Day by day through September into October, news came from Castle Raa by secret channels. Morning by morning, Doctor Conrad was sent for to see my mother. Never had the sun looked down on a more gruesome spectacle. It was a race between the angel of death and the angel of life, with my father’s masterful soul between, struggling to keep back the one and to hasten on the other.
My father’s impatience affected everybody about him. Especially it communicated itself to the person chiefly concerned. The result was just what might have been expected. My mother was brought to bed prematurely, a full month before her time.
By six o’clock the wind had risen to the force of a hurricane. The last of the withered leaves of the trees in the drive had fallen and the bare branches were beating together like bundles of rods. The sea was louder than ever, and the bell on St. Mary’s Rock, a mile away from the shore, was tolling like a knell under the surging of the waves. Sometimes the clashing of the rain against the window-panes was like the wash of billows over the port-holes of a ship at sea.
“Pity for the poor folk with their fireworks,” said Father Dan.
“They’ll eat their suppers for all that,” said my father.
It was now dark, but my father would not allow the lamps to be lighted. There was therefore no light in his gaunt room except a sullen glow from the fire of peat and logs. Sometimes, in a momentary lull of the storm, an intermittent moan would come from the room above, followed by a dull hum of voices.
“Guess it can’t be long now,” my father would say.
“Praise the Lord,” Father Dan would answer.
By seven the storm was at its height. The roaring of the wind in the wide chimney was as loud as thunder. Save for this the thunderous noise of the sea served to drown all sounds on the land. Nevertheless, in the midst of the clamour a loud rapping was heard at the front door. One of the maid-servants would have answered it, but my father called her back and, taking up a lantern, went to the door himself. As quietly as he could for the rush of wind without, he opened it, and pulling it after him, he stepped into the porch.
A man in livery was there on horseback, with another saddled horse beside him. He was drenched through, but steaming with sweat as if he had ridden long and hard. Shouting above the roar of the storm, he said:
“Doctor Conrad is here, is he?”
“He is—what of it?” said my father.
“Tell him he’s wanted and must come away with me at once.”
“Who says he must?”
“Lord Raa. His lordship is dangerously ill. He wishes to see the doctor immediately.”
I think my father must then have gone through a moment of fierce conflict between his desire to keep the old lord alive and his hope of the immediate birth of his offspring. But his choice was quickly made.