IT was a lovely day in spring.
|Please, Mr. Grant,| said Davie, |may I have a holiday?|
Donal looked at him with a little wonder: the boy had never before made such a request! But he answered him at once.
|Yes, certainly, Davie. But I should like to know what you want it for.|
|Arkie wants very much to have a ride to-day. She says Larkie -- I gave him his name, to rime with Arkie -- she says Larkie will forget her, and she does not wish to go out with Forgue, so she wants me to go with her on my pony.|
|You will take good care of her, Davie?|
|I will take care of her, but you need not be anxious about us, Mr. Grant. Arkie is a splendid rider, and much pluckier than she used to be!|
Donal did, however -- he could not have said why -- feel a little anxiety. He repressed it as unfaithfulness, but it kept returning. He could not go with them -- there was no horse for him, and to go on foot, would, he feared, spoil their ride. He was so much afraid also of presuming on lady Arctura's regard for him, that he would have shrunk from offering had it been more feasible. He got a book, and strolled into the park, not even going to see them off: Forgue might be about the stable, and make things unpleasant!
Had Forgue been about the stable, he would, I think, have somehow managed to prevent the ride, for Larkie, though much better, was not yet cured of his lameness. Arctura did not know he had been lame, or that he had therefore been very little exercised, and was now rather wild, with a pastern-joint far from equal to his spirit. There was but a boy about the stable, who either did not understand, or was afraid to speak: she rode in a danger of which she knew nothing. The consequence was that, jumping the merest little ditch in a field outside the park, they had a fall. The horse got up and trotted limping to the stable; his mistress lay where she fell. Davie, wild with misery, galloped home. From the height of the park Donal saw him tearing along, and knew something was amiss. He ran, got over the wall, found the pony's track, and following it, came where Arctura lay.
There was a little clear water in the ditch: he wet his handkerchief, and bathed her face. She came to herself, opened her eyes with a faint smile, and tried to raise herself, but fell back helpless, and closed her eyes again.
|I believe I am hurt!| she murmurmed. |I think Larkie must have fallen!|
Donal would have carried her, but she moaned so, that he gave up the idea at once. Davie was gone for help; it would be better to wait! He pulled off his coat and laid it over her, then kneeling, raised her head a little from the damp ground upon his arm. She let him do as he pleased, but did not open her eyes.
They had not long to wait. Several came running, among them lord Forgue. He fell beside his cousin on his knees, and took her hand in his. She neither moved nor spoke. As instead of doing anything he merely persisted in claiming her attention, Donal saw it was for him to give orders.
|My lady is much hurt,| he said: |one of you go at once for the doctor; the others bring a hand-barrow -- I know there is one about the place. Lay the squab of a sofa on it, and make haste. Let mistress Brookes know.|
|Mind your own business,| said Forgue.
|Do as Mr. Grant tells you,| said lady Arctura, without opening her eyes.
The men departed running. Forgue rose from his knees, and walked slowly to a little distance, where he stood gnawing his lip.
|My lord,| said Donal, |please run and fetch a little brandy for her ladyship. She has fainted.|
What could Forgue do but obey! He started at once, and with tolerable speed. Then Arctura opened her eyes, and smiled.
|Are you suffering much, my lady?| asked Donal.
|A good deal,| she answered, |but I don't mind it. -- Thank you for not leaving me. -- It is no more than I can bear, only bad when I try to move.|
|They will not be long now,| he said.
Again she closed her eyes, and was silent. Donal watched the sweet face, which a cloud of suffering would every now and then cross, and lifted up his heart to the saviour of men.
He saw them coming with the extemporized litter, behind them mistress Brookes, with Forgue and one of the maids.
When she came up, she addressed herself in silence to Donal. He told her he feared her ladyship's spine was hurt, After his direction she put her hands under her and the maid took her feet, while he, placing his other arm under her shoulders, and gently rising, raised her body. Being all strong and gentle, they managed the moving well, and laid her slowly on the litter. Except a moan or two, and a gathering of the brows, she gave no sign of suffering; nothing to be called a cry escaped her.
Donal at the head and a groom at the foot, lifted the litter, and with ordered step, started for the house. Once or twice she opened her eyes and looked up at Donal, then, as if satisfied, closed them again. Before they reach the house the doctor met them, for they had to walk slowly.
Forgue came behind in a devilish humour. He knew that first his ill usage of Larkie, and then his preventing anything being said about it, must have been the cause of the accident; but he felt with some satisfaction -- for self simply makes devils of us -- that if she had not refused to go out with him, it would not have happened; he would not have allowed her to mount Larkie. |Served her right!| he caught himself saying once, and was ashamed -- but presently said it again. Self is as full of worms as it can hold; God deliver us from it!