"I do mean a good deal."

"Then I don't believe a word of it. It's quite out of the question. It's impossible. I'm quite sure your brother understands his position as a gentleman too thoroughly to dream of such a thing."

This was Greek to Fred Neville. Why his brother should not fall in love with a pretty girl, and why a pretty girl should not return the feeling, without any disgrace to his brother, Fred could not understand. His brother was a Neville, and was moreover an uncommonly clever fellow. "Why shouldn't he dream of it?"

"In the first place--. Well! I did think, Fred, that you yourself seemed to be,--seemed to be taken with Miss Mellerby."

"Who? I? Oh, dear no. She's a very nice girl and all that, and I like her amazingly. If she were Jack's wife, I never saw a girl I should so much like for a sister."

"It is quite out of the question. I wonder that you can speak in such a way. What right can your brother have to think of such a girl as Miss Mellerby? He has no position;--no means."

"He is my brother," said Fred, with a little touch of anger,--already discounting his future earldom on his brother's behalf.

"Yes;--he is your brother; but you don't suppose that Mr. Mellerby would give his daughter to an officer in the Engineers who has, as far as I know, no private means whatever."

"He will have,--when my mother dies. Of course I can't speak of doing anything for anybody at present. I may die before my uncle. Nothing is more likely. But then, if I do, Jack would be my uncle's heir."

"I don't believe there's anything in it at all," said Lady Scroope in great dudgeon.


"I dare say not. If there is, they haven't told me. It's not likely they would. But I thought I saw something coming up, and as it seemed to be the most natural thing in the world, I mentioned it. As for me,--Miss Mellerby doesn't care a straw for me. You may be sure of that."

"She would--if you'd ask her."

"But I never shall ask her. What's the use of beating about the bush, aunt? I never shall ask her; and if I did, she wouldn't have me. If you want to make Sophie Mellerby your niece, Jack's your game."

Lady Scroope was ineffably disgusted. To be told that "Jack was her game" was in itself a terrible annoyance to her. But to be so told in reference to such a subject was painful in the extreme. Of course she could not make this young man marry as she wished. She had acknowledged to herself from the first that there could be no cause of anger against him should he not fall into the silken net which was spread for him. Lady Scroope was not an unreasonable woman, and understood well the power which young people have over old people. She knew that she couldn't quarrel with Fred Neville, even if she would. He was the heir, and in a very few years would be the owner of everything. In order to keep him straight, to save him from debts, to protect him from money-lenders, and to secure the family standing and property till he should have made things stable by having a wife and heir of his own, all manner of indulgence must be shown him. She quite understood that such a horse must be ridden with a very light hand. She must put up with slang from him, though she would resent it from any other human being. He must be allowed to smoke in his bed-room, to be late at dinner, to shirk morning prayers,--making her only too happy if he would not shirk Sunday church also. Of course he must choose a bride for himself,--only not a Roman Catholic wild Irish bride of whom nobody knew anything!

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