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Aunt Jane's Nieces

But perhaps his conscience pricked him a bit, after all,

for he added the words: 'I shall expect you to look after the welfare

of my only relative, my sister. Katherine Bradley--or any of her

heirs.' It appears to me, Miss Jane, that that is a distinct

obligation. The boy is now sixteen and as fine a fellow as one often

meets."

"Bah! An imbecile--an awkward, ill-mannered brat who is only fit for a

stable-boy! I know him, Silas, and I know he'll never amount to a hill

of beans. Leave _him_ my money? Not if I hadn't a relative on earth!"

"You misjudge him, Jane. Kenneth is all right if you'll treat him

decently. But he won't stand your abuse and I don't think the less of

him for that."

"Why abuse? Haven't I given him a home and an education, all because

Thomas asked me to look after his relatives? And he's been rebellious

and pig-headed and sullen in return for my kindness, so naturally

there's little love lost between us."

"You resented your one obligation, Jane; and although you fulfilled it

to the letter you did not in the spirit of Tom Bradley's request. I

don't blame the boy for not liking you."

"Sir!"

"All right, Jane; fly at me if you will," said the little man, with a

smile; "but I intend to tell you frankly what I think of your actions,

just as long as we remain friends."

Her stern brows unbent a trifle.

"That's why we are friends, Silas; and it's useless to quarrel with

you now that I'm on my last legs. A few days more will end me, I'm

positive; so bear with me a little longer, my friend."

He took her withered hand in his and kissed it gently.

"You're not so very bad, Jane," said he, "and I'm almost sure you

will be with us for a long time to come. But you're more nervous and

irritable than usual, I'll admit, and I fear this invasion of your

nieces won't be good for you. Are they really coming?"

"Two of them are, I'm sure, for they've accepted my invitation," she

replied.

"Here's a letter that just arrived," he said, taking it from his

pocket. "Perhaps it contains news from the third niece.

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