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

Aunt Jane's Nieces

Elmhurst was a beautiful place. Beth sighed as she wondered if it

would ever be hers. Then she opened her book and began to work.

During the next hour the click of the hedge-shears drew nearer, but

the girl did not notice this. In another half hour James himself came

into view, intent upon his monotonous task. Gradually the motionless

form of the girl and the plodding figure of the gardener drew

together, until he stood but two yards distant. Then he paused, looked

toward the arbor, and uttered an exclamation.

Beth looked up.

"Good morning," she said, pleasantly.

James stared at her, but made no reply save a slight inclination of

his head.

"Am I in your way?" she asked.

He turned his back to her, then, and began clipping away as before.

Beth sprang up and laid a hand upon his arm, arresting him. Again he

turned to stare at her, and in his eyes was a look almost of fear.

She drew back.

"Why won't you speak to me?" enquired the girl, gently. "I'm a

stranger at Elmhurst, but I want to be your friend. Won't you let me?"

To her amazement James threw up his hands, letting the shears clatter

to the ground, and with a hoarse cry turned and fled up the path as

swiftly as he could go.

Beth was really puzzled, but as she stood silently looking after the

gardener she heard a soft laugh, and found old Misery beside her.

"It's just his way, Miss; don't you be scared by anything that James

does," said the woman. "Why, at times he won't even speak to Miss


"He isn't dumb, is he?" asked Beth.

"Lor', no! But he's that odd an' contrary he won't talk to a soul.

Never did, since the day Master Tom was killed. James was travellin'

with Master Tom, you know, and there was an accident, an' the train

run off'n the track an' tipped over. James wasn't hurt at all, but he

dragged Master Tom out'n the wreck and sat by him until he died. Then

James brought Master Tom's body back home again; but his mind

seemed to have got a shock, in some way, and he never was the same


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