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Aunt Jane's Nieces

Isn't that the explanation?"

"I don't know."

"The girls need not worry you, Kenneth. It will be easy for you to

keep out of their way."

"When will they come?"

"Next week, I believe."

The boy looked around helplessly, with the air of a caged tiger.

"Perhaps they won't know I'm here," he said.

"Perhaps not. I'll tell Misery to bring all your meals to this room,

and no one ever comes to this end of the garden. But if they find you,

Kenneth, and scare you out of your den, run over to me, and I'll keep

you safe until the girls are gone."

"Thank you, Mr. Watson," more graciously than was his wont. "It isn't

that I'm afraid of girls, you know; but they may want to insult me,

just as their aunt does, and I couldn't bear any more cruelty."

"I know nothing about them," said the lawyer, "so I can't vouch in any

way for Aunt Jane's nieces. But they are young, and it is probable

they'll be as shy and uncomfortable here at Elmhurst as you are

yourself. And after all, Kenneth boy, the most important thing just

now is your own future. What in the world is to become of you?"

"Oh, _that_," answered the boy, relapsing into his sullen mood; "I

can't see that it matters much one way or another. Anyhow, I'll not

bother my head about it until the time comes and as far as you're

concerned, it's none of your business."

CHAPTER VII.

THE FIRST WARNING.

For a day or two Jane Merrick seemed to improve in health. Indeed,

Martha Phibbs declared her mistress was better than she had been for

weeks. Then, one night, the old attendant was awakened by a scream,

and rushed to her mistress' side.

"What is it, ma'am?" she asked, tremblingly.

"My leg! I can't move my leg," gasped the mistress of Elmhurst. "Rub

it, you old fool! Rub it till you drop, and see if you can bring back

the life to it."

Martha rubbed, of course, but the task was useless. Oscar the groom

was sent on horseback for the nearest doctor, who came just as day

was breaking. He gave the old woman a brief examination and shook his

head.

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