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Aunt Jane's Nieces

Louise, indeed, seemed quite at home

in her new surroundings, and chatted most vivaciously during the meal;

but Aunt Jane was strangely silent, and Beth had little to say and

seemed awkward and ill at ease.

The old lady retired to her own room shortly after dinner, and

presently sent a servant to request Mr. Watson to join her.

"Silas," she said, when he entered, "what do you think of my nieces?"

"They are very charming girls," he answered, "although they are at

an age when few girls show to good advantage. Why did you not invite

Kenneth to dinner, Jane?"

"The boy?"

"Yes. They would be more at ease in the society of a young gentleman

more nearly their own age."

"Kenneth is a bear. He is constantly saying disagreeable things. In

other words, he is not gentlemanly, and the girls shall have nothing

to do with him."

"Very well," said the lawyer, quietly.

"Which of my nieces do you prefer?" asked the old lady, after a pause.

"I cannot say, on so short an acquaintance," he answered, with

gravity. "Which do you prefer, Jane?"

"They are equally unsatisfactory," she answered. "I cannot imagine

Elmhurst belonging to either, Silas." Then she added, with an abrupt

change of manner: "You must go to New York for me, at once."

"Tonight?"

"No; tomorrow morning. I must see that other niece--the one who defies

me and refuses to answer my second letter."

"Patricia Doyle?"

"Yes. Find her and argue with her. Tell her I am a crabbed old woman

with a whim to know her, and that I shall not die happy unless she

comes to Elmhurst. Bribe her, threaten her--kidnap her if necessary,

Silas; but get her to Elmhurst as quickly as possible."

"I'll do my best, Jane. But why are you so anxious?"

"My time is drawing near, old friend," she replied, less harshly than

usual, "and this matter of my will lies heavily on my conscience. What

if I should die tonight?"

He did not answer.

"There would be a dozen heirs to fight for my money, and dear old

Elmhurst would be sold to strangers," she resumed, with bitterness.

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