Three or four days after writing his letter to Kate O'Hara, the Earl told his aunt that he must return to Ireland, and he named the day on which he would leave Scroope. "I did not think that you would go back there," she said. He could see by the look of her face and by the anxious glance of her eye that she had in her heart the fear of Kate O'Hara,--as he had also.
"I must return. I came away at a moment's notice."
"But you have written about leaving the regiment."
"Yes;--I have done that. In the peculiar circumstances I don't suppose they will want me to serve again. Indeed I've had a letter, just a private note, from one of the fellows at the Horse Guards explaining all that."
"I don't see why you should go at all;--indeed I do not."
"What am I to do about my things? I owe some money. I've got three or four horses there. My very clothes are all about just as I left them when I came away."
"Any body can manage all that. Give the horses away."
"I had rather not give away my horses," he said laughing. "The fact is I must go." She could urge nothing more to him on that occasion. She did not then mention the existence of Kate O'Hara. But he knew well that she was thinking of the girl, and he knew also that the activity of Lady Mary Quin had not slackened. But his aunt, he thought, was more afraid of him now that he was the Earl than she had been when he was only the heir; and it might be that this feeling would save him from the mention of Kate O'Hara's name.
To some extent the dowager was afraid of her nephew. She knew at least that the young man was all-powerful and might act altogether as he listed. In whatever she might say she could not now be supported by the authority of the Lord of Scroope. He himself was lord of Scroope; and were he to tell her simply to hold her tongue and mind her own business she could only submit. But she was not the woman to allow any sense of fear, or any solicitude as to the respect due to herself, to stand in the way of the performance of a duty. It may be declared on her behalf that had it been in her nephew's power to order her head off in punishment for her interference, she would still have spoken had she conceived it to be right to speak.