"Who;--I. Oh, yes, indeed. What I saw of him I liked very much."
"Isn't it a pity that he shouldn't have been the elder?"
"I can't say that, Mr. Neville."
"No. It wouldn't be just civil to me. But I can say it. When we were here last winter I thought that my brother was--"
"Was what, Mr Neville?"
"Was getting to be very fond of you. Perhaps I ought not to say so."
"I don't think that much good is ever done by saying that kind of thing," said Miss Mellerby gravely.
"It cannot at any rate do any harm in this case. I wish with all my heart that he was fond of you and you of him."
"That is all nonsense. Indeed it is."
"I am not saying it without an object. I don't see why you and I should not understand one another. If I tell you a secret will you keep it?"
"Do not tell me any secret that I must keep from Lady Scroope."
"But that is just what you must do."
"But then suppose I don't do it," said Miss Mellerby.
But Fred was determined to tell his secret. "The truth is that both my uncle and my aunt want me to fall in love with you."
"How very kind of them," said she with a little forced laugh.
"I don't for a moment think that, had I tried it on ever so, I could have succeeded. I am not at all the sort of man to be conceited in that way. Wishing to do the best they could for me, they picked you out. It isn't that I don't think as well of you as they do, but--"
"Really, Mr. Neville, this is the oddest conversation."
"Quite true. It is odd. But the fact is you are here, and there is nobody else I can talk to. And I want you to know the exact truth. I'm engaged to--somebody else."
"I ought to break my heart;--oughtn't I?"
"I don't in the least mind your laughing at me. I should have minded it very much if I had asked you to marry me, and you had refused me."
"You haven't given me the chance, you see."
"I didn't mean. What was the good?"
"Certainly not, Mr. Neville, if you are engaged to some one else. I shouldn't like to be Number Two."
"I'm in a peck of troubles;--that's the truth. I would change places with my brother to-morrow if I could. I daresay you don't believe that, but I would. I will not vex my uncle if I can help it, but I certainly shall not throw over the girl who loves me. If it wasn't for the title, I'd give up Scroope to my brother to-morrow, and go and live in some place where I could get lots of shooting, and where I should never have to put on a white choker."