The Doctor took advantage of this admission. 'I didn't come to see you for your pleasure; I came to make you say disagreeable things- and you can't like that. What sort of gentleman is your brother?'

Mrs Montgomery's illuminated gaze grew vague, and began to wander. She smiled a little, and for some time made no answer, so that the Doctor at last became impatient. And her answer, when it came, was not satisfactory. 'It is difficult to talk about one's brother.'

'Not when one is fond of him, and when one has plenty of good to say.'

'Yes, even then, when a good deal depends on it,' said Mn Montgomery.

'Nothing depends on it for you.' 'I mean for - for - , and she hesitated. 'For your brother himself. I see.'

'I mean for Miss Sloper,' said Mrs Montgomery.

The Doctor liked this; it had the accent of sincerity. 'Exactly; that's the point. If my poor girl should marry your brother, everything - as regards her happiness - would depend on his being a good fellow. She is the best creature in the world, and she could never do him a grain of injury. He, on the other hand, if he should not be all that we desire, might make her very miserable. That is why I want you to throw some light upon his character, you know. Of course, you are not bound to do it. My daughter, whom you have never seen, is nothing to you; and I, possibly, am only an indiscreet and impertinent old man. It is perfectly open to you to tell me that my visit is in very bad taste, and that I had better go about my business. But I don't think you will do this; because I think we shall interest you - my poor girl and I. I am sure that if you were to see Catherine she would interest you very much. I don't mean because she is interesting in the usual sense of the word, but because you would feel sorry for her. She is so soft, so simple-minded, she would be such an easy victim! A bad husband would have remarkable facilities for making her miserable; for she would have neither the intelligence nor the resolution to get the better of him, and yet she would have an exaggerated power of suffocating. I see,' added the Doctor, with his most insinuating, his most professional laugh, 'you are already interested.'

'I have been interested from the moment he told me he was engaged,' said Mrs Montgomery.

'Ah? he says that - he calls it an engagement?'

'Oh, he has told me you didn't like it.'

'Did he tell you that I don't like him?'

'Yes, he told me that too. I said I couldn't help it,' added Mrs Montgomery.

'Of course you can't. But what you can do is to tell me I am right - to give me an attestation, as it were.' And the Doctor accompanied this remark with another professional smile.

Mrs Montgomery, however, smiled not at all; it was obvious that she could not take the humorous view of his appeal. 'That is a good deal to ask,' she said, at last.

'There can be no doubt of that; and I must, in conscience, remind you of the advantages a young man marrying my daughter would enjoy. She has an income of ten thousand dollars in her own right, left her by her mother; if she marries a husband I approve, she will come into almost twice as much more at my death.'

Mrs Montgomery listened in great earnestness to this splendid financial statement; she had never heard thousands of dollars so familiarly talked about. She flushed a little with excitement. 'Your daughter will be immensely rich,' she said, softly.

'Precisely - that's the bother of it.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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