Mrs. O'Hara had known that he would come, and Kate had known it; and, though it would be unfair to say that they were waiting for him, it is no more than true to say that they were ready for him. "We are so glad to see you again," said Mrs. O'Hara.
"Not more glad than I am to find myself here once more."
"So you dined and slept at Father Marty's last night. What will the grand people say at the Castle?"
"As I sha'n't hear what they say, it won't matter much! Life is not long enough, Mrs. O'Hara, for putting up with disagreeable people."
"Was it pleasant last night?"
"Very pleasant. I don't think Father Creech is half as good as Father Marty, you know."
"Oh no," exclaimed Kate.
"But he's a jolly sort of fellow, too. And there was a Mr. Finucane there,--a very grand fellow."
"We know no one about here but the priests," said Mrs. O'Hara, laughing. "Anybody might think that the cottage was a little convent."
"Then I oughtn't to come."
"Well, no, I suppose not. Only foreigners are admitted to see convents sometimes. You're going after the poor seals again?"
"Barney says the tide is too high for the seals now. We're going to Drumdeirg."
"What,--to those little rocks?" asked Kate.
"Yes,--to the rocks. I wish you'd both come with me."
"I wouldn't go in one of those canoes all out there for the world," said Kate.
"What can be the use of it?" asked Mrs. O'Hara.
"I've got to get the feathers for Father Marty's bed, you know. I haven't shot as many yet as would make a pillow for a cradle."
"The poor innocent gulls!"
"The poor innocent chickens and ducks, if you come to that, Miss O'Hara."
"But they're of use."
"And so will Father Marty's feather bed be of use. Good-bye, Mrs. O'Hara. Good-bye, Miss O'Hara. I shall be down again next week, and we'll have that other seal."
There was nothing in this. So far, at any rate, he had not broken his word to the priest. He had not spoken a word to Kate O'Hara that might not and would not have been said had the priest been present. But how lovely she was; and what a thrill ran through his arm as he held her hand in his for a moment. Where should he find a girl like that in England with such colour, such eyes, such hair, such innocence,--and then with so sweet a voice?
As he hurried down the hill to the beach at Coolroone, where Morony was to meet him with the boat, he could not keep himself from comparisons between Kate O'Hara and Sophie Mellerby. No doubt his comparisons were made very incorrectly,--and unfairly; but they were all in favour of the girl who lived out of the world in solitude on the cliffs of Moher. And why should he not be free to seek a wife where he pleased? In such an affair as that,--an affair of love in which the heart and the heart alone should be consulted, what right could any man have to dictate to him? Certain ideas occurred to him which his friends in England would have called wild, democratic, revolutionary and damnable, but which, owing perhaps to the Irish air and the Irish whiskey and the spirit of adventure fostered by the vicinity of rocks and ocean, appeared to him at the moment to be not only charming but reasonable also. No doubt he was born to high state and great rank, but nothing that his rank and state could give him was so sweet as his liberty. To be free to choose for himself in all things, was the highest privilege of man. What pleasure could he have in a love which should be selected for him by such a woman as his aunt? Then he gave the reins to some confused notion of an Irish bride, a wife who should be half a wife and half not,--whom he would love and cherish tenderly but of whose existence no English friend should be aware. How could he more charmingly indulge his spirit of adventure than by some such arrangement as this?