There was nothing more now to be said to the heir;--nothing more for the present that could serve the purpose which she had in hand. "Your uncle is very ill," she murmured.

"I was so sorry to hear it."

"We hope now that he may recover. For the last two days the doctor has told us that we may hope."

"I am so glad to find that it is so."

"I am sure you are. You will see him to-morrow after breakfast. He is most anxious to see you. I think sometimes you hardly reflect how much you are to him."

"I don't know why you should say so."

"You had better not speak to him to-morrow about this affair,--of the Irish young lady."

"Certainly not,--unless he speaks to me about it."

"He is hardly strong enough yet. But no doubt he will do so before you leave us. I hope it may be long before you do that."

"It can't be very long, Aunt Mary." To this she said nothing, but bade him good-night and he was left alone. It was now past ten, and he supposed that Miss Mellerby had come in and gone to her room. Why she should avoid him in this way he could not understand. But as for Miss Mellerby herself, she was so little to him that he cared not at all whether he did or did not see her. All his brightest thoughts were away in County Clare, on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. They might say what they liked to him, but he would never be untrue to the girl whom he had left there. His aunt had spoken of the "affair of--the Irish young lady;" and he had quite understood the sneer with which she had mentioned Kate's nationality. Why should not an Irish girl be as good as any English girl? Of one thing he was quite sure,--that there was much more of real life to be found on the cliffs of Moher than in the gloomy chambers of Scroope Manor.


He got up from his seat feeling absolutely at a loss how to employ himself. Of course he could go to bed, but how terribly dull must life be in a place in which he was obliged to go to bed at ten o'clock because there was nothing to do. And since he had been there his only occupation had been that of listening to his aunt's sermons. He began to think that a man might pay too dearly even for being the heir to Scroope. After sitting awhile in the dark gloom created by a pair of candles, he got up and wandered into the large unused dining-room of the mansion. It was a chamber over forty feet long, with dark flock paper and dark curtains, with dark painted wainscoating below the paper, and huge dark mahogany furniture. On the walls hung the portraits of the Scroopes for many generations past, some in armour, some in their robes of state, ladies with stiff bodices and high head-dresses, not beauties by Lely or warriors and statesmen by Kneller, but wooden, stiff, ungainly, hideous figures, by artists whose works had, unfortunately, been more enduring than their names. He was pacing up and down the room with a candle in his hand, trying to realize to himself what life at Scroope might be with a wife of his aunt's choosing, and his aunt to keep the house for them, when a door was opened at the end of the room, away from that by which he had entered, and with a soft noiseless step Miss Mellerby entered. She did not see him at first, as the light of her own candle was in her eyes, and she was startled when he spoke to her. His first idea was one of surprise that she should be wandering about the house alone at night. "Oh, Mr. Neville," she said, "you quite took me by surprise. How do you do? I did not expect to meet you here."

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