That same evening, about an hour before sunset, Arthur Stanley, overpowered by the heat, and exhausted with some fatiguing military duties, hastily unbuckled his sword, flung it carelessly from him, and, drinking off a large goblet of wine, which, as usual, stood ready for him on his table, threw himself on his couch, and sunk into a slumber so profound that he scarcely seemed to breathe. How he had passed the interval which had elapsed since his interview with Marie and her husband, he scarcely knew himself. His military duties were performed mechanically, a mission for the king to Toledo successfully accomplished; but he himself was conscious only of one engrossing thought, which no cooling and gentler temper had yet come to subdue. It was a relief to acquit Marie of intentional falsehood—a relief to have some imaginary object on which to vent bitterness and anger; and headstrong and violent without control or guide, when his passions were concerned, he encouraged every angry feeling against Morales, caring neither to define nor subdue them, till the longing to meet him in deadly combat, and the how to do so, became the sole and dangerous occupation of heart and mind.
Stanley’s heavy and unnatural sleep had lasted some hours, when he was suddenly and painfully awakened by so loud and long a peal of thunder that the very house seemed to rock and shake with the vibration. He started up on his couch; but darkness was around him so dense that he could not distinguish a single object. This sleep had been unrefreshing, and so heavy an oppression rested on his chest, that he felt as if confined in a close cage of iron. He waved his arms to feel if he were indeed at liberty. He moved in free air, but the darkness seemed to suffocate him; and springing up, he groped his way to the window, and flung it open. Feverish and restless, the very excitement of the night seemed to urge him forth, thus to disperse the oppressive weight within. A flash of lightning playing on the polished sheath of his sword, he secured it to his side, and threw his mantle over his shoulders. As he did so his hand came in contact with the upper part of the sheath, from which the hilt should have projected; but, to his astonishment and alarm, no hilt was there—the sheath was empty.