HE had been at home about ten days, during which not a word had come to Davie or himself from the castle, and was beginning to grow, not perhaps anxious, but hungry for news of lady Arctura, when from a sound sleep he started suddenly awake one midnight to find his mother by his bedside: she had roused him with difficulty.
|Laddie,| she said, |I'm thinkin ye're wantit.|
|Whaur am I wantit, mother?| he asked, rubbing his eyes, but with anxiety already throbbing at his heart.
|At the castle,| she replied.
|Hoo ken ye that?| he asked.
|It wad be ill tellin' ye,| she answered. |But gien I was you, Donal, I wad be aff afore the day brak, to see what they're duin' wi' yon puir leddy at the muckle place ye left. My hert's that sair aboot her, I canna rest a moment till I hae ye awa' upo' the ro'd til her!|
Long before his mother had ended, Donal was out of bed, and hurrying on his clothes. He had the profoundest faith in whatever his mother said. Was it a vision she had had? He had never been told she had the second sight! It might have been only a dream, or an impression so deep she must heed it! One thing was plain: there was no time to ask questions! It was enough that his mother said |Go;| more than enough that it was for lady Arctura! How quickest could he go? There were horses at sir Gibbie's: he would make free with one! He put a crust of bread in his pocket, and set out running. There was a little moonlight, enough for one who knew every foot of the way; and in half an hour of swift descent, he was at the stable door of Glashruach.
Finding himself unable to rouse anyone, he crept through a way he knew, opened the door, without a moment's hesitation saddled and bridled sir Gibbie's favourite mare, led her out, and mounted her.
Safe in the saddle, with four legs busy under him, he had time to think, and began to turn over in his mind what he must do. But he soon saw there was no planning anything till he knew what was the matter -- of which he had dreadful forebodings. His imagination started and spurred by fear, he thought of many dread possibilities concerning which he wondered that he had never thought of them before: if he had he could not have left the castle! What might not a man in the mental and moral condition of the earl, unrestrained by law or conscience, risk to secure the property for his son? Might he not poison her, smother her, kill her somehow, anyhow that was safest? Then rushed into his mind what the housekeeper had told him of his cruelty to his wife: a man like that, no longer feeling, however knowing the difference between right and wrong, hardly knowing the difference between dreaming a thing and doing the thing, was no fitter member of a family than any devil in or out of hell! He would have blamed himself bitterly had he not been sure he was not following his own will in going away. If there were a better way it had not been intended he should take it, else it would have been shown him! But now he would be restrained by no delicacy towards the earl: whatever his hand found to do he would do, regardless of appearances! If he could not reach lady Arctura, he would seek the help of the law, tell what he knew, and get a warrant of search. He dared not think what he dreaded, but he would trust nothing but seeing her with his own eyes, and hearing from her own mouth that all was well -- which could not be, else why should his mother have sent him to her? Doubtless the way would unfold before him as he went on; but if everything should seem to go against him, he would yet say with sir Philip Sidney that, |since a man is bound no farther to himself than to do wisely, chance is only to trouble them that stand upon chance.| If his plans or attempts should one after the other fail, |there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will|! So he rode on, careful over his mare, lest much haste should be little speed. The animal was strong and in good condition, and by the time Donal had seen the sun rise, ascend the heavens, and go half-way down their western slope, and had stopped three times to refresh the mare, he found himself, after much climbing and descent, on a good level road that promised by nightfall to bring him to the place of his desire.
But the mare was now getting tired, and no wonder, for she had had more than a hard day's work. Donal dismounted every now and then to relieve her, that he might go the faster when he mounted again, comforting himself that in the true path the delays are as important as the speed; for the hour is the point, not the swiftness: an hour too soon may even be more disastrous than an hour too late! He would arrive at the right time for him whose ways are not as our ways inasmuch as they are greatly better! The sun went down and the stars came out, and the long twilight began. But before he was a mile farther he became aware that the sky had clouded over, the stars had vanished, and rain was at hand. The day had been sultry, and relief was come. Lightning flamed out, and darkness full of thunder followed. The storm was drawing nearer, but his mare, though young and high-spirited, was too weary to be frightened; the rain refreshed both, and they made a little more speed. But it was dark night, with now grumbling now raging storm, before they came where, had it been light, Donal would have looked to see the castle.