[from Hall Caine The Deemster]
WELL satisfied with his day's work, the Deemster drove from the Ramsey court-house to midday dinner with his father-in-law, the old archdeacon, taking Jarvis Kerruish with him. Mona he sent home in the lumbering car driven by the coroner. It suited well with the girl's troubled mind to be alone, and when night fell in and the Deemster had not returned, the grim gloom of the lonely house on Slieu Dhoo brought her no terrors. But towards nine o'clock the gaunt silence of the place was broken, and from that time until long after midnight Ballamona was a scene of noise and confusion.
First came blind Kerry, talking loudly along the passages, wringing her hands, and crying, "Aw, dear! oh, main! oh, goodness me I"
Mastha Dan was no longer in prison, he had been kidnapped; four men and a boy had taken him by main force; bound hand and foot, he had been carried through the mountains to a lonely place, and there at daybreak to-morrow he was to be shot. All this and more, with many details of place and circumstance, Kerry had seen as in a flash of light, just as she was raking the ashes on the fire preparatory to going to bed.
Mona had gone through too much to be within touch of the blind woman's excitement.
"We must not give way to these fancies, Kerry," she said.
" Fancies, main? Fancies your saying? Scoffers may mock, but don't you, mam brought up with my own hand, as the saying is."
"I did not mean to mock, Kerry; but we have so many real troubles that it seems wicked to imagine others-and perhaps a little foolish, too."
At that word the sightless face of Kerry grew to a great gravity.
"Foolish, main ? It is the gift-the gift of the good God. He made me blind, but He gave me the sights. It would have been hard, and maybe a taste cruel, to shut me up in the dark, and every living craythur in the light; but He is a just God and a merciful, as the saying is, and He gave me the gift for recompense."
"My good Kerry, I am so tired to-night, and must go to bed."
"Aw, yes, and well it has sarved me time upon time="
" We were up before six this morning, Kerry."
"And now I say to you, send immadient, main, or the Lord help='
The blind woman's excitement and Mona's impassibility were broken in upon by the sound of a man's voice in the hall asking sharply for the Deemster.
At the next moment Quale, the coroner, was in the room. His face was flushed, his breath came quick, and his manner betrayed extreme agitation.
"When the Deemster comes home from Kirk Andreas tell him to go across to Bishop's Court at once, and say that I will be back before midnight."
So saying the coroner wheeled about without ceremony, and was leaving the room.
"What has happened at Bishop's Court?" Mona asked.
"Nothing," he said impatiently.
"Then why should I tell him to go there?" The tone of the question awakened the curmudgeon's sense of common policy.
" Well, if you must know, that man has escaped, and I'm thinking the Bishop himself has had his foot in the mischief."
Then Kerry, with a confused desire to defend the Bishop, interrupted, and said
"The Bishop's not at the Court-let me tell ye that.,,
Whereupon the coroner smiled with a large dignity, and answered, " I know it, woman."
" When did this happen ?" said Mona.
Not an hour ago; I am straight from Peel. town this minute."
And without more words the coroner turned his back on her, and was gone in an instant.
When Quayle had left the room Kerry lifted both hands; her blind face wore a curious expression of mingled pride and fear. "It is the gift," she said in an awesome whisper.
Mona stood a while in silence and perplexity, and then she said in tremulous voice
"Kerry, don't think me among those that scoff, but tell me over again, my good Kerry, and forgive me."
And Kerry told the story of her vision afresh, and Mona now listened with eager attention, and interrupted with frequent questions.
"Who were the four men and the boy? Never saw their faces before? Never? Not in the street ? No? Never heard their voices? Ah I surely you remember their voices. Yes, yes, try to recall them; try, try, my good
Kerry. Ah ! the fishermen-they, were the voices of the fishermen! How were you so long in remembering? Quilleash ? Yes, old Billy? And Crennell ? Yes, and Teare and Corkell, and the boy Davy Fayle ? Poor young Davy, he was one of them? Yes? Oh, you dear, good Kerry ! "
Mona's impassibility was gone, and her questions, like her breath, came hot and fast.
" And now tell me what place they took him to. The mountains ? Yes, but where? Never saw the place before in all your life? Why, no, of course not; how could you,
Kerry? Ah ! don't mind what I say, and don't be angry. But what kind of place ? Quick, Kerry, quick."
Kerry's blind face grew solemn, and one hand, with outstretched finger, she raised before her, as though to trace the scene in the air, as she described the spot in the mountains where the four men and the boy had taken Dan.
"It was a great lone place, main, with the sea a-both sides of you, and a great large mountain aback of you, and a small low one in front, and a deep strame running under you through the gorse, and another shallow one coming into it at a slant, and all whins and tussocks of the lush grass about, and maybe a willow by the water's side, with the sally-buds hanging dead from the boughs, and never a stick, nor a sign of a house, nor a barn, but the ould tumbled cabin where they took him, and only the sea's roar afar away, and the sheep bleating, and maybe the mountain geese cackling, and all to that."
Mona had listened at first with vivid eagerness and a face alive with animation, but as Kerry went on the girl's countenance saddened. She fell back a pace or two, and said in a tone of pain and impatience-
"Oh, Kerry, you have told me nothing. What you say describes nearly every mountain-top in the island. Was there nothing else? Nothing? Think. What about the tumble-down house? Had it a roof? Yes? No one living in it ? No buildings about it ? A shaft-head and gear? Ob, Kerry, how slow you are ! Quick, dear Kerry ! An old mine? A worked-out mine? Oh, think, and be sure !"
Then the solemnity of the blind woman's face deepened to a look of inspiration.
"Think? No need to think," she said in an altered tone. "Lord bless me, I see it again. There, there it is-there this very minute."
She sank back into a chair, and suddenly became motionless and stiff. Her sightless eyes were opened, and for the first few moments that followed thereafter all her senses seemed to be lost to the things about her. In this dream state she continued to talk in a slow, broken, fearsome voice, exclaiming, protesting, and half-sobbing. At first Mona looked on in an agony of suspense, and then she dropped to her knees at Kerry's feet, and flung her arms about the blind woman with the cry of a frightened bird.
"Kerry, Kerry !" she called, as if prompted by an unconscious impulse to recall her from the trance that was awful to look upon. And in that moment of contact with the seer she suffered a shock that penetrated every fibre; she shuddered, the cry of pain died off in her throat, her parted lips whitened and stiffened, her eyes were frozen in their look of terror, her breath ceased to come, her heart to beat, and body and soul together seemed transfixed. In that swift instant of insensibility the vision passed like a throb of blood to her from the blind woman, and she saw and knew all.
Half-an-hour later, Mona, with every nerve vibrating, with eyes of frenzy and a voice of fear, was at Bishop's Court inquiring for the Bishop.
"He is this minute home from Peel," said the housekeeper.
Mona was taken to the library, and there the Bishop sat before the fire, staring stupidly into the flame. His hat and cloak had not yet been removed, and a riding-whip hung from one of his listless hands.
He rose as Mona entered. She flew to his arms, and while he held her to his breast his sad face softened, and the pent-up anguish of her heart overflowed in tears. Then she told him the tangled, inconsequent tale, the coroner's announcement, Kerry's vision, her own strange dream state, and all she had seen in it.
As she spoke the Bishop looked dazed; he pressed one hand on his forehead; he repeated her words after her; he echoed the questions she put to him. Then he lifted his head to betoken silence. "Let me think," he said.
But the brief silence brought no clearness to his bewildered brain. He could not think; he could not grasp what had occurred, and the baffled struggle to comprehend made the veins of his forehead stand out large and blue. A most pitiful look of weariness-came over his mellow face, and he said in a low tone that was very touching to hear
"To tell you the truth, my dear child, I do not follow you-my mind seems thick and clouded-things run together in it-I am only a feeble old man now, and- But wait" (a flash of light crossed his troubled face) ; "you say you recognise the place in the mountains? "
"Yes, as I saw it in the vision. I have been there before. When I was a child I was there with Dan and Ewan. It is far up the Sulby river, under Snaefell and over Glen Grammag. Don't say it is foolish and womanish and only hysteria, dear uncle. I saw it all as plainly as I see you now."
" Ah I no, my child. If the patriarch Joseph practised such divination, is it for me to call it foolishness? But wait, wait, let me think." And then in a low murmur, as if communing with himself, he went on
"The door was left open . . . yes, the door . . . the door was .
It was useless. His brain was broken, and would not link its ideas. He was struggling to piece together the fact that Dan was no longer in prison with the incidents of his own abandoned preparations for his son's escape. Mumbling and stammering, he looked vacantly into Mona's face, until the truth of his impotence forced itself upon her, and she saw that from him no help for Dan could come.
Then with many tears she left him and hastened back to Ballamona. The house was in confusion; the Deemster and Jarvis Kerruish had returned, and the coroner was with them in the study.
"And what of the Peeltown watch?" the Deemster was asking sharply. "Where was he?"
"Away on some cock-and-bull errand, sir." "By whose orders?"
"And what of the harbour-master when the Ben-my-Chree was taken away from her moorings ? "
"He also was spirited away." "By whom?"
"The same messenger-Will-as-Thorn, the parish clerk."
"Old Gorry, the sumner, gave up the prison keys to the Bishop, you say ? "
"To the Bishop, sir."
"And left him in the cell, and found the door open and the prisoner gone upon his return ? "
"Just so, sir."
" What have you been doing in the matter ? " "Been to Ramsey, sir, and stationed three men on the quay to see that nobody leaves the island by the Cumberland packet that sails at midnight."
"Tut, man, who will need the packet?-the man has the fishing-boat."
Mona's impatience could contain itself no longer. She hurried into the study and told her tale. The Deemster listened with a keen, quick sense; he questioned, cross-questioned, and learned all. This done, he laughed a little, coldly, and bitterly, and dismissed the whole story with contempt.
"Kidnapped? No such matter. Escaped, woman, escaped ! And visions, forsooth 1 What pedlar's French 1 Get away to bed, girl. "
Mona had no choice but to go. Her agitation was painful; her sole thought was of Dan's peril. She was a woman, and that Dan was a doomed man whether in prison or out of it, whether he had escaped or been kidnapped, was a consideration that had faded from her view. His life was in imminent danger, and that was everything to her.
She had tried to save him by help of the Bishop, and failing in that direction, she bad attempted the same end by help of the Deemster, his enemy.
The hours passed with feet of lead until three o'clock struck, and then there was a knock at her door. The Deemster's voice summoned her to rise, dress quickly and warmly, and come out immediately. She had not gone to bed, and in two minutes more was standing hooded and cloaked in the hall. The Deemster, Jarvis, the coroner, and seven men were there. At the porch a horse, saddled and bridled, was pawing the gravel.
Mona understood everything at a glance. Clearly enough the Deemster intended to act on the guidance of the vision which he had affected to despise. Evidently it was meant that she should go with the men to identify the place she had described.
"An old lead mine under Snaefell and over Glen Grammag, d'you say ? "
"Yes, father." " Daybreak? "
It was daybreak."
"You would know the place if you saw it again ? "
The Deemster turned to the coroner. " Which course do you take ? "
"Across Glen Dhoo, sir, past Ravensdale, and along the mountain path to the Sherragh Vane."
"Come, girl, mount; be quick."
Mona was lifted to the saddle, the coroner took the bridle, and they started away, the seven men walking behind.