David Barclay got up the moment Kirsty was out of the room, dressed himself in haste, swallowed a glass of whiskey, saddled the gray mare, gave her a feed of oats, which she ate the faster that she felt the saddle, and set out for Tiltowie to get the doctor. Threatening as the weather was, he was well on the road before the wind became so full of snow as to cause him any anxiety either for those on the hill or for himself. But after the first moment of anxiety, a very few minutes convinced him that a battle with the elements was at hand more dangerous than he had ever had to fight with armed men. For some distance the road was safe enough as yet, for the storm had not had time to heap up the snow between the bordering hills; but by and by he must come out upon a large tract recovered by slow degrees and great labor from the bog, and be exposed to the full force of the now furious wind where, in many places it would be far easier to wander off than to stay upon a road level with the fields, and bounded not even by a ditch the size of a wheel-track. When he reached the open, therefore, he was compelled to go at a foot-pace through the thick, blinding, bewildering, tempest-driven snow; and was not surprised when, in spite of all his caution, he found, 192 by the sudden sinking and withdrawing of one of his mare's legs with a squelching noise, that he had got astray upon the bog, nor knew any more in what direction the town or other abode of humanity lay. The only thing he did know was the side of the road to which he had turned; and that he knew only by the ground into which he had got: no step farther must in that direction be attempted! His mare seemed to know this as well as himself, for when she had pulled her leg out, she drew back a pace, and stood; whereupon David cast a knot on the reins, threw them on her neck, and told her to go where she pleased. She turned half round and started at once, feeling her way at first very carefully. Then she walked slowly on, with her head hanging low. Again and again she stopped and snuffed, diverged a little, and went on.

The wind was packed rather than charged with snow. Men said there never was a wind of the strength with so much snow in it. David began to despair of ever finding the road again, and naturally in such strait thought how much worse would Kirsty and Steenie be faring on the open hill-side. His wife, he knew, could not have started before the storm rose to tempest, and would delay her departure. Then came the reflection, how little at any time could a father do for the well-being of his children! The fact of their being children implied their need of an all-powerful father: must there not then be such a father? Therewith the truth dawned upon him, that first of truths, which all his church-going and Bible-reading had hitherto failed to disclose, that, for life to be a good thing and worth living, a 193 man must be the child of a perfect Father, and know him. In his terrible perturbation about his children, he lifted up his heart — not to the Governor of the world; not to the God of Abraham or Moses; not in the least to the God of the Kirk; least of all to the God of the Shorter Catechism; but to the faithful creator and Father of David Barclay. The aching soul which none but a perfect Father could have created capable of deploring its own fatherly imperfection, cried out to the Father of fathers on behalf of his children, and as he cried, a peace came stealing over him such as he had never before felt.

Then he knew that his mare had been for some time on hard ground, and was going with purpose in her gentle trot. In five minutes more, he saw the glimmer of a light through the snow. Near as it was, or he could not have seen it, he failed repeatedly in finding his way to it. The mare at length fell over a stone wall out of sight in the snow, and when they got up they found themselves in a little garden at the end of a farm-house. Not, however, until the farmer came to the door, wondering who on such a morning could be their visitor, did he know to what farm the mare had brought him. Weary, and well aware that no doctor in his senses would set out for the top of the Horn in such a tempest of black and white, he gratefully accepted the shelter and refreshment of which his mare and he stood by this time in much need, and waited for a lull in the storm.

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