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Aunt Jane's Nieces

"Well, what do you think of me?" demanded Aunt Jane, as if embarrassed

at the scrutiny she received.

"Surely, it is too early to ask me that," replied Beth, gently. "I am

going to try to like you, and my first sight of my new aunt leads me

to hope I shall succeed."

"Why shouldn't you like me?" cried the old woman. "Why must you try to

like your mother's sister?"

Beth flushed. She had promised herself not to become angry or

discomposed, whatever her aunt might say or do; but before she could

control herself an indignant expression flashed across her face and

Jane Merrick saw it.

"There are reasons," said Beth, slowly, "why your name is seldom

mentioned in my father's family. Until your letter came I scarcely

knew I possessed an aunt. It was your desire we should become better

acquainted, and I am here for that purpose. I hope we shall become

friends, Aunt Jane, but until then, it is better we should not discuss

the past."

The woman frowned. It was not difficult for her to read the character

of the child before her, and she knew intuitively that Beth was

strongly prejudiced against her, but was honestly trying not to allow

that prejudice to influence her. She decided to postpone further

interrogations until another time.

"Your journey has tired you," she said abruptly. "I'll have Misery

show you to your room."

She touched a bell beside her.

"I'm not tired, but I'll go to my room, if you please," answered Beth,

who realized that she had in some way failed to make as favorable an

impression as she had hoped. "When may I see you again?"

"When I send for you," snapped Aunt Jane, as the housekeeper entered.

"I suppose you know I am a paralytic, and liable to die at any time?"

"I am very sorry," said Beth, hesitatingly. "You do not seem very

ill."

"I'm on my last legs. I may not live an hour. But that's none of your

business, I suppose. By the way, I expect your cousin on the afternoon

train."

Beth gave a start of surprise.

"My cousin?" she asked.

"Yes, Louise Merrick.

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