The Master of Man (Sixth Book: The Redemption)
Sixth Book: The Redemption
THE BIRTH OF A LIE
AWAKENING in the “George” in the early hours of morning, Fenella heard a noise outside her window that was like the running of a shallow river over a bed of small stones. She knew what it was. It was the sound of the feet of the people who were coming in crowds to stand outside the Castle walls and watch the slow-moving fingers of the clock, until the hoisting of the black flag over the tower should tell them that the invisible presence of Death had come and gone.
When, as the clock was striking six, she crossed the market-place on her way to the Castle, she found this crowd in great commotion, hurrying to and fro and calling to each other in agitated voices.
“Is it true?”
“So they’re saying.”
“God bless my soul!”
The Castle gate was open and people had penetrated as far as the Portcullis. An Inspector of Police, coming out hurriedly, commanded them to go back.
“Away with you! Is it play-acting you’ve come to look at? Smoking your pipes, too!”
But without waiting to see his orders obeyed he hastened away himself, shouting to somebody that he was going to knock up the telegraph office.
The courtyard, when Fenella reached it, though less crowded was as full of agitation. A blear-eyed man, who looked as if he had just awakened from a fit of intoxication, was walking aimlessly to and fro. It was Shimmin, the turnkey, but when Fenella asked him what had happened, he stared vacantly and made no answer. A very tall man, wearing a cloth cap over his head and ears and carrying a carpet-bag, was standing by the scaffold. This must be “long Duggie Taggart,” and when Fenella, shuddering at sight of the man, asked him the same question, he shrugged his shoulders and turned away. At the foot of the draw-bridge the High Bailiff and the jailer were in fierce altercation.
“I know nothing about it, I tell thee, Sir.”
“Then you are a blockhead and a fool!”
At length two elderly men, the Chaplain and the Doctor, came down the Deemster’s stairs, and then the truth, which Fenella had partly surmised, became fully known to her. The condemned woman had escaped during the night. There would be no execution that day.
Through a tumult of mixed feelings, Fenella was conscious of a sense of immense relief. Her first thought was of Bessie’s mother, and she turned back to take the news to her.
The little house in Quay Lane had its door still closed, but through the kitchen window, whereof the xipper sash was partly down, came the singing of a hymn in tired and husky voices,
“Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly”
It was not immediately that Fenella could get an answer to her knocking, but at length the man of the house, in his ganzie and long sea boots, opened the door, still singing.
The little low-ceiled kitchen was full of people, and the close air of the place seemed to say that they had kept up their prayer-meeting the night through.
On a chair bedstead against the opposite wall, Mrs. Collister in her cotton nightcap, from which long thin locks of her grey hair were escaping, was rocking her body to the tune, while fumbling with bony fingers a Methodist hymn-book which lay open before her on the patchwork counterpane.
Fenella, with a warm heart for the old mother in her trouble, pushed through to the foot of the bed, but Mrs. Collister was terrified at the sight of her, thinking she was bringing bad tidings.
“Have they deceived me?” she cried. “Seven o’clock they said. Is it all over?”
“Be calm,” said Fenella, and then she delivered her message. Bessie had gone from Castle Rushen. She was not to die that day.
A moment of vacant silence fell upon the room, such as seems to fall on the world when the tide is at the bottom of the ebb. With difficulty the old woman grasped what Fenella had said. Her watery eyes looked round at her people as if asking them to help her to understand. At length one of these cried,
“Glory to God! It’s the answer to our prayers.”
And then the truth seemed to descend on the poor broken brain like a healing breath from heaven. Stretching out her match-like arms, she seized Fenella’s hands and said,
“I know who thou art. Thou art the Governor’s daughter. Is it the truth thou’rt telling me?”
“Indeed it is.”
“My Bessie is out of prison?”
“Yes, and nobody knows what has become of her.”
A wild cry of joy burst from the old woman’s throat.
“Liza! Liza Killey, wilt thou believe me now? Didn’t I tell thee it was the old Dempster himself that the Lord had sent to take my child out of prison?”
A wave of new life seemed to come to her, and throwing back the clothes she struggled out of bed (her blue-veined legs and feet showing bare under her cotton nightdress) and went down on her knees to pray. But her prayer was drowned by the husky voices of her companions, who had by this time raised a hymn of thanksgiving.
Fenella turned to go, and the man and woman of the house followed her to the door.
“What was that she said about the Deemster?”
They told her what had happened the night before how the old woman had escaped into the streets and the Deemster had brought her back to the house.
“Are you sure it was the Deemster?”
“We thought so then, but she thrept us out it was his father who is dead and buried, and now we don’t know in the world if it was or wasn’t.”
The singers were singing in triumphant tones
“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”
Fenella, who had begun to tremble, turned back to the hotel. The market-place was full of people, who were pouring into it from every thoroughfare. On reaching her room she locked the door, pulled down the window-blind, sat on the bed, covered her eyes, and tried to think out what had happened.
The noise outside was like the surge of the sea, and like the surge of the sea was the tumult in her heart and brain. ‘
Could it be possible that Victor Stovell had helped Bessie Collister to escape? She remembered what he had said to her father that if any attempt were made to carry out the sentence he would prevent it. She remembered what she had said to him that never could there be anything between them while that girl lay in prison. He had been in Castletown the night before, and he was the only man in the island who could have access to the Castle without an order from the Governor or the Chief Constable.
But a Judge to break prison! What would be the end of it? Why had he done this incredible thing, risking everything? Was it solely because he could not allow that unhappy girl, who had suffered so much for him already, to go to the gallows? Or was it, perhaps, because she herself had said . . .
Suddenly a great quickening of her love for Stowell came over her. If she had stumbled upon his secret she would protect it.
“But what can I do?” she asked herself.
At one moment it occurred to her to run back to Quay Lane and warn the good people there to say nothing more about the Deemster. But no, that might awaken suspicion. They thought Bessie’s escape was due to supernatural agencies, that it had come as an answer to their prayers let them continue to think so.
At seven o’clock she was in the train for Douglas and the telegraph poles were flying by. She must know what the Governor was doing. But whatever her father might do her own course was clear.
She must stand by Victor now, whatever happened.
In the cool sunshine of the early May morning Government House lay asleep. The gardener was mowing a distant part of the lawn when he saw a carriage drive rapidly up to the porch. Two gentlemen got out of it, and in less time than it took him to empty his grass -pan into his wheelbarrow they rang three times at the door.
Inside the house nobody was yet stirring except old John, the watchman, who was drawing the curtains and opening the windows. He heard the bell and thought the postman had brought a registered letter. In his cloth shoes he was shuffling to the vestibule when the bell rang again and yet again.
“Traa de looiar” (“Time enough”), he growled, but his voice fell to a more deferential tone when he opened the door, and saw who was there.
“Our apologies to His Excellency, and say the Attorney-General and the Chief Constable wish to see him immediately on urgent business.”
The two men stepped into the smoking-room, which was still dark with the blinds down and rank with last night’s tobacco smoke.
A few minutes later, the Governor entered in his dressing-gown over his pyjamas and with his bare feet in his heelless slippers. And then the Attorney told him the young woman who was to have been executed that morning had escaped.
“Good God, no!”
“Only too true, Sir. Colonel Farrell has had an urgent telegram from his Inspector at Castletown.”
“When did it happen?”
“During the night. The jailer says he locked her up at eleven and when he opened the cell at five the prisoner was gone.”
“Where is the jailer?”
“At the Castle still,” said the Chief Constable, ” but I’ve told the police to send him up immediately.”
The Governor rose from the seat into which he had dropped and walked to and fro. ‘
“Such a blow to the authority of the law the escape of a prisoner on the eve of her execution!” said the Attorney.
“Such a handle to the disorderly elements, too!” said the Chief Constable.
“Good Lord, don’t I know? Let me think! Let me think!”
The Governor drew up one of the window blinds and his eyes fell on a steamer lying by the pier with smoke rising lazily from her black and red funnels.
“If the woman escaped only a few hours ago,” he said, ” she cannot have left the island yet. Have you given orders that the passengers by the morning steamer shall be watched?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“Do so at once. If that fails, telegraph to your police in every town and parish. Good gracious, in this pocket-handkerchief of an island it ought to be possible to re-capture an escaped prisoner in a day, even if she lies like a toad under a stone.”
“We’ll leave no stone unturned, sir.”
“A woman! A mere girl! Unless the jailer or his people deliberately opened the doors for her she must have had assistance.”
“That’s what I say, your Excellency.”
“Have you any idea who helped her?”
“No . . . that is to say . . .”
“Where’s young Gell, the Advocate?”
“In his rooms in Athol-street … I presume.”
“Find out for certain. Come back at four this afternoon and bring that blockhead of a jailer with you. And listen ” (the men were leaving the room), “try to keep this ridiculous thing quiet. If it gets into the papers across the water all England will be laughing at us.”
The Governor was again at the window, watching the Attorney-General’s carriage going rapidly down the drive, when he saw a hackney car, containing Fenella, coming up to the house.
That sight started a new order of ideas. He Remembered Stowell’s threat “If you order that girl’s execution, it shall never be carried out, because I shall prevent it.” For three days he had understood this to mean that the Deemster would appeal over his head to the Imperial authorities. But Stowell had not done so he wasn’t such a fool, he had remembered the bedevilments of his own position. So the Governor had dismissed the thought, and his anger at the son of his old friend had subsided. But now the threat came back on him with a new interpretation. Could it be possible? Such an unheard-of thing?
As soon as Fenella entered the house he called her into his room and shut the door behind her.
“You have just come from Castletown?”
“Then you know what has happened?”
“Can you throw any light on it?”
“Light on it?”
“I mean . . . have you seen anything of Stowell since we spoke of him last?”
“Nor heard from him?”
“Do you think it likely that . . . But it is impossible. No responsible person in his senses could do such a thing. It must be the other one.”
“What other, father?”
“Young Gell, of course. He is the only man in the island who could wish that girl to escape the only one who would be fool enough to help her to do so.”
Fenella went to her room with a heart at ease. She was sorry for Gell, very sorry, but in the consuming selfishness of her love for Stowell she found a secret joy in the thought that suspicion was being diverted from the real culprit.
Victor was safe thus far. But what would he do himself? What was he now doing?
It was near to noon when Stowell awoke at Ballamoar. His bedroom (formerly his father’s) faced to the south and flashes of sunshine from the chinks of the window curtains were crossing the bed on which he lay with his head on his arm.
It was a startling moment.
His long sleep had washed his brain as in a spiritual bath, and with the awakening of his body his conscience had awakened also. The events of the previous night rolled back on him like a flood, and now, for the first time, he saw what he had done.
To prevent the law from committing a crime he had committed a crime against the law! He, the Judge, sworn to uphold Justice, had deliberately betrayed it! Had anything so monstrous ever been heard of before?
After a while, through the deafening buzzing of his brain, he became aware of the droning sound of voices in the room below, and then of their sharp clack as the speakers (they were Janet and Joshua Scarff ) stepped out of the house to the gravel path in front of it.
“No, don’t waken his Honour, Miss Curphey. He hasn’t been well lately, and sleep does no harm to anyone. Besides he’ll hear the bad news soon enough.”
“‘Deed he will, Mr. Scarff.”
“It will be a terrible shock to him especially if my suspicions about a certain person prove to be justified. But that’s the way, you see one act of wrong-doing leads to another. Pity! Great pity!”
It was out! Stowell felt as if the bed under him were rocking from the first tremor of an earthquake.
Half-an-hour later he was at breakfast downstairs. For a long time, Janet was trying to break the news to him. At last it came. The young woman who was to have been executed that morning had escaped. Joshua Scarff had had it from the Inspector at Ramsey it was being telegraphed all over the island.
For the sake of appearances Stowell made an exclamation of surprise, despising himself for doing so and feeling as if the toast in his mouth were choking him.
“It’s impossible not to be glad,” said Janet, “that the poor guilty creature has escaped the gallows, but Joshua thinks things are not likely to end there.”
“And what does he say . . .”
“He says she must have had an accomplice, and when the man is found out it will be the worse for both of them.”
“And who . . . who does Joshua think . . .”
“Alick Gell. It seems he put appearances against himself at the trial, poor boy!”
Instead of going to town that day, as he had intended to do, Stowell rambled through the trackless Curraghs. . He was trying to be alone with the melancholy swish of the sally bushes and the mournful cry of the curlews. But his anxiety to know what was being done brought him back to the house. Hearing nothing there, he walked to the village for a copy of the insular newspaper. He found some excuse for speaking to everybody he met on the road on other subjects, though, always on other subjects.
At the door of the little general store, with its mixed odour of many condiments coming out to him, he stopped and called,
“How’s the rheumatism this morning, Auntie Kitty?”
“Aw, better, your Honour, a taste better to-day. But it’s moral sorry I am to hear the bad newses you’ve had yourself, Sir. It’s feeling it terrible you’ll be, your Honour you and the young man being the same as brothers. It will kill his mother and her such a proud stomach. The woman couldn’t see the sun for the boy, and she’s been fighting the father all his life for him.”
On his way back he met Cain, the constable, looking large and important.
“I’m sarching for them two runaways,” he said, with his short asthmatical breathing, ” and the Chief Constable is telling me I’ll have to be finding them if they’re lying like a toad under a stone.”
Gell again! The report of the escape had passed over the island with the swift flight of a bird of prey everywhere he could hear the flapping of its wings. And to the question of who could have assisted the young woman to escape from a place like Castle Rushen there was only one answer Gell.
Towards nightfall Joshua Scarff called at Ballamoar on his way home from town. Things had turned out as he had expected – suspicion had fastened on Mr. Gell, and the Governor had ordered the police to scour the island for him.
“But everybody is sorry for your Honour. His friend! bosom friend! Pity! Great pity!”
Gell! Always Gell! Again Stowell felt as if the earth wen rocking beneath him. Where had his head been that he had not thought of this before that in helping Alick Gell to go away with Bessie Collister he had put him into the position of the guilty man – guilty not only of the prison-breaking, but also of the earlier and uglier offence of being the girl’s fellow-sinner?
He had thought he had buried his sin in the sea had he only cast the burden of it upon Gell?
He recalled Alick’s gratitude on going away, the undeserved praises which had cut to the heart, and then thought of Gell (far away in a foreign country) coming to hear of the evil name he had left behind.
What was Alick to think of him then? That what he had done had not been at the call of friendship, but of mere self-protection to divert suspicion from himself, to remove the only witnesses against him, and thus to build his future life on the unprotected name of an innocent man?
“Must I let that lie run on without saying a word against it?”
And then Fenella! He had seen himself going to her and saying:
“Now that the girl is no longer in prison the barrier between us is broken down.” He had seen himself marrying her, and then rising higher and higher in the esteem of his people, with that brave woman by his side.
But now what now?
Fenella would find him out! It was impossible that she could live long with a man who carried such a corroding secret without discovering it sooner or later. And when she had done so what would she think of him? A traitor to his friend and to the law!
A Judge who had broken his oath! A wrong-doer, not a righter of the wronged, sitting in judgment upon others, yet himself a criminal! A man of honour to the outer world, a hypocrite in his own house; a pillar of the island in the eyes of his people, a liar in the eyes of his wife!
“No, God forbid it! I cannot let that lie run on. I cannot allow myself to be pilloried in life-long hypocrisy.”
All the same he would wait to see what the Governor might do next. It was no good acting hastily.
THE CASE OF A WOMAN’S SOUL
AT four o’clock that day the Attorney-General and the Chief Constable had returned to Government House and were sitting, on either side of the Governor, with the jailer standing before them. Fenella stood by the window, apparently gazing into the garden, but listening intently.
“Come now,” said the Governor, ” tell us what you know of this matter.”
The jailer knew nothing. Changing repeatedly the leg on which he was standing and mopping his forehead with a coloured handkerchief, he protested absolute ignorance.
“After Miss Stanley left the Castle a piece after ten o’clock I locked the poor bogh in her cell . . .”
“Do you mean the prisoner?”
“Who else, your Excellency?”
“Then say the prisoner.”
“Well, I locked the prisoner in her cell a piece after ten o’clock last night and when I went back at five this morning to take her a bite of breakfast . . .”
“Breakfast? Where was your female warder?”
“Mistress Mylrea? Sick of the heart since General Gaol. They’re telling me she died last night, Sir.”
“Where was your turnkey then?”
“Willie Shimmin? He went out on lave for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon and didn’t return on the night, Sir.”
“Do you mean to tell me you were alone in the Castle on the night before an execution?”
“Aw, yes, alone enough, Sir.”
“Colonel Farrell!” said the Governor, turning sharply upon the Chief Constable.
That gentleman, although embarrassed, had many excuses. He had not been made aware of the situation, and if this blockhead had only communicated with the police-station . . .
“Well, well, enough of that now. Let us have the facts,” said the Governor, and turning back to the jailer he said,
“Did anybody come to the Castle last night after Miss Stanley left it?”
“No, Sir, no!”
“And your keys? Did they ever leave your possession?”
“After you locked the prisoner in her cell, what did you do?”
“I went back to the guard-room and sat by the fire, Sir.”
“And fell asleep, I suppose?”
“I’ll give in I slept a wink or two, Sir.”
“Where were your keys while you were asleep?”
“On the table beside me, Sir.”
“And when you awoke where were they?”
“In the same place, your Excellency.”
“Were the gates of the Castle locked last night?”
“Aw, ‘deed they were, Sir.”
“And were they locked this morning?”
“They were that, Sir.”
The Attorney -General, who had been leaning forward, dropped back.
“Extraordinary!” he said. “The whole thing has the appearance of the supernatural.”
“Nonsense!” said the Governor. “Vondy, do you know Mr. Gell, the Advocate?”
“I’m sorry to say, Sir . . .”
“Never mind about sorry do you?”
“I do, Sir.”
“When did you see him last?”
“At General Gaol, when he was out of himself, poor man, and we had to lock him up for threatening the Dempster.”
“Did he never come to the Castle afterwards to see the prisoner?”
“Will you swear that he was not there last night?”
“I will before God Almighty, Sir.”
“Then, if the cell was locked all night and the Castle gates were locked, how do you account for the escape of your prisoner?”
The jailer smoothed the hair over his forehead and then said,
“Bolts and bars ape nothing to the Lord, Sir.”
The Governor gasped.
“Do you mean to say that while you were asleep before the fire in the guard -room an angel from heaven carried your prisoner through the Castle walls?”
“Aw, well … I wouldn’t say no to that, Sir. We’re reading of the like in the Good Book anyway.”
“Fenella,” cried the Governor, “take this fool away and turn him out of the house.”
When Fenella, who had been quivering all over, had left the room, followed by the jailer, the Governor turned to the Chief Constable.
“The woman was not on the morning steamer?”
“And what about Gell?”
“We broke open the door of his room in Athol Street and found he had gone.”
“Ah! Have you come upon any trace of him elsewhere?”
“Yes; he slept at the Railway Inn at Ballaugh on Saturday night and took a ticket for St. John’s by the first train on Sunday morning.”
“The blacksmith at Ballasalla believes he saw him on Sunday evening going in the fog in the direction of Derby Haven.”
“Aha! Did any fishing boat leave Castletown last night?”
“The Manx boats do not go out on Sunday, Sir.”
“Any trading steamers then?”
“I don’t know, Sir.”
“Inquire at once. If your constables do not find the fugitives in the island we must send a ‘ Wanted ‘ across the water.”
“I’ll draw one up, Sir.”
“Got the necessary photographs?”
“One of the girl, which was found in the young man’s rooms, Sir. Also one of the young man which we found in the girl’s cell, but it is not of much use, being scratched and blurred as if it had been lying in water.”
“No matter! The Deemster is sure to have another. I’ll write and ask him to meet us here at eleven on Wednesday morning. He’ll be able to help you to your personal description and issue the warrant at the same time.”
Meantime, Fenella had taken the jailer into the drawing-room and closed the door behind them.
“Mr. Vondy,” she said in a low voice, “you can trust me. Nothing you may say in this room will ever be repeated. Did not somebody come to Castle Bushen last night after I left it?”
The old man tried in vain to look into the big moist eyes that were on him, but at length he dropped his own and said,
“It is no use, miss. There will be no rest on me in the night unless I tell the truth to somebody. There can be no harm telling it to you neither going to be the man’s wife soon they’re saying. It’s truth enough, miss somebody did come.”
“Was it the Deemster?”
“It was that,” said the jailer, and then he told her everything that had happened.
Fenella’ s head became giddy and her cheeks blushed crimson. In a flash she saw what had happened. Victor had deceived the jailer. Did the old man know it? Lowering her eyes she said,
“You didn’t say this when the Governor questioned you had you a reason for not doing so?”
“I had. The Deemster made me promise to say nothing.”
And then came the other and still more degrading story the story of the intimidation Stowell had put upon the jailer to keep his visit secret.
Fenella felt as if she would sink through the floor in shame, but all the same she found herself saying,
“You’ve known the Deemster all his life, haven’t you?”
“I have. I was reared on the land,” said the jailer, and then, raising himself to his’full height, ” I’m a Ballamoar myself, miss.”
“Then you will keep the promise you gave him?”
“Trust me for that, miss.”
“But if anything should happen to yourself as the consequence of last night’s escape . . .”
“The father put me in the Castle and the son won’t see them fling me out of it.”
“But if he should be overruled by the Governor and unable to help you …”
“I’ll take my chance with him. What’s it they’re saying? the Ballamoar will out, miss.”
Tears sprang to Fenella’s eyes, but her heart beat high.
“Mr. Vondy,” she said, ‘” he has not been well lately, and perhaps he doesn’t always know what he is saying. If you should ever come to think that what he told you was not the truth . . . the whole truth, I mean …”
“Maybe so. I’ve been thinking as much myself since five this morning. But that’s all as one to me, miss. Tell him Tommy Vondy will keep his word.”
The jailer was gone, and Fenella was sitting with her hands over her eyes when she heard voices in the corridor and footsteps going towards the porch.
“You’re right there, your Excellency ” (it was the Attorney-General who was speaking). “The authority of law in this island has received a blow, and already the disorderly elements are stirring up strife.”
“Who, for instance?”
“Qualtrough of the Keys and the man Baldromma.”
“Farrell ” (it was the Governor in a stern voice), “quash that instantly. If there’s any rioting send for the soldiers from Castletown to assist your police.”
“I will, your Excellency.”
“And listen! Get rid of that blockhead of a jailer. Appoint somebody in his place and give him authority to employ his own warders. He’ll have his prison full enough presently.”
The closing of the outer door rang through the corridor, and at the next moment the Governor was in the drawing-room.
“Fenella,” he said, “do you happen to know if Stowell has a photograph of young Gel], the Advocate?”
Before she had time to reflect, Fenella answered that he had. It was taken in America, and stood on the mantelpiece in the library at Ballamoar.
“Because I want him to bring it with him when he comes on Wednesday to issue the warrant.”
“The warrant for the arrest of Gell, for breaking prison and aiding in the escape of the girl Collister.”
“But, father, they are friends life-long friends.”
“What of that? Stowell is Deemster, and you heard the oath he took, didn’t you? ‘Without fear or friendship, love or gain.’ His duty as a Judge is to administer Justice, and as long as I am here I’ll see he does it.”
During the remainder of that day and the whole of the following one Fenella was a prey to the cruellest perplexity. Would Victor Stowell issue that warrant for the arrest of the innocent man, being himself the guilty one?
How could he refuse? It would be his duty to issue the warrant what excuse could he make for not doing so? And then what a temptation to let things go on as usual! Although he had broken prison, and therefore his oath as a Judge, how easily he might persuade himself that it had only been to snatch that poor girl from a wicked Statute!
Yet if Victor issued that warrant for the arrest of Gell he would be a lost man for ever after. No matter how high he might rise he would go down, down, down until his very soul would perish.
“It cannot be! It must not be! It shall not!”
She wanted to run to Ballamoar and say, “Don’t do it. If you have done wrong confess and take the consequences.”
Oh, what did she care about their quarrel now? It was no longer Bessie Collister’s life, but Victor Stowell’s soul that was in peril.
But no, she could not ask him to act under compulsion. He must act of his own free will. In the valley of the shadow of sin the guilty soul must walk alone.
“But is there nothing I can do for him?” she asked herself.
Yes, there was one thing one thing only. She could pray.
For long hours on the night before Stowell was to come to Government House Fenella knelt in her bed and prayed for him.
“O God help him! God help him! Help him to resist this great temptation.”
At length peace came to her. Somewhere in the dead waste of the night she seemed to receive an answer to her prayers.
“He’ll do the right, whatever it may cost him,” she thought, and as the day was dawning she fell asleep.
But when she awoke in the morning she felt as if her heart would break. If Stowell confessed and took the consequences (as she had prayed he might do) he would be lost to her for ever. He would have to give up his Judgeship, be banished from the island, and become an outcast and a wanderer.
“Is that to be the end of everything between us? After all this waiting?”
Her eyes were full of tears when she looked at herself in the glass, but they were shining like stars for all that. An immense pity for Stowell had taken possession of her. An immense faith in him also. He must be the most unhappy man alive, but he was her man now; and nothing on earth should part them.
Going down to breakfast she met Miss Green on the stairs. The old lady was full of some breathless story of rioting in Douglas the evening before. How remote it all sounded! She hardly heard what was being said to her.
Coming upon the maid in the corridor she said,
“The Deemster is to call to-day, Catherine. Tell him I wish to see him before he sees the Governor.”
In the breakfast -room her father was looking over a printer’s proof on a sheet of foolscap paper. It was headed with the Manx coat-of-arms and the words “ISLE OF MAN CONSTABULARY,” and had an empty space near the top for a block to be made from a photograph.
“But that is of no consequence now,” thought Fenella, “no consequence whatever.”
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
“GOOD heavens, what does it matter? A lie is only dangerous when it does some harm!”
Stowell awoke on the second day after the escape putting his situation to himself so. Where was the harm if Gell was suspected?
He had gone with the woman he loved. He was happy. What would Alick care about the evil name he had left behind him?
“Then where’s the harm?” he asked himself.
He would let things go on as usual of course he would. Only he must make sure that the fugitives had got clear away.
Remembering that he had seen placards of the Atlantic sailings in the railway-station, he walked over to the station from the glen. It was all right a big Atlantic liner was timed to leave Queenstown at twelve that day. It was now half-past twelve. Gell and Bessie would be out on the open sea by this time steaming past Kinsale where the Manx boats fished for mackerel.
“Where’s the harm?”
But just as he was leaving the station with a sense of security and even triumph, a train from Douglas drew up at the platform. The guard shouted something to the station-master; and, looking back, Stowell saw a crowd gathering about a first-class carriage.
Somebody was being assisted to alight. It was the Speaker. He was utterly helpless. Between two members of the House of Keys the stricken man was half led, half carried to a dog-cart that was waiting for him at the gate.
His mouth was agape, his legs were dragging behind him, arid his large hands were shaken by senile trembling. He did not speak, but as he went by he looked up, and Stowell felt that from his red eyes a mute malediction was being thrown at him.
When the dog-cart had gone, with the Speaker stretched out in it, stiff as a dead horse, and one of the Keys to see him home, the other joined Stowell and walked down the road by his side.
“Then your Honour hasn’t heard what has happened?”
There had been a sitting of the Keys that morning. The debate had been on some new scheme of land tenure a thinly disguised form of confiscation. The Speaker had opposed it passionately, saying a man had a right to keep what he had earned and hand it on to his children. Then Qualtrough (a firebrand who possessed nothing) had taunted him with the unfortunate affair of yesterday. Why did he want to hand on his land, his son having run away with the woman he had corrupted?
A terrible scene had followed. The Speaker had had one of his brain-storms. His neck had swelled until it was nearly as broad as his face. ” Sit down, Sir,” he had shouted, but Qualtrough had refused to do so. At length, overcome by the clamour of his enemies and the silence of his friends, the Speaker had risen to resign. Since he could not maintain the authority of the chair he had no choice but to get out of it.
It had been a pitiful spectacle. None of them who were fathers had been able to look at it with dry eyes. The old man was trembling like a leaf and his legs seemed to be giving way under him.
“They say the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, but maybe it’s as true the other way about. I’m going blind and deaf. The sands of my life are running out …”
He swayed forward and they thought he would have fallen on his face, but the Secretary of the House caught him in his arms, and then two of them were nominated to bring him home.
“Sorry to say it to your Honour, being his friend,” said the member of the Keys, as they parted at the turn of the road, “but that young fellow has something to answer for.”
That lie had done harm then! Was this the mystery of sin that it must go on and on, from consequence to consequence, deep as the sea and unsearchable as the night?
On returning to Ballamoar, Stowell found Janet in great agitation. Mrs. Gell had sent across to ask if Robbie could run into Ramsey to fetch Doctor Clucas. The doctor had come and gone. The Speaker had had a stroke. It was his second. The third would almost
certainly prove fatal.
All that day Stowell was shaken by a chill terror. If the Speaker died would Alick Gell come back to claim his inheritance? If so he would hear it said on all sides that he had killed his father by the disgrace he had brought on him.
What then? Would he tell the whole truth under that terrible temptation, and thus bring down Stowell himself to ruin and extinction?
“But what nonsense I’m talking,” thought Stowell.
Gell could never come back, because Bessie could never do so. Then who was to know that it was a lie that Gell had killed his father?
Suddenly came the thought, “I am to know.”
This fell on him like a thunderbolt. How was he to marry Fenella with a thought like that in his heart? It would be with him night and day. He might even blurt it out in his sleep. “Assassin! It was I who killed the old man by letting that lie go on.”
Feeling feverish and unable to remain indoors, he went out to walk on the gravel path in front of the house. The fresh air revived him and he took possession of himself again.
“If the Speaker dies it will be the act of God,” he thought.
He would be in no way responsible. Neither would Gell. If rumour charged the son with killing the father it would be a lie a damned lie, manufactured by Fate, the great liar.
It was not as if Gell were in any danger the danger of arrest for instance. That would be different. But Gell was in no danger none whatever.
“Therefore bury the thing! Bury it and go on as usual,” he told himself.
The evening was closing in. It was beautiful and limpid. With a high step Stowell was walking to and fro on the path. Visions were rising before him of Gell and Bessie Collister on the big liner, ploughing their way through the darkening ocean to that free continent “where the clouds sailed higher ” Archibald Alexander and his sister Elizabeth going out to the new world to begin a new life.
He had visions of Fenella too how he would go up to Government House to-morrow morning. “Tell him to come back to me,” she said to Janet, and now he would go. How happy he was going to be!
“Surely I’ve a right to some happiness after all I’ve gone through.”
He gave himself up to the intoxication of living by anticipation through those most blissful moments to a man and woman who love each other the first moments of reconciliation after a quarrel.
Night had fallen. It was very dark. The late birds were silent, and only the soft young leaves of May were rustling in the darkness overhead with that gentleness that is like the whispering of angels. All at once a red light jogged up from the gate, making shadows among the trees that bordered the drive.
“Good ever in’, Dempster! A letter for you, Sir.”
It was Killip the postman.
“Thank you, Mr. Killip,” said Stowell, taking the letter. He could not see it in the darkness, but at the touch of the large envelope a heavy foreboding came over him.
“I suppose you’ve heard about that affair, your Honour?”
“Tommy Vondy. He’s got himself kicked out of the Castle for letting that girl escape. The gorm! He’s my first cousin, and he’s in his seventy-seven, but he was always a toot, was Tommy!”
“Good-night, Mr. Killip.”
“Good-night, your Honour!”
When Stowell returned to the porch he looked at his letter by the light of the lamp on the landing. It was from the Governor. He went into the Library and tore it open.
“DEAR STOWELL, Of course you have heard what has happened. The escaped prisoner must be recaptured and dealt with according to law. And not she only, but her accomplice also. You know who that is young Gell. The evidence against him is overwhelming. We have traced him almost to the door of the Castle on Sunday evening, and find, too, that a trading steamer left Castletown late the same night. There can hardly be a doubt that the fugitives sailed in her. We must find where she has gone to and bring her passengers back.
“Come here to-morrow morning to issue the necessary warrant and assist Farrell to the ‘ distinguishing marks ‘ which may be needful for Cell’s identification. I know there is a certain risk in re -opening this wretched inquiry. I had hoped to bury it once for all when I decided on what you thought the extreme step of sending the guilty woman to the gallows. But law and order must be upheld, and the sooner we can silence the people who are saying we are winking at the corruption of justice to spare the son of the Speaker and the friend of the Deemster the better for everybody.
“Be here at eleven. We (the Attorney and the Chief Constable are coming) will be waiting for you. Good Lord, haven’t you been long enough away from this house anyway? If there are strained relations between you and Fenella let them be faced squarely and straightened out at once Yours, etc.,
“JOHN S. STANLEY.
“Brig. -Gen., K.C.B.
“P.S. Fenella says you have a photograph of Gell which was taken in America some years ago. It is probably the only one on the island, and therefore invaluable to Farrell at this moment. Bring it with you don’t forget.”
Stowell was struck with stupor. Alick Gell was in danger, then, and the whole situation was different.
Raising his eyes after reading the Governor’s letter he saw Gell’s photograph on the mantelpiece in front of him. At that sight a flame of passion took possession of him, and snatching up the picture he flung it in the fire.
“No, by God!” he said aloud. And if Farrell ever asked him for “distinguishing marks” towards Gell’s identification he would take him by the throat and choke him.
But what about the warrant? Any Justice of the peace might issue it, but if the Governor asked him to do so the request would be equal to a command. Suppose he did, what would be the result? Bessie would be brought back and executed. Worse than that, even worse in its different way, Gell would be arrested and tried perhaps by him, and under his warrant!
“No, no, no! It would be a crime a base, cowardly, infamous, abominable crime!”
The veins of his forehead swelled as he thought of the trial. It would be more terrible than the other one. To sit in judgment on an innocent man, being himself the guilty one not Jeffries, or Braxfield, or Brandon or Harebottle or any of the bewigged barbarians whose names befouled the annals of jurisprudence had done anything so awful.
“Never,” he thought. “Never in this world.”
Yet what alternative had he? After dinner (he had tried to eat to keep up appearances before Janet) he drew to the fire and tried to think things out. He had sat long hours in pain, and the fire had died down, when a kind of melancholy peace came to him and he thought he saw what he had to do.
He had to get up early in the morning, reach Government House before the others had arrived, see the Governor alone and say to him in secret,
“I cannot issue this warrant for the arrest of Alick Gell for breaking prison to procure that girl’s release because I did it.”
What would happen then? The Governor (he was a just man if a hard one) would say,
“In that case, you cannot be a Judge in this island any longer.”
But that would be all. Out of consideration for his daughter, and perhaps for the man who was to become his daughter’s husband, the Governor would go no farther. Some show he might make of publishing the police notice, but he would never send it to a foreign country.
There would be no scandal. The public would know nothing. They had heard that the new Deemster had been unwell, and would be told that his health had broken down altogether, and he had had to resign his office. It would be a month’s talk, and then Time would cover up the whole miserable story in the merciful veil in which it hides so many of our misdoings.
And Fenella? He would tell Fenella also. It would be a shock to her, but she would be on his side now. She would see that he had only tried to prevent a judicial murder, to secure the happiness of two unhappy creatures who, but for him, would have been plunged in misery. They would marry and go away from the island, to Switzerland perhaps, and live there for the rest of their lives.
“Yes, that’s it, that’s it,” he told himself.
It was a cruel comforting like the surgeon’s knife, which, while taking away a man’s disease, takes some of his life-blood also.
He thought of his father, how proud the old Deemster had been of his judicial position and how anxious that his son should succeed to it it was pitiful. He thought of Fenella, what great things they had planned to do when he became a Judge, and now all their hopes had fallen to dust and ashes it was agonising.
Was it necessary? Inevitable? To be cast aside on life’s highway in suffering and shame everlasting; to be like a wretched ship that lies at the bottom of the sea, swaying to the ground-swell below, and moaning like a lost soul to the moans of the other wrecks in the womb of the ocean?
It was not as if he had injured anybody. He had done harm to nobody and nothing. Yet he must do what he had thought of. There was no help for it.
It was late. The household was asleep. The log fire he had been crouching over had fallen to ashes on the hearth. He was shivering and he got up to go to bed. Before leaving the library he sat at the desk under his mother’s picture and wrote
“Please call me at six. I must take the first train to Douglas.”
He was laying this on the table on the landing, lighting his candle and putting out the lamp, when he heard wheels on the carriage drive, and then a loud ringing at the front door bell.
Who could have come at this time of night? Candle in hand he went down and opened the door. It was Joshua Scarff.
“HE DROVE OUT THE MAN”
“SORRY to trouble you at this hour, your Honour, but I had to come and tell you what has happened.”
“What is it, Joshua?”
“There has been a fearful outbreak of lawlessness in Douglas this evening breaking of shop-windows, looting of the houses of well-to-do people, assaults and outrages of all kinds.”
“What is the reason of it?”
“Mob reason, and you know what that is, your Honour. They say justice in the island is corrupt. If you are rich you get whatever you want. If you are poor you get nothing. A guilty man and a guilty woman have been allowed to escape. Why? Because the man belongs to a family of ‘ the big ones ‘ and is a friend of the Deemster.”
“Who say that?”
“Old Qualtrough and Dan Baldromma.”
“Baldromma? If his step -daughter has escaped what has he
to complain of?”
“Nothing, but that’s not the worst, Sir.”
“The Governor has telegraphed for soldiers from across the water. They are to come over by the first boat in the morning. It’s a frightful blunder, Sir.”
Beads of perspiration were rolling down from Joshua’s bald crown.
“There’ll be bloodshed, and Manxmen won’t stand for that. They’ve been their own masters for a thousand years. The Governor can’t treat them as if they were Indian coolies.”
“What do you think ought to be done?”
“That’s what I’ve come to say, Sir. I had gone to bed but I couldn’t take rest, so I got Willie Dawson to drive me over. The people may be wrong about justice, but the only way to pacify them is to prove it.”
“The guilty man in this case must give himself up.”
“Give himself up?”
Joshua took off his coloured spectacles and wiped the damp off them.
“I thought your Honour might know where he was. He can’t be far away, Sir.”
“He ought to be told to deliver himself up to the Courts to save the island from ruin. And if he won’t he ought to be denounced.”
“It will be a terrible ordeal I know that, Sir. Your friend! Your life-long friend! Pity! Great pity!”
For a perceptible time Stowell did not speak. Then, in a voice which Joshua had never heard before, he said,
“Go home and go to bed, Joshua. I’ll see what can be done.”
Joshua had gone, the door had closed behind him and his wheels were dying away down the drive, but Stowell continued to stand in the hall, candle in hand and stiff as a statue. At length he returned to the dining-room, put the candle on the table and sat before the empty hearth.
It was all over! The plan he had made for himself was impossible. There could be no resigning in secret and stealing away from the island.
He had done harm to something. He had done harm to Justice. If Justice fell down what stood up? The man who took the law into his own hands was a criminal, and as a criminal he ought to be punished.
Punished? The shock was terrible. Was he then to give himself up? To confess publicly?
He saw himself pleading guilty to having broken prison. He heard the whole wretched tale of his relation to the unhappy prisoner, and of his trying and condemning her, coming out in open Court. He heard the howls of execration from the people who had hitherto loved and cheered him.
“Is there no other way?” he asked himself.
He saw himself in prison, in prison clothes, in the prison cell, on the prison bed. Above all he saw another Deemster going upstairs to sit on the bench while he lay in the vaults below.
He thought of his father and his family four hundred years of the Ballamoars and not a stain on the name of one of them until now. He thought of Fenella the cruel shame he would bring on her. Granted he was guilty, and deserved punishment, had he any right to punish Fenella also?
The clock on the landing struck one. An owl shrieked in the plantation. He got up and strode about the room. The impulses of the natural man began to fight for safety.
“Good God, what am I thinking about?” he asked himself.
What had he done to deserve all this? He had broken a wicked law which had no right to exist, but did that require that he should denounce himself, go to prison, degrade his father’s name, break Fenella’s heart and put himself up on a gibbet for every passer-by to jeer at and spit upon?
“What madness! What rank madness!”
He thought of the thousands of ” great ” men in all ages of the world who had broken bad laws, and yet lived in honour and died in glory. Why should he suffer for doing the same thing? Why he and not the others? He laughed in scorn of his own weakness, but at the next moment a mocking voice within him seemed to say,
“Go on! Go on! Issue that warrant! Let the unhappy girl who trusted you be brought back and executed. Let the friend who loved you be arrested and tried and sent to jail for the crime you have committed. Go through all that duplicity again. Let the whole community be submerged in anarchy as the consequence of your sin. But remember, when you come out of it all, you will be a devil, and your soul will be damned.”
That terrified him and he sat down by the empty hearth once more. After a while he found his hands wet under his face. He heard a soft, caressing voice pleading with him,
“Victor, my darling heart! Resist this great temptation and peace will come to you. Do the right, and no matter how low you may fall in the eyes of men, you will look upon the face of God.”
It was Fenella’s voice he was sure of that. Across the mountain and through the darkness of the night her pure soul was speaking to him.
The candle had burnt to the socket by this time, but a new light came to him. For more than a year he had been a slave, dragging a chain of sin behind him. At every step in his wrong-doing his chain had lengthened. He must break it and be free.
“Yes, I will go up to Government House in the morning,” he thought, “confess everything and take my punishment.”
It was only right, only just. And when the cruel thought came that the next time he entered the court-house it would be to stand in the dock, with the dread certainty of his doom, he told himself that that would be right too the Judge also must be judged.
Groping his way upstairs in the darkness he entered his bedroom and locked the door behind him. He found a fire burning, the sofa drawn up in front of it, a lamp burning on the bureau that stood at one side, and at the other the high-backed arm-chair in which his father used to undress for bed. He was surprised to see that the fire had been newly made up, but hearing footsteps in the adjoining bedroom he understood.
“Poor Janet!” he thought.
His thoughts were thundering through his brain like waves in a deep cavern. He was convinced that he would never survive the ordeal that was before him. When men lived through long imprisonments it was because they had hope that the beautiful days would come again. He had no such hope, so, sitting at his bureau, he began to sort and arrange his papers like one who was going away on a long journey.
After that he wrote a letter to the Attorney-General:
“DEAR MASTER, When this letter comes to your hand you will know the occasion for it. I am aware that it cannot have the authority of a will, but (in the absence of a more regular document) I trust the Clerk of the Rolls may find a way to act upon it as an expression of my last wishes.
“I desire that Janet Curphey should be suitably provided for as long as she lives. She has been a mother to me all my life, the only mother I have ever known.
“I desire that Mrs. Collister of Baldromma may have such a provision made for her as will liberate her from the tyrannies of her husband.
“I desire that Thomas Vondy, formerly the jailer at Castle Rushen, should be taken care of in any way you may consider best.
“Finally, if I do not live to return home, I desire that everything else of which I die possessed should be offered to Fenella Stanley as a mark of my deep love and devotion.
“I think that is all.”
Having signed, sealed and inscribed his letter he put it in his breast pocket. Then taking a drawer out of the bureau he carried it to the sofa, intending to destroy the contents of it.
The first thing that came to his hand was the letter which Alick Gell had given him at Derby Haven. It was marked “To be opened after we have gone,” and turned out to be a memorandum to his father’s executors, telling them he was leaving the island with no intention of returning to it, and asking (as his only request) that in the event of an inheritance becoming due to him, seven hundred pounds, which had been advanced to him at various times, should be repaid to Deemster Victor Stowell “the best friend man ever had.”
Feeling a certain twinge, Stowell hesitated for a moment, with the memorandum shaking in his hand, and then threw it into the fire.
There were other papers of the same kind (I O U’s and the like) which shared the same fate, and then up from the bottom of the drawer, came a leather-bound book. It was “Isobel’s Diary.” He had decided to destroy that also. As the sanctuary of his father’s soul he could not allow it to be looked into by other eyes.
But, never having looked at it himself since the night of his father’s death, he could not resist the temptation to glance through it once more before committing it to the flames. It fell open at the page which said,
“So it’s all well at last, Isobel. Your son can do without me now. He needs his father no longer. With that brave woman by his side he will go up and up. They will marry and carry on the traditions of the Ballamoars. It is the dearest wish of my heart that they should do so.”
His throat throbbed. Ah, those hopes, all wrecked and dead! Going down on one knee before the fire, and holding the book on the other, he tore out page by page and burnt it, feeling as if he were burning his right hand also. He was afraid of tears and had rarely given way to them, but he was weeping like a heart-broken woman before the last page had been consumed.
Then, taking Fenella’s letters from his pocket-book, he prepared to burn them too. They brought a faint perfume, a feeling of warmth, a sense of her physical presence. Most of them were notes of no consequence appointments to ride, drive, fish, skate, all touched by her gay raillery (” eight o’clock in the morning is that too early for you, Viccy, dear?”) he had preserved every scrap in her hand-writing. But one was the letter she wrote to him when he was in London, and with palpitating tenderness he held it under the lamp to read it again:
“Victor, when I think of the life that is so surely before you, and that I shall walk through it by your side, perfectly united with you, sharing the same hopes and aims and desires, enjoying the same sunshine and weathering the same storms, I have a vision of happiness that makes me cry with joy.”
His heart swelled like a troubled sea, and to conquer his emotion he thrust the letter hurriedly into the flames. But before it was more than scorched he snatched it back and was preparing to return it to his pocket when he bethought himself how soon it must pass into other hands with everything he carried about him. And then, turning his head away, and feeling as if he were burning his heart also, he put it into the fire.
After that he dropped back on to the sofa with feelings about Fenella that found no relief in tears. One by one the joyous hours of their love returned to his memory. They seemed to ring in his ears with the melancholy sound of far-off bells. It was a cruel pleasure.
All at once came a moment of fierce rebellion. When he had told himself downstairs that in making the great renunciation of his public office he must renounce Fenella also he had not realised what it meant. It meant that never again, for as long as he lived (Fenella being impossible to him), would Woman take any part in his existence.
A cold fear took possession of him at that thought. He was a man was he for the rest of his life, if he survived his imprisonment, to be cut off from his kind, separated, alone?
Better be dead than live such a life!
Then another and still more startling thought came to him why not? A letter to the Governor, exonerating Gell, and then it would all be over. No warrant! No trial! Why not?
Outside the night was dark. Not a breath of wind was stirring. In the silence of earth and sky he could hear the “swish, swish” of the sea on the shingle at the top of the shore. It must be high water.
“Why not? Why not?”
His head was dizzy. He was thinking of a boat that lay among the lush grass on the sandy bank above the beach. Alick and he had often gone fishing in her. She was heavy, but he was strong he could push her into the water.
He saw himself pulling out to sea, far out, beyond the Point, to where the Gulf Stream in its long race round half the world swept by the island to the coast of Iceland. And then, as the dawn broke in the eastern heavens, he saw himself scuttling the boat and going down with her.
No one would know. The boat would lie at the bottom of the sea until she fell to pieces, and he would go north on the way of the great waters until he came to the feet of the frozen Jokulls, where nobody would be able to say who he was or where he came from.
No scandal! No outcry! No vulgar sensation! Just a pang to Fenella, and then the darkness of death over all.
Thinking the lamp was burning low he was reaching out his hand to turn up the wick when a sense came of somebody being in the room with him. He looked round. All was silent.
“Is anybody there?” he asked aloud.
There was no answer. The dread of miscarrying for ever if he died by his own act began to struggle on the battlefield of his soul with the fear of being cut off from the living who live in God’s peace. He shivered and was trying to rise when again he had the sense of somebody else in the bedroom.
“Who is it?”
At the next moment, raising his eyes, bethought he saw his father in the arm-chair where he had seen him so often. The august face was the same as when he saw it last in that room, except that the melancholy eyes were now open.
“I’m ill,” he thought, and he closed his eyes and put his hand over them.
But when he opened his eyes again his father was still there, looking at him with tenderness and compassion. His brain reeled and he fell face down on the cushions of the sofa.
Then he heard his father speaking to him, gently, affectionately, but firmly, just as he used to do when he was alive.
“My son! My dear son! I know what you are thinking of doing, and I warn you not to do it. No man can run away from the consequences of his sins. If he flies from them in this life he must meet them in the life hereafter, and then it will be a hundred-fold more terrible to be swept from the face of the living God.”
Stowell tried to cry aloud but could not. His father’s voice ceased and at the next moment a vision flashed before him. A line of miserable-looking men were standing before an awful tribunal:
He knew who they were the unjust judges of the world who had corrupted justice. All the grandeur in which they had clothed themselves on earth was gone, and they were there in the nakedness of their shame crying,
“Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!”
Stowell felt as if he were falling off the world into a void of unfathomable night. Then blindness fell upon the eyes of his mind and he knew no more.
THE DAWN OF MORNING
It was Janet’s voice outside the door.
“Six o’clock. Didn’t you want to catch the first train to town, dear?”
“Oh yes! All right. I’ll be down presently.”
Stowell found it difficult to recover consciousness. He was lying on the sofa, and he looked around. There was the arm-chair it was empty. But the lamp on the bureau was still burning. He must have slept, for he was feeling refreshed and even strong.
Leaping to his feet he blew out the lamp and pulled back the window curtains. It was a beautiful morning, tranquil as the sky and noiseless as the dew. Over the tops of the tall trees the bald crown of old Snaefell was bathed in sunshine.
He was like another man. Life had no terrors for him now. It was just as if a curse had fallen from him in the night. No more visions! No more spectres! He knew what he had to do and he would do it. He had a sense of immense emancipation. He felt like a slave who had broken the chain which he had dragged after him for years. He was a free man once more.
Throwing off coat and waistcoat he washed lashing the cold water over face and head and neck as if he were diving into one of the dubs in the glen and then went downstairs with a strong step.
Breakfast was not quite ready, so he stepped out over the piazza to the farmyard. The cheerful place was full of its morning activities. Cows were mooing their way to the grass of the fields before barking dogs, and milkmaids were carrying their frothing pails across to the dairy.
He saluted everybody he came upon. “Good-morning, Betty!” “Good-morning, Mary!” The girls smiled and looked proud, but they said afterwards that the young master’s voice sounded as if he were saying good-bye to them.
Unconsciously he was going about like one who was taking a last look round before setting out on a long journey. He went into the stable, and Molly, his young chestnut mare, turned her head and neighed at him. He went into the empty cow-house, and four young calves in boxes licked, with their long moist tongues, the hand he held down to them.
On the way back to the house he met Robbie Creer, who was full of another story of Mrs. Collister of Baldromma. She had taken the ground with the ebb tide, poor woman. They had put her into the asylum. The doctors said her case was incurable. She was always saying the old Dempster had come from the dead to take her Bessie out of prison.
“But what a blessed end,” said Stowell. “She’ll think her daughter is in heaven, so she’ll always be happy.”
“It’s like she will, Sir,” said Robbie, looking puzzled, and going indoors for his morning bowl of porridge he said to his wife,
“A mortal quare thing to say, though, and the woman in the madhouse.”
Stowell ate with an appetite (Janet plying him with coffee and eggs and toasted muffins), and then young Robbie brought round the dog-cart. Janet helped him on with his light loose overcoat and went to the door with him.
He paused there, pulling on his driving-gloves and thinking what cruel pain the dear soul would suffer when she heard that night what he had done during the day. At last he threw his arms about her and kissed her, saying with a gulp,
“Good-bye, mother! God bless you!”
And then he sprang up into the cart, snatched at the reins, pulled them taut, and (after the young mare had leapt on her forelegs) darted away.
As he approached the turn of the drive where the house was hidden by the trees he turned and looked back at it what a home to lose!
Janet, who was still at the porch, smoothing her silvery hair, thought he had looked back at her, and she waved her hand to him. Nobody had said a word to her, yet she knew he had been suffering as a result of some terrible wrong-doing. She thought she knew what it was, too, and she had wept bitter tears over it. But he had not a fault in her eyes now.
Her boy! Hers all the way up since he was a child and used to run about the lawn in pinafores. Heaven bless him! He was the best thing God had ever made.
The train to town was full to overflowing. The northside people, having heard of yesterday’s doings, were going up to see for themselves ” what them toots in Douglas ” were doing.
In spite of the guard’s deferential protests Stowell stepped into an open third-class carriage. It had been humming like a beehive until then, but except for a general salutation it became silent when he entered.
A draper’s assistant who sat opposite handed him an English newspaper, two days old, with an article on the escape from Castle Rushen. The incident was a disgrace to the insular administration, and if the Governor could not offer a satisfactory explanation the sooner the island’s Home Rule came to an end the better for Justice.
One or two of the passengers tried to draw Stowell into conversation about the article, but he said little or nothing. Then some black-coated persons (well-to-do farmers and the like) gave the talk another turn.
“Still and for all,” said one, ” that doesn’t justify such doings as there are in Douglas!” “Chut!” said another. “It isn’t justice the agitators are wanting, it’s robbery.” “Truth enough,” said a third, ” it’s the land they’re after, and if the Governor isn’t doing something soon, there’ll be not an acre left at the one of us.” “Give them a pig of their own sow,” said a fat farmer. “Men like Qualtrough and Baldromma ought to be taken out to say and dropped overboard.”
Again the passengers tried to draw Stowell into conversation, and when they found they could not get him to speak to them they spoke at him.
“Where’s the big men of the island that they’re not telling the people they’re bringing it to wreck and ruin?”
“When a man is claver claver uncommon and mighty with the tongue, he ought to be showing the ignorant gommerals the way they’re going.”
“Yes,” said a little man (he was a local preacher), “when a man has the gift it’s his duty to the Lord to use it.”
“He must be a right man though,” said the fat farmer, “straight as a mast himself, same as some we’ve had at Ballamoar in the good ould days gone by.”
There was silence for a moment after this, and then an old man by the opposite window was heard to whisper,
“Lave him alone, men; he knows what hour the clock is striking.”
When the train reached Douglas, Stowell went off with a heavy
face. It was remarked that he had not shaken hands his father
used to shake hands with everybody.
“He’s his father’s son for all,” said the old man by the window.
Stowell took the cable -car at the bottom of the Prospect Hill which is at the foot of the town. Douglas was still in a state of agitation and the driver had as much as he could do to forge his way, without accidents, through the tumultuous throngs in the thoroughfare.
A cordon of red-coated soldiers from Castletown surrounded Government office, and a noisy crowd (including women with children) were jeering at them from the middle of the street, and shouting up at the windows, under the impression that the Governor was within.
The shops bore signs of yesterday’s rioting many having their shutters up, while the windows of others were barricaded with new boarding.
Stowell got out of the car at the terminus and made the rest of his journey afoot. At the top of the hill, where the road turns towards the Governor’s house, he came upon a mass meeting. From a horseless lorry, decorated with banners, a burly old ruffian with shaggy grey hair (Qualtrough, M.H.K.) was speaking in a voice of thunder, while, on the cross -seat by his side, Dan Baldromma was sitting with the air of a martyr.
“There’s a man on this platform who has gone to prison for his principles. That’s what Justice in the Isle of Man is. And that’s what they would like to be doing with the lot of ye, the big ones of the island. But, gentlemen and ladies, their rotten ould ship is floating on the pumps and she’ll soon be sinking.”
When Stowell reached the Governor’s gate he paused, being out of breath and not so strong as he had imagined. From that point he could see a broad stretch of the coast, as well as the shadowy outlines of the English hills on the other side of the channel. A steamer was sailing into the bay. Perhaps she was bringing the English cavalry the Governor had sent for.
Life is sweet when death is at the door. At that last moment, although he had thought his mind was made up, Stowell found that his heart was failing him. Must he go on? Deliberately destroy himself? No outside power compelling him? The world was wide why not leave all this wreck and ruin behind him and in some other country begin life anew?
The moment of weakness passed and he went on. Half way up the drive, where the trees broke clear and the long white facade of Government House became visible, he dropped his head. He was thinking of the last time he had been there and remembering again the stinging words with which Fenella had driven him away. But there was strength in the thought that he was about to break the chain which he had dragged after him so long, and save his people at the same time.
When the maid opened the door, he asked for the Governor.
“Yes, your Honour,” said the maid, “but Miss Fenella wishes to see you first, Sir.”
His heart was beating hard when he stepped into the house.
“GOD GAVE HIM DOMINION”
THREE times during breakfast that morning Fenella had seen some body coming up the drive. The first to come was the Major from Castletown, riding at a fast trot. On being shown into the breakfast-room, with spurs clanking, he told the Governor that a mob had gathered about Government Office and were very threatening.
“Tell the Mayor to read the Riot Act, and then do what is necessary for the protection of life and property,” said the Governor.
The second to come was the Chief Constable, driving rapidly in a hackney carriage. On entering the room with his heavy step, he said the steamer from England was in sight and the soldiers would be landed at the pier within half an hour.
“If the thoroughfares are still thronged with riotous mobs at that time,” said the Governor, ” tell the cavalry to ride through them.”
The last to come up the drive was a solitary man afoot, walking slowly and pausing at intervals as if his strength had failed him.
Fenella knew who it was, and rising hastily from the table she went into the drawing-room.
When Stowell was brought in to her she was shocked at the change in his appearance. lie looked ten years older. His dark hair had become white about the temples and his eyes were full of a strange light.
“How he must have suffered,” she thought, and an almost over-powering desire took possession of her to put her arms about him and comfort him.
He looked at her and the same thought and the same impulse came to him. But they were afraid of each other, and with the surging ocean of their love between them they stood apart, but trembling. At length, trying not to look into each other’s faces, they began to speak.
“You know why I have been sent for?”
“Yes, and that is why I want to speak to you before you see my father. There are things you ought to know.”
“Mr. Vondy, the jailer from Castle Rushen, was here two days ago, to be examined by the Governor, the Attorney-General and the Chief Constable.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Not to them.”
“To you, perhaps?”
“Yes. I brought him in here. He told me what occurred after I left the Castle.”
“Then you know?”
She dropped her head and answered ” Yes.”
“I had to do it, Fenella I thought I had to.”
A moment passed.
“He asked me to tell you that he would keep his word to you,
“Did he say that?”
A spasm in Stowell’ s throat seemed to be stifling him.
“I did wrong, Fenella, terribly wrong, but there is one thing I
will ask of you.”
“What is it, Victor?”
“Not to judge me until you know what I’ve come to do to-day.”
Fenella, deeply affected, thought she caught a glimpse of his meaning.
“Do you intend to resign, Victor?”
“Yes, but that is not all.”
“What is, Victor?” She was thinking of his exile, his possible banishment.
“Perhaps I am speaking to you for the last time, Fenella. That’s why I am glad you have given me this opportunity of seeing you.”
She trembled, thinking he meant suicide, and said in a choking voice,
“You don’t mean that you intend to take your . . . No, no, that is impossible. Think of your father.”
Stowell did not speak for a moment. Then he said,
“I saw him last night, Fenella.”
“My father. I was thinking of that as a way out of all this miserable wrong-doing, when he came to warn me.”
“How he must have suffered,” thought Fenella.
“But perhaps you think it was only a delusion?”
“Indeed no! If the spirits of our dear ones may not come back to speak to us in our times of temptation . . .”
“But my father was not the only one who spoke to me last night, Fenella.”
“Who else did, Victor?”
“You. I heard you as plainly as I hear you now.”
Fenella’s bosom was heaving. ” When was that?” she asked.
“In the middle of the night. But perhaps you were in bed and asleep at that time.”
“No . . . no, I did not sleep until after daybreak. In the middle of the night I was “… (she was breathing audibly) “I was praying.”
He looked up at her with his heavy eyes.
“Were you praying for me, Fenella?”
She cast down her own eyes and answered “Yes.”
Another moment passed, and then in a husky voice he said,
“Fenella, what did you pray for for me?”
“That you might have strength to do what was right, whatever it might cost you.”
He reached forward and grasped her hands.
“Did you know what that meant, Fenella whatever it might cost me?”
“Yes,” she said, raising her eyes, “and at length an answer came to me.”
“That if you did, and made atonement, however low you might fall in the eyes of men you would look upon the face of God.”
Stowell gasped, dropped her hands and for a while was speechless. Then he said,
“And do you think I will?”
“I am sure you will, Victor. I had a sign from God.”
“Do you, after all, believe in God, Fenella?”
“Indeed yes. And you don’t you?”
“My father did. He used to kneel by his bed like a little child every night and every morning.”
She saw that he did not speak for himself, and a great wave of love and compassion for the sin-laden man stormed her heart.
“Victor,” she said, tears springing to her eyes, “you must try to forgive me. I’ve not been what I ought to have been to you I see that now. Whatever you have done I should have clung to you, not driven you away from me, and let you go on from sin to sin, doubting God’s mercy and forgiveness. Let me do so now. We belong to each other, Victor. There can never be anybody else for either of us as long as we live. Let us go together.”
She had seized his hands. The hands of both were trembling.
“Would to God you could, Fenella. But it is too late for that now. I have gone too far for you to follow me. Where I go now I must go alone.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Wait until I have seen your father.”
At that moment the maid came into the room to tell the Deemster that the Governor, having heard that he was in the house, wished to see him immediately.
Stowell was turning to go, when Fenella put a trembling hand on his shoulder and said in a whisper,
“Victor, whatever happens with my father, promise me that you will never do that.”
“But if the Governor . . .”
“Never mind about the Governor now, promise me.”
There was a moment of silence and then he said, “I promise,” and with head down passed out of the room.
Being alone, Fenella tried in vain to compose herself. The fear that Stowell might kill himself (as a result of the public exposure and humiliation which the Governor would impose upon him) threw her into violent agitation.
Unable to support the strain of her anxiety she could not resist the temptation to listen at the door of her father’s room. She heard the two voices within Stowell’s in tones of pitiful supplication, her father’s in accents of fierce expostulation. At length she heard her own name mentioned and then she could contain herself no longer.
Opening the door noiselessly she entered the room. The two men were face to face, looking at each other with flaming eyes.
“Come in, Stowell. I’m glad you’re early. I wanted a word with you before the others arrived. Sit down.”
The Governor too was violently agitated. He was striding about the room. His grey hair, usually brushed down with military precision, was loose and disordered, as if he had been running his hands through it, and his pipe, still alight and as if forgotten, was smoking on the arm of his chair.
“You came by train?”
“Then you saw the soldiers. I had to do it. I couldn’t allow this raggabash to take possession of the island. There may be casualties, but the shortest way is the most merciful that’s my experience. Sit down. Why don’t you sit down?”
But the Governor went on walking and Stowell continued to stand.
“They say this rioting is the sequel to the escape from Castle Rushen. Only an excuse, of course, but that makes no difference. If we are to justify our administration of Justice in the eyes of the authorities across the water we must re-capture those runaways. The man the guilty man in particular must be locked up in prison. The Attorney and the Colonel will be here presently. You’ll be able to help them to the personal description they want nobody better and then issue the warrant.”
Stowell, who had been clutching the back of a chair behind which he was standing with a fixed stare, said in a quivering voice,
“I’m sorry, your Excellency. I cannot do that.”
“Eh? Cannot do what?”
“I cannot issue the warrant for the arrest of Alick Gell for breaking prison because . . .”
Stowell swallowed something in his throat and continued . . . “because I did it.”
The Governor drew up sharply and said,
“What’s the matter with you? Are you ill?”
Stowell, who had recovered himself, answered,
“No, I am not ill, your Excellency.”
“Then you must be mad stark mad. It’s impossible. You can never have done such a thing.”
“I am not mad either, Sir. What I tell you is the truth it is God’s truth, Sir.”
And then, excusing nothing, extenuating nothing, Stowell told the Governor what he had done, and how he had done it.
“I used my official position to effect the escape of the prisoner, and I arranged for her flight, with her companion, to a foreign country.”
The Governor listened without drawing breath.
“But why . . . why did you . . . was it because I refused to remit . . .”
“No, I did it because I came to see that the law which permitted you to order the execution of that girl was a crime, and that a higher law called upon me to undo it.”
“A crime? Good Lord, what if it was? What had you to do with that?”
“I had tried and condemned her. And besides, I had my personal reasons for wishing the prisoner to escape punishment.”
“But damn it all, man, when you were doing all this for the girl, didn’t you see what you were doing for yourself?”
“Not then. But now I see that in preventing the law from committing a crime I committed a crime against the law, and am no longer fit to be a Judge. That’s why I’m here now, Sir not to issue that warrant, but to resign my judgeship.”
“Resign your judgeship?”
“Yes, but that’s not all to ask you to order my arrest and commit me to prison.”
The Governor, who had been half stupefied, took possession of himself at last.
“Commit you to prison? Good heavens, what are you saying? A Deemster in prison! Whoever heard of such a thing!”
“I am guilty of a crime against Justice . . .” began Stowell, but the Governor bore him down.
“Tush! I don’t care for the moment whether you are or are not. Neither do I care whether the law which condemned the prisoner to death, was or was not a crime. What I have to deal with is the present situation. You say you want me to order your arrest is that it?”
“Yes, you said yourself the guilty man ought to be in prison.”
“But heavens alive, man, can’t you see the difference? Gell is a private person, while you are a Judge, the Judge who tried and condemned the prisoner. What is to happen to Justice in the island if a Judge is condemned and imprisoned?”
Stowell tried to speak, but again the Governor bore him down.
“Oh, I know what you’ll say you’ll talk about your conscience. But what is your conscience to me against the honour of the public service and the welfare of the whole community?”
“The honour of the public service cannot rest on a lie, Sir,” said Stowell. “It would be a living lie if I continued to be a Judge, and the only way to save the island is to tell it the truth, no matter what . . .”
“Don’t talk damned nonsense.”
Stowell drew himself up.
“Do you wish me, then, to issue that warrant against Alick Gell now that you know that I am myself the guilty man?”
The Governor flinched for a moment, then smote the top of his desk and said,
“I know nothing of the kind, Sir, and don’t want to know. I believe you’re mad made mad by the ordeal you have lately gone through. Nothing will make me believe the contrary.”
There was silence after that for several minutes. Then the Governor, who had thrown himself in his chair, said in a softer tone,
“Stowell, listen to me. I partly understand you. But even if you did this unbelievable thing, and are satisfied you did it from a good motive, why can’t you hold your tongue about it?”
“I have thought of that, Sir,” said Stowell, with a tremor in his voice. ” I have fought it all out with myself. Believe me I would have given all I have in the world not to have had to come here on this errand. But the life of a Judge would be impossible to me with a lie like that for its foundation. My work cannot be a mockery, Sir. I cannot allow another to suffer for what I have done.”
The Governor leapt up from his seat.
“You talk about others suffering for what you have done have you forgotten how many others must suffer if I allow you to do what you want to do now? Think of your island your native island do you want to cover it with dishonour? Think of your profession do you want to load it with disgrace? Think of your father, who loved you as no father ever loved a son. We put up his portrait in the court-house the other day do you want to pull it down? And then think of me I suppose I ran some risk when I recommended you for your position …”
Stowell was trying to speak, but again the Governor put up his hand.
“Oh, you needn’t thank me. Perhaps I wasn’t acting altogether unselfishly. I may have been wanting somebody to stand by me now that I’m growing old, somebody like your father able to fight these rascals who are trying to ruin everything. And when you came along, you whom I had known since you were a boy, the son of my old friend, who was to be my son some day …”
The Governor, startled by the emotion that was coming over him, broke away and crossed the room, saying,
“But damn it all, why need I talk of myself? There’s Fenella have you forgotten Fenella?”
It was at this moment that Fenella entered the room. Neither of the men saw her. She stood noiselessly at the door.
“If I do what you want, order your arrest, what’s the first question the Court will ask you why did you help the prisoner to escape? Then the whole wretched story of your relations with the girl Collister will come out. And what will be the result? Fenella’s name will become a byword. It will be the common talk of every slut in the island that she came second after your woman . . . your offal.”
Stowell flamed up with anger for a moment, and then choked with tears. After a short silence he said,
“I can never be sufficiently grateful to you, Sir, for what you’ve done for me. As for Fenella, I can hardly trust myself to speak. The thought of her suffering is the bitterest part of my own. I would live out the rest of my life on my knees if I could undo the wrong I have done her. But I cannot bring her down with me. I cannot take up again my life as a Judge after it has been so hideously disfigured and ask her to share it. Let me go to prison . . .”
Sobbing in his throat Stowell could go no further. Fenella, sobbing in her heart, crept noiselessly out of the room.
The Governor, in spite of himself, was visibly affected.
“Look here, my boy,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. It’s going far, perhaps too far for the safety of the public service, but to prevent worse things happening I’ll take the risk. I’ll stop that warrant and hush up this miserable scandal on one condition that you say nothing, take leave of absence on grounds of ill-health, go abroad and never come back again.”
Stowell shook his head.
“Why not? Good gracious, why not? The guilty ones have gone. Your secret is safe. Except ourselves, nobody knows it. Why shouldn’t you?”
“I dare not,” said Stowell.
“I have committed a crime. If I do not pay for it in this life I must do so hereafter. Therefore I ask for my punishment now.”
The Governor got the better of his emotion.
“So you wish to resign your office and ask me to order your arrest? Well, I won’t do it. I am the only authority to whom you can resign and I decline to accept your resignation I refuse to transmit it to the Home Authorities. What you wish to do would undermine the stability of law and the authority of Government. It would humiliate me and destroy my daughter’s happiness. Therefore I not only refuse to receive your resignation, I forbid it.”
Stowell hesitated for a moment and then said,
“In that case, your Excellency, you will force me to denounce myself.”
“Denounce . . .? You mean in open Court?”
“Yes, it will be my duty, and I shall be compelled to do it.”
The Governor’s wrath became rage. With a ring of sarcasm in his voice he said,
“Very well! Very well! I cannot prevent you. Denounce yourself in open Court if you are so unwise, so insane. But understand if you are compelled to do your duty, / shall be compelled to do mine also. After you have made your public confession and the Courts have dealt with you, I shall issue the warrant just the same. You say the fugitives have gone to a foreign country, but no foreign country will refuse to give up a condemned murderess. The woman shall be brought back and executed according to the sentence you pronounced upon her. More than that, your friend, your confederate, shall be brought back also, and dealt with according to his crime. Therefore your public confession will be of no avail. It will be an empty farce, ruining three lives that might otherwise have been saved.”
Stowell trembled, his lips became white.
“I beg you not to do that, Sir.”
“I will! I take God to witness that I will. Now choose for yourself which it is to be your course or mine?”
Stowell breathed hard for a moment and then smiled but such a smile!
“Your Excellency,” he said, “for your own sake I beg of you not to do it.”
“My sake?” said the Governor, drawing up sharply he had been striding about the room again.
“Yes, yours,” said Stowell. “One of those two was my victim, the other was merely the subject of my will. I alone am guilty, and if I cannot meet my punishment without bringing such consequences on the innocent I must meet something else.”
“Death. Then,, in the eyes of heaven, the crime against the law will be your crime and I shall not live to witness it.”
There was a breathless silence. The Governor was dumbfounded. Stowell stepped towards the door and said in a low voice,
“God forgive you, Sir. You will never see me again.”
At that moment the maid entered the room to announce the Attorney-General and the Chief Constable, who came in immediately behind her.
“Ah, Victor, how are you ” said the Attorney. “Your Excellency, we have brought the Warrant.”
“And here,” said the Chief Constable, with an obsequious bow to Stowell, “is the Deemster ready to issue it.”
Nobody spoke, and the Chief Constable, taking a paper out of a long envelope, proceeded to read it:
“This is to command you to whom this Warrant is addressed forthwith to apprehend Alexander Gell . . .”
“That will do. Give it to me,” said the Governor.
When the Warrant had been given to him he tore it up and threw it into the fire. The two men were aghast.
“Your Excellency, what . . . what . . .”
“This damnable thing must go no further. Let me hear no more about it.”
After saying this the Governor’s strength seemed to leave him. He dropped into a chair before the fire and gazed at the blazing paper.
Stowell’s trembling hand was on the handle of the door.
“I thank you for what you’ve done, Sir,” he said, “and wish to God the matter could end there. But it cannot … it cannot.”
He went out. The two men looked into each other’s faces. A flash of understanding passed between them, and, without a word more, they stepped out of the room.
Meantime, Stowell, going down the corridor, felt a hand that had been stretched out from the drawing-room, taking hold of his arm and drawing him in. It was Fenella’s. Her face was utterly broken up. Flinging her arms about him she kissed him passionately.
“Victor,” she said. “Do as your heart bids you. Don’t think of me any longer. I am with you in life or death. If you have to go to prison I will go with you, and if . . .”
Unable to say more she broke away from him and hurried into an inner room.
The front door rang as Stowell pulled it after him, and when he walked down the drive with a high step his head was up and his ravished face aglow.
END OF SIXTH BOOK