Nevertheless when he saw Kate coming along the cliffs to meet him, the one thing more certain to him than all other things was that he would never abandon her. She had been watching for him almost from the hour at which he had said that he would leave Ennis, and, creeping up among the rocks, had seen his boat as it came round the point from Liscannor. She had first thought that she would climb down the path to meet him; but the tide was high and there was now no strip of strand below the cliffs; and Barney Morony would have been there to see; and she resolved that it would be nicer to wait for him on the summit. "Oh Fred, you have come back," she said, throwing herself on his breast.
"Yes; I am back. Did you think I was going to desert you?"
"No; no. I knew you would not desert me. Oh, my darling!"
"Dear Kate;--dearest Kate."
"You have thought of me sometimes?"
"I have thought of you always,--every hour." And so he swore to her that she was as much to him as he could possibly be to her. She hung on his arm as she went down to the cottage, and believed herself to be the happiest and most fortunate girl in Ireland. As yet no touch of the sorrows of love had fallen upon her.
He could not all at once ask her as to that rumour which Morony had mentioned to him. But he thought of it as he walked with his arm round her waist. Some question must be asked, but it might, perhaps, be better that he should ask it of the mother. Mrs. O'Hara was at the cottage and seemed almost as glad to see him as Kate had been. "It is very pleasant to have you back again," she said. "Kate has been counting first the hours, and then the minutes."
"And so have you, mother."
"Of course we want to hear all the news," said Mrs. O'Hara. Then Neville, with the girl who was to be his wife sitting close beside him on the sofa,--almost within his embrace,--told them how things were going at Scroope. His uncle was very weak,--evidently failing; but still so much better as to justify the heir in coming away. He might perhaps live for another twelve months, but the doctors thought it hardly possible that he should last longer than that. Then the nephew went on to say that his uncle was the best and most generous man in the world,--and the finest gentleman and the truest Christian. He told also of the tenants who were not to be harassed, and the servants who were not to be dismissed, and the horses that were to be allowed to die in their beds, and the trees that were not to be cut down.