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Aunt Jane's Nieces

There was nothing more to

say, and as Uncle John showed no intention of abandoning the arbored

seat, it was evident they must go themselves. Louise was about to rise

when the man remarked:

"Jane won't last long".

"You think not?" she asked.

"She says she's half dead a'ready, and I believe it. It's about time,

you know. She's let her temper and restless disposition wear her out.

Pretty soon she'll blow out, like a candle. All that worries her is to

keep alive until she can decide who to leave her money to. That's why

you're here, I s'pose, my dears. How do you like being on exhibition,

an' goin' through your paces, like a bunch o' trotting hosses, to see

which is worth the most?"

"Uncle John," said Beth, "I had hoped I would like you. But if you are

going to be so very disagreeable, I'll have nothing more to do with

you!"

With this she arose and marched up the path, vastly indignant, and

Louise marched beside her. At the bend in the walk they glanced back,

and saw Uncle John sitting upon the bench all doubled up and shaking

with silent laughter.

"He's a queer old man," said Beth, flushing; "but he's impudent and

half a fool."

"Don't judge hastily, Beth," replied Louise, reflectively. "I can't

make up my mind, just yet, whether Uncle John is a fool or not."

"Anyhow," snapped Beth, "he's laughing at us."

"And that," said her cousin, softly, "is the strongest evidence of his

sanity. Beth, my love, Aunt Jane has placed us in a most ridiculous

position."

That evening at dinner they met Uncle John again, seated opposite Aunt

Jane in the great dining hall. The mistress of Elmhurst always dressed

for this meal and tonight she wore a rich black silk and had her

invalid chair wheeled to her place at the head of the table. Uncle

John had simply changed his old black necktie for a soiled white one.

Otherwise his apparel was the same as before, and his stubby gray hair

was in a sad state of disarray. But his round face wore a cheerful

smile, nevertheless, and Aunt Jane seemed not to observe anything

_outre_ in her brother's appearance.

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