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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Frank Baum > Fairy tale "Aunt Jane's Nieces"

Aunt Jane's Nieces

"

"Oh!" said Beth, and stopped short.

"What do you mean by that?" enquired Aunt Jane, with a smile that was

rather malicious.

"I did not know I had a cousin," said the girl. "That is," correcting

herself, "I did not know whether Louise Merrick was alive or not.

Mother has mentioned her name once or twice in my presence; but not

lately."

"Well, she's alive. Very much alive, I believe. And she's coming to

visit me, while you are here. I expect you to be friends."

"To be sure," said Beth, nevertheless discomfited at the news.

"We dine at seven," said Aunt Jane. "I always lunch in my own room,

and you may do the same," and with a wave of her thin hand she

dismissed the girl, who thoughtfully followed the old housekeeper

through the halls.

It was not going to be an easy task to win this old woman's affection.

Already she rebelled at the necessity of undertaking so distasteful a

venture and wondered if she had not made a mistake in trying to curb

her natural frankness, and to conciliate a creature whose very nature

seemed antagonistic to her own. And this new cousin, Louise Merrick,

why was she coming to Elmhurst? To compete for the prize Beth had

already determined to win? In that case she must consider carefully

her line of action, that no rival might deprive her of this great

estate. Beth felt that she could fight savagely for an object she so

much desired. Her very muscles hardened and grew tense at the thought

of conflict as she walked down the corridor in the wake of old Misery

the housekeeper. She had always resented the sordid life at Cloverton.

She had been discontented with her lot since her earliest girlhood,

and longed to escape the constant bickerings of her parents and their

vain struggles to obtain enough money to "keep up appearances" and

drive the wolf from the door. And here was an opportunity to win a

fortune and a home beautiful enough for a royal princess. All that was

necessary was to gain the esteem of a crabbed, garrulous old woman,

who had doubtless but a few more weeks to live.

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