In the meantime Kate's letters to him became more and more frequent, more and more sad,--filled ever with still increasing warmth of entreaty. At last they came by every post, though he knew how difficult it must be for her to find daily messengers into Ennistimon. Would he not come and see her? He must come and see her. She was ill and would die unless he came to her. He did not always answer these letters, but he did write to her perhaps twice a week. He would come very soon,--as soon as Johnstone had come back from his fishing. She was not to fret herself. Of course he could not always be at Ardkill. He too had things to trouble him. Then he told her he had received letters from home which caused him very much trouble; and there was a something of sharpness in his words, which brought from her a string of lamentations in which, however, the tears and wailings did not as yet take the form of reproaches. Then there came a short note from Mrs. O'Hara herself. "I must beg that you will come to Ardkill at once. It is absolutely necessary for Kate's safety that you should do so."
When he received this he thought that he would go on the morrow. When the morrow came he determined to postpone the journey another day! The calls of duty are so much less imperious than those of pleasure! On that further day he still meant to go, as he sat about noon unbraced, only. partly dressed in his room at the barracks. His friend Johnstone was back in Ennis, and there was also a Cornet with the troop. He had no excuse whatever on the score of military duty for remaining at home on that day. But he sat idling his time, thinking of things. All the charm of the adventure was gone. He was sick of the canoe and of Barney Morony. He did not care a straw for the seals or wild gulls. The moaning of the ocean beneath the cliff was no longer pleasurable to him,--and as to the moaning at their summit, to tell the truth, he was afraid of it. The long drive thither and back was tedious to him. He thought now more of the respectability of his family than of the beauty of Kate O'Hara.
But still he meant to go,--certainly would go on this very day. He had desired that his gig should be ready, and had sent word to say that he might start at any moment. But still he sat in his dressing-gown at noon, unbraced, with a novel in his hand which he could not read, and a pipe by his side which he could not smoke. Close to him on the table lay that record of the life of Captain O'Hara, which his aunt had sent him, every word of which he had now examined for the third or fourth time. Of course he could not marry the girl. Mrs. O'Hara had deceived him. She could not but have known that her husband was a convict;--and had kept the knowledge back from him in order that she might allure him to the marriage. Anything that money could do, he would do. Or, if they would consent, he would take the girl away with him to some sunny distant clime, in which adventures might still be sweet, and would then devote to her--some portion of his time. He had not yet ruined himself, but he would indeed ruin himself were he, the heir to the earldom of Scroope, to marry the daughter of a man who had been at the French galleys! He had just made up his mind that he would be firm in this resolution,--when the door opened and Mrs. O'Hara entered his room. "Mrs. O'Hara."