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Aunt Jane's Nieces




Leaving the mistress of Elmhurst among her flowers, Silas Watson

walked slowly and thoughtfully along the paths until he reached the

extreme left wing of the rambling old mansion. Here, half hidden by

tangled vines of climbing roses, he came to a flight of steps leading

to an iron-railed balcony, and beyond this was a narrow stairway to

the rooms in the upper part of the wing.

Miss Merrick, however ungenerous she might have been to others, had

always maintained Elmhurst in a fairly lavish manner. There were

plenty of servants to look after the house and gardens, and there were

good horses in the stables. Whenever her health permitted she dined in

state each evening in the great dining-room, solitary and dignified,

unless on rare occasions her one familiar, Silas Watson, occupied the

seat opposite her. "The boy," as he was contemptuously called, was

never permitted to enter this room. Indeed, it would be difficult to

define exactly Kenneth Forbes' position at Elmhurst. He had lived

there ever since his mother's death, when, a silent and unattractive

lad of eight, Mr. Watson had brought him to Jane Merrick and insisted

upon her providing a home for Tom Bradley's orphaned nephew.

She accepted the obligation reluctantly enough, giving the child a

small room in the left wing, as far removed from her own apartments as

possible, and transferring all details of his care to Misery Agnew,

the old housekeeper. Misery endeavored to "do her duty" by the boy,

but appreciating the scant courtesy with which he was treated by her

mistress, it is not surprising the old woman regarded him merely as a

dependent and left him mostly to his own devices.

Kenneth, even in his first days at Elmhurst, knew that his presence

was disagreeable to Miss Jane, and as the years dragged on he grew shy

and retiring, longing to break away from his unpleasant surroundings,

but knowing of no other place where he would be more welcome. His only

real friend was the lawyer, who neglected no opportunity to visit the

boy and chat with him, in his cheery manner.

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