," and he repeated his question.
Amid silence that was painful Mona said, in a tremulous voice, "It is not in a court of justice that a father should expect an answer to a question like that."
Then the Deemster lost all self-control, and shouted in his shrill treble that, whether as father or judge, the witness's answer he should have; that on that answer the guilty man should yet be indicted, and that even as it would be damning to that man so it should hang him.
The spectators held their breath at the Deemster's words, and looked aghast at the livid face on the bench. They were accustomed to the Deemster's fits of rage, but such an outbreak of wrath had never before been witnessed. The gloomy silence was unbroken for a moment, and then there came the sound of the suppressed weeping of the witness.
"Stop that noise!" said the Deemster. "We know for whom you shed your tears. But you shall yet do more than cry for the man. If a word of yours can send him to the gallows, that word shall yet be spoken."
Dan saw and heard all. The dark place, the judge, the jury, the silent throng, seemed to swim about him. For a moment he struggled with himself, scarcely able to control the impulse to push through and tear the Deemster from his seat. At the next instant, with complete self -possession and strong hold of his passions, he had parted the people in front of him, and was making his way to the table beneath the bench. Dense as the crowd was, it seemed to open of itself before him, and only the low rumble of many subdued voices floated faintly in his ear. He was conscious that all eyes were upon him, but most of all that Mona was watching him with looks of pain and fear.
He never felt stronger than at that moment. Long enough he had hesitated, and too often he had been held back, but now his time was come. He stopped in front of the table, and said in a full clear voice, "I am here to surrender-I am guilty."
The Deemster looked down in bewilderment; but the coroner, recovering quickly from his first amazement, bustled up with the air of a constable making a capture, and put the fetters on Dan's wrists.
What happened next was never afterwards rightly known to any of the astonished spectators. The Deemster asked the jury for their verdict, and immediately afterwards he called on the clerk to prepare the indictment.
"Is it to be for this man only, or for all six?" the clerk asked.
"All six," the Deemster answered.
Then the prisoner spoke again. "Deemster," he said, " the other men are innocent."
" Where are they? " " I do not know."
"If innocent, why are they in hiding?"
" I tell you, sir, they are innocent. Their only fault is that they have tried to be loyal to me."
"Were they with you when the body was buried ? "
Dan made no answer. " Did they bury it ? "
Still no answer. The Deemster turned to the clerk, " The six."
"Deemster," Dan said, with stubborn resolution, "why should I tell you what is not true ? I have come here when, like the men themselves, I might have kept away."
"You have come here, prisoner, when the hand of the law was upon you, when its vengeance was encircling you, entrapping you, when it was useless to hold out longer; you have come here thinking to lessen your punishment by your surrender. But you have been mistaken. A surrender extorted when capture is certain, like a confession made when crime cannot be denied, has never yet been allowed to lessen the punishment of the guilty. Nor shall it lessen it now."
Then as the Deemster rose, a cry ran through the court. It was such a cry out of a great heart as tells a whole story to a multitude. In a moment the people saw and knew all. They looked at the two who stood before them, Dan and Mona. the prisoner and the witness, with eyes that filled, and from their dry throats there rose a deep groan from their midst.
"I tell you, Deemster, it is false, and the men are innocent," said Dan.
The clerk was seen to hand a document to the Deemster, who took a pen and signed it. "The accused stands committed for trial at the Court of General Gaol Delivery."
At the next moment the Deemster was gone.