It was all going from bad to worse. He was allowed by the mother to be at the cottage as much as he pleased, and the girl was allowed to wander with him when she would among the cliffs. It was so, although Father Marty himself had more than once cautioned Mrs. O'Hara that she was imprudent. "What can I do?" she said. "Have not you yourself taught me to believe that he is true?"
"Just spake a word to Miss Kate herself."
"What can I say to her now? She regards him as her husband before God."
"But he is not her husband in any way that would prevent his taking another wife an' he plases. And, believe me, Misthress O'Hara, them sort of young men like a girl a dale better when there's a little 'Stand off' about her."
"It is too late to bid her to be indifferent to him now, Father Marty."
"I am not saying that Miss Kate is to lose her lover. I hope I'll have the binding of 'em together myself, and I'll go bail I'll do it fast enough. In the meanwhile let her keep herself to herself a little more."
The advice was very good, but Mrs. O'Hara knew not how to make use of it. She could tell the young man that she would have his heart's blood if he deceived them, and she could look at him as though she meant to be as good as her word. She had courage enough for any great emergency. But now that the lover had been made free of the cottage she knew not how to debar him. She could not break her Kate's heart by expressing doubts to her. And were he to be told to stay away, would he not be lost to them for ever? Of course he could desert them if he would, and then they must die.
It was going from bad to worse certainly; and not the less so because he was more than ever infatuated about the girl. When he had calculated whether it might be possible to desert her he had been at Scroope. He was in County Clare now, and he did not hesitate to tell himself that it was impossible. Whatever might happen, and to whomever he might be false,--he would be true to her. He would at any rate be so true to her that he would not leave her. If he never made her his legal wife, his wife legal at all points, he would always treat her as wife. When his uncle the Earl should die, when the time came in which he would be absolutely free as to his own motions, he would discover the way in which this might best be done. If it were true that his Kate's father was a convict escaped from the galleys, that surely would be an additional reason why she should not be made Countess of Scroope. Even Mrs. O'Hara herself must understand that. With Kate, with his own Kate, he thought that there would be no difficulty.