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Aunt Jane's Nieces

"It's the first warning," said he; "but nothing to be frightened

about. That is, for the present."

"Is it paralysis?" asked Jane Merrick.

"Yes; a slight stroke."

"But I'll have another?"

"Perhaps, in time."

"How long?"

"It may be a week--or a month--or a year. Sometimes there is

never another stroke. Don't worry, ma'am. Just lie still and be

comfortable."

"Huh!" grunted the old woman. But she became more composed and obeyed

the doctor's instructions with unwonted meekness. Silas Watson arrived

during the forenoon, and pressed her thin hand with real sympathy,

for these two were friends despite the great difference in their

temperaments.

"Shall I draw your will, Jane?" he asked. "No!" she snapped. "I'm not

going to die just yet, I assure you. I shall live to carry out my

plans, Silas."

She did live, and grew better as the days wore on, although she never

recovered the use of the paralyzed limb.

Each day Phibbs drew the invalid chair to the porch and old James

lifted it to the garden walk, where his mistress might enjoy the

flowers he so carefully and skillfully tended. They seldom spoke

together, these two; yet there seemed a strange bond of sympathy

between them.

At last the first of July arrived, and Oscar was dispatched to the

railway station, four miles distant, to meet Miss Elizabeth De

Graf, the first of the nieces to appear in answer to Jane Merrick's

invitation.

Beth looked very charming and fresh in her new gown, and she greeted

her aunt with a calm graciousness that would have amazed the professor

to behold. She had observed carefully the grandeur and beauty of

Elmhurst, as she drove through the grounds, and instantly decided the

place was worth an effort to win.

"So, this is Elizabeth, is it?" asked Aunt June, as the girl stood

before her for inspection. "You may kiss me, child."

Elizabeth advanced, striving to quell the antipathy she felt to kiss

the stern featured, old woman, and touched her lips to the wrinkled

forehead.

Jane Merrick laughed, a bit sneeringly, while Beth drew back, still

composed, and looked at her relative enquiringly.

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