[from Hall Caine The Deemster]
NOT many days after the events recorded in the foregoing chapter, the people of Man awoke to the joyful certainty that the sweating sickness had disappeared. The solid wave of heat had gone; the ground had become dry and the soil light, and no fcetid vapours floated over the Curraghs at midday. Also the air had grown keener, the nights had sharpened, and in the morning the fronds of hoar-frost hung on the withering leaves of the trammon.
Then the poor folk began to arrange their thoughts concerning the strange things that had happened; to count up their losses by death ; to talk of children that were fatherless ; and of old men left alone in the world, like naked trunks, without bough or branch, flung on the bare earth by yesterday's storm.
And in that first roll-call after the battle of life and death the people suddenly became aware that, with the sweating sickness, the man who had brought the cure for it had also disappeared. He was not on the Curraghs, he was no longer in Michael, and farther east he had not travelled. None could tell what had become of him. When seen last he was walking south through German towards Patrick. He was then alone, save for the halfdaft lad, Davy Fayle, who slouched at his heels like a dog. As he passed up Creg Willey's Hill the people of St. John's followed him in ones and twos and threes to offer him their simple thanks, But he pushed along as one who hardly heard them. When he came by the Tynwald he paused and turned partly towards Greeba, as though half minded to alter his course. But, hesitating no longer, he followed the straight path towards the village at the foot of Slieu Whallin. As he crossed the green the people of St. John's, who followed him up the hill-road, had grown to a great number, being joined there by the people of Tynwald. And when he passed under the ancient mount, walking with long, rapid steps, his chin on his breast and his eyes kept steadfastly down, the grey-headed men uncovered their heads, the young women thrust their young children under his hands for his blessing, and all by one impulse shouted in one voice, "God bless the priest !" "Heaven save the priest !"
There were spectators of that scene who were wont to say, when the sequel had freshened their memories, that amid this wild tumult of the gratitude of the island's poor people, he who was the subject of it made one quick glance of pain upwards to the mount, now standing empty above the green, and then, parting the crowds that encircled him, pushed through them without word, or glance, or sign. Seeing at last that he shrank from their thanks, the people followed him no farther, but remained on the green, watching him as he passed on towards Slieu Whallin, and then up by the mountain track. When he had reached the top of the path, where it begins its descent to the valley beyond, he paused again and turned about., glancing back. The people below saw his full figure clearly outlined against the sky, and once more they sent up their shout by one great impulse in one great voice that drowned the distant rumble of the sea, "God bless the priest!"
"Heaven save the priest l " And he heard it, for instantly he faced about and disappeared. When he was gone it seemed as if a spell had broken. The people looked into each other's faces in bewilderment, as if vaguely conscious that somewhere and sometime, under conditions the same yet different, all that they had then seen their eyes had seen before. And bit by bit the memory came back to them, linked with a name that might not be spoken. Then many things that had seemed strange became plain.
In a few days the whisper passed over Man, from north to south, from east to west, from the sod cabins on the Curragh to the Castle at Castletown, that he who bad cured the people of the sickness, he who had been mistaken for the priest out of Ireland, was none other than the unblessed man long thought to be dead ; and that he had lived to be the saviour of his people.
The great news was brought to Bishop's Court, and it was found to be there already. Rumour said that from Castletown an inquiry had come asking if the news were true, but none could tell what answer Bishop's Court had made. The Bishop had shut himself up from all visits, even those of his clergy. With Mona and the child, Ewan's little daughter, he had passed the days since Thoikell's death, and not until the day of Thorkell's funeral did he break in upon his solitude. Then he went down to the little churchyard that stands over by the sea.
They buried the ex-Deemster near to his - son Ewan, and with scarcely a foot's space between them, Except Jarvis Kerruish, the Bishop was Thorkell's sole mourner, and hardly had the service ended, or the second shovel of earth fallen from old Will-as-Thorn's spade, when Jarvis whipped about and walked away. Then the Bishop stood alone by his brother's unhonoured grave, trying to forget his malice and uncharity, and his senseless superstitions that had led to many disasters, thinking only with the pity that is nigh to love of the great ruin whereunto his poor beliefs had tottered down. And when the Bishop had returned home the roll-call of near kindred showed him pitiful gaps. "The island grows very lonesome, Mona," he said.
That night Davy Fayle came to Bishop's Court with a book in his hand. He told Mona how he had found the Ben-my-Chree a complete wreck on the shingle of the Dhoon Creek in the Calf Sound, and the book in its locker. Not a syllable could Davy read, but he knew that the book was the fishing-log of the lugger, and that since he saw it last it had been filled with writings.
Mona took the book into the library, and with the Bishop she examined it. It was a small quarto bound in sheepskin, with corners and back of untanned leather. Longways on the back the words "Ben-my-Chree Fishing Log" were lettered, as with a soft quill in abold hand. On the front page there was this inscription :
Owner, Daniel Mylrea, Bishop's Court, Isle of Man.
Master, Illiam Quilleash.
Over page was the word "ACCOUNTS," and then followed the various items of the earnings . and expenditure of the boat. The handwriting was strong and free, but the bookkeeping was not lucid.
Eight pages of faintly-tinted paper, much frayed, and with lines ruled by band one way of the sheet only, were filled with the accounts of the herring season of -. At the bottom there was an attempt at picking out the items of profit and loss, and at reckoning the shares of owner, master, and man. The balance stood but too sadly on the wrong side. There was a deficit of forty pounds four shillings and sixpence.
The Bishop glanced at the entries, and passed them over with a sigh. But turning the leaves, he came upon other matter of more pathetic interest. This was a long personal narrative from the owner's pen, covering some two hundred of the pages. The Bishop looked it through, hurriedly, nervously, and with eager eyes. Then he gave up the book to Mona. Read it aloud, child," he said, in a voice unlike his own, and with a brave show of composure he settled himself to listen.
For two hours thereafter Mona read from the narrative that was written in the book. What that narrative was does not need to be said.
Often the voice of the reader failed her, sometimes it could not support itself. And in the lapses of her voice the silence was broken by her low sobs.
The Bishop listened long with a great outer calmness, for the affections of the father were struggling with a sense of the duty of the servant of God. At some points of the narrative these seemed so to conflict as to tear his old heart woefully. But he bore up very bravely, and tried to think that in what he had done seven years before he had done well. At an early stage of Mona's reading he stopped her to say
" Men have been cast on desert islands beforetime, and too often they have been adrift on unknown seas."
Again he stopped her to add, with a slow shake of the head
"Men have been outlawed, and dragged out weary years in exile-men have been oftentimes under the ban and chain of the law."
And once again he interrupted and said, in a trembling undertone, "It is true-it has been what I looked for-it has been a death in life."
But as Mona went on to read of how the outcast man, kept back from speech with every living soul, struggled to preserve the spiritual part of him, the Bishop interrupted once More, and said in a faltering voice
"This existence has been quite alone in its desolation."
As Mona went on again to read of how the unblessed creature said his prayer in his solitude, not hoping that God would hear, but thinking himself a man outside God's grace, though God's hand was upon himthinking himself a man doomed to everlasting death, though the blessing of Heaven bad already fallen over him like morning dew-then all that remained of spiritual pride in the heart of the Bishop was borne down by the love of the father, and his old head fell into his breast, and the hot tears rained down his wrinkled cheeks.
Later the same night Mona sent for Davy Fayle. The lad was easily found ; he had been waiting in the darkness outside the house, struggling hard with the desire to go in and tell Mistress Mona where Daniel Mylrea was to be found.
" Davy," she said, "do you know where he is ?"
" Sure," said Davy.
" And you could lead me to him ?" "I could."
"Then come here very early in the morning, and we will go together."
Next day when Mona, attired for her journey, went down for a hasty breakfast, she found the Bishop fumbling a letter in his trembling fingers.
"Read this, child," he said in a thick voice, and he handed the letter to her.
She turned it over nervously. The superscription ran: "These to the Lord Bishop of Man, at his Palace of Bishop's Court," and the seal on the other face was that of the insular Government.
While the Bishop made pretence of wiping with his handkerchief the horn-bridged spectacles on his nose, Mona opened and read the letter.
It was from the Governor at Castletown, and said that the Lord of Man and the Isles, in recognition of the great services done by Daniel Mylrea to the people of the island during their recent affliction, would be anxious to appoint him Deemster of Man, in succession to his late uncle, Thorkell Mylrea (being satisfied that he was otherwise qualified for the post), if the Steward of the Ecclesiastical Courts were willing to remove the censure of the Church under which he now laboured.
When she had finished reading Mona cast one glance of nervous supplication upwards to the Bishop's face, and then with a quick cry of joy, which was partly pain, she flung her arms about his neck.
The old Bishop was quite broken down. "Man's judgments on man," he said, "are but as the anger of little children-here to-day, gone to-morrow, and the Father's face is over all."
What need to tell of one of the incidents of Mona's journey, or of the brave hopes that buoyed her up on the long and toilsome way? Many a time during these seven years past she had remembered that it was she who had persuaded Dan to offer his life as an atonement for his sin. And often the thought came back to her with the swiftness of remorse that it was she who, in her blindness, had sent him to a doom that was worse than death. But Heaven's ways had not been her ways, and all was well. The atonement had been made, and the sin had been wiped out of the book of life. Dan, her love, her beloved, had worked out his redemption. He had proved himself the great man she had always known he must be. He was to come back loaded with honour and gratitude, and surrounded by multitudes of friends.
More than once, when the journey was heaviest, she put her hand to her bosom and touched the paper that nestled so warmly there. Then in her mind's eye she saw Dan in the seat of the Deemster, the righteous judge of his own people. Oh yes, he would be the Deemster, but he would be Dan still, her Dan, the lively, cheerful, joyous, perhaps even frolicsome Dan once more. He would sport with her little Ailee. he would play with her as he used to play long ago with another little girl that she herself could remember-tickling her under her armpits and under her chin-while she sent up a chorus of squealing laughter.
The burden of Mona's long years of weary sorrow bad been so suddenly lifted away that she could not restrain her thoughts from childish sportiveness. But sometimes she remembered Ewan, and then her heart saddened, and sometimes she thought of herself, and then it flushed full of quick, hot blood. And oh ! how delicious was the secret thing that sometimes stole up between her visions of Dan and the high destiny that was before him. It was a vision of herself, transfigured by his noble love, resting upon and looking up to him, and thus passing on and on and on to the end.
Once she remembered, with a chill passing through her, that in the writing which she had read Dan had said he was ill: But what of that ? She was going to him, and would nurse him back to health.
And Davy Fayle walking at her side, was full of his own big notions, too. Mastha Dan would be Dempster, true; but he'd have a boat for his pleasure, sarten sure. Davy Fayle would sail man in her, perhaps mate, and maybe skipper some day-who knows? And then, lying aft and drifting at the herrings, and smokin', and the stars out, and the moon makin' a peep-aw, well, well, well !
They reached the end of their journey at last. It was in a small gorse-covered house far over the wild moor, on the edge of the Chasms, looking straight out on the hungry sea. In its one bare room (which was without fire, and was cheerless with little light) there was a table, a settle, a chair, a stool, and a sort of truckle-bed. Dan was there, the same, yet, oh ! how different ! He lay on the bed unconscious, near to death of the 'sicknessthe last that the scourge was to slay.
Of this story of great love and great' suffering what is left to tell?
There are moments when life seems like the blind swirl of a bat in the dusk-blundering, irresponsible, not to be counted with the swift creature of evil chance. We see a little child's white face at a hospital window, a strong man toiling hopelessly against wrong, the innocent suffering with the guilty, good instincts thwarted and base purposes promoted, and we ask ourselves, with a thrill of the heart, What, after all, is God doing in this His world? And from such blind labouring of chance the tired and beaten generations of men seem to find it reward enough to drop one after one to the hushed realms of rest.
Shall we marvel very much if such a moment came to this pure and noble woman as she stood in the death-chamber of her beloved, with whom, after years of longing, she was at last brought face to face ?
But again, there are other moments, higher and better, when there is such a thing in this so bewildering world as the victory of vanquishment, when the true man crushed by evil chance is yet the true man undestroyed by it and destroying it, when Job on his dunghill is more to be envied than Pharaoh on his throne, and death is as good as life.
And such a higher moment came to Mona in that death-chamber. She sat many hours by Dan's side, waiting for the breaking of his delirium and the brief space of consciousness and of peace which would be the beginning of the end. It came at long, long length, and, ah ! how soon it came!
The night had come and gone whilst she sat and watched. When the sunrise shot red through the skin-covered window it fell on Dan and awakened him. Opening his eyes he saw Mona, and his soul smiled over his wasted face. He could not speak, nor could he lift his worn hands. She knew that the time was near, and holding back her grief, like wild creatures held by the leash, she dropped to her knees, and clasped her hands together to pray. And while she prayed the dying man repeated some of the words after her.
"Our Father,"" Our-Father,"
"Which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, "
" Hallowed -be-Thy-name,"
" Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven ; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,"