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Aunt Jane's Nieces


"Except Kenneth," said a soft voice behind her.

Jane Merrick gave a start at the interruption and turned red and angry

as, without looking around, she answered:

"Stuff and nonsense! I know my duties and my business, Silas Watson."

"To be sure," said a little, withered man, passing around the chair

and facing the old woman with an humble, deprecating air. He was

clothed in black, and his smooth-shaven, deeply lined face was

pleasant of expression and not without power and shrewd intelligence.

The eyes, however, were concealed by heavy-rimmed spectacles, and his

manner was somewhat shy and reserved. However, he did not hesitate to

speak frankly to his old friend, nor minded in the least if he aroused

her ire.

"No one knows better than you, dear Miss Jane, her duties and

obligations; and no one performs them more religiously. But your

recent acts, I confess, puzzle me. Why should you choose from a lot

of inexperienced, incompetent girls a successor to Thomas Bradley's

fortune, when he especially requested you in his will to look after

any of his relatives, should they need assistance? Kenneth Forbes, his

own nephew, was born after Tom's death, to be sure; but he is alone in

the world now, an orphan, and has had no advantages to help him along

in life since his mother's death eight years ago. I think Tom Bradley

must have had a premonition of what was to come even though his sister

was not married at the time of his death, and I am sure he would want

you to help Kenneth now."

"He placed me under no obligations to leave the boy any money,"

snapped the old woman, white with suppressed wrath, "you know that

well enough, Silas Watson, for you drew up the will."

The old gentleman slowly drew a pattern upon the gravelled walk with

the end of his walking-stick.

"Yes, I drew up the will," he said, deliberately, "and I remember that

he gave to you, his betrothed bride, all that he possessed--gave it

gladly and lovingly, and without reserve. He was very fond of you,

Miss Jane.

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