As he was returning to Ennis Neville was so far removed from immediate distress as to be able to look forward without fear to his meeting with the two ladies at Ardkill. He could as yet take his Kate in his arms without any hard load upon his heart, such as would be there if he knew that it was incumbent upon him at once to explain his difficulties. His uncle was still living, but was old and still ill. He would naturally make the most of the old man's age and infirmities. There was every reason why they should wait, and no reason why such waiting should bring reproaches upon his head. On the night of his arrival at his quarters he despatched a note to his Kate.

Dearest love.

Here I am again in the land of freedom and potatoes. I need not trouble you with writing about home news, as I shall see you the day after to-morrow. All to-morrow and Wednesday morning I must stick close to my guns here. After one on Wednesday I shall be free. I will drive over to Lahinch, and come round in the boat. I must come back here the same night, but I suppose it will be the next morning before I get to bed. I sha'n't mind that if I get something for my pains. My love to your mother.

Your own, F. N.

In accordance with this plan he did drive over to Lahinch. He might have saved time by directing that his boat should come across the bay to meet him at Liscannor, but he felt that he would prefer not to meet Father Marty at present. It might be that before long he would be driven to tell the priest a good deal, and to ask for the priest's assistance; but at present he was not anxious to see Father Marty. Barney Morony was waiting for him at the stable where he put up his horse, and went down with him to the beach. The ladies, according to Barney, were quite well and more winsome than ever. But,--and this information was not given without much delay and great beating about the bush,--there was a rumour about Liscannor that Captain O'Hara had "turned up." Fred was so startled at this that he could not refrain from showing his anxiety by the questions which he asked. Barney did not seem to think that the Captain had been at Ardkill or anywhere in the neighbourhood. At any rate he, Barney, had not seen him. He had just heard the rumour. "Shure, Captain, I wouldn't be telling yer honour a lie; and they do be saying that the Captain one time was as fine a man as a woman ever sot eyes on;--and why not, seeing what kind the young lady is, God bless her!" If it were true that Kate's father had "turned up," such an advent might very naturally alter Neville's plans. It would so change the position of things as to relieve him in some degree from the force of his past promises.

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