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Aunt Jane's Nieces


"You bore me, Silas," she answered, coldly. "The boy is the most

impossible of all."

It was the old protest and the old reply. He had hardly expected

anything different.

After a period of thought he asked;

"What is this I hear about John Merrick having returned from the


"He came yesterday. It was a great surprise to me."

"I never knew this brother, I believe."

"No; he had gone away before I became acquainted with either you or


"What sort of a man is he?"

"Honest and simple, hard-headed and experienced."

"Is he independent?"

"I believe so; he has never mentioned his affairs to me. But he has

worked hard all his life, he says, and now means to end his days

peacefully. John is not especially refined in his manner, nor did he

have much of an education; but he seems to be a good deal of a man,

for all that. I am very glad he appeared at Elmhurst just at this


"You had believed him dead?"

"Yes. He had passed out of my life completely, and I never knew what

became of him."

"He must be an eccentric person," said Mr. Watson, with a smile.

"He is." she acknowledged. "But blood is thicker than water, Silas,

and I'm glad brother John is here at last."

A little later the lawyer left her and picked his way through the

gardens until he came to Kenneth's wing and the stair that led to

his room. Here he paused a moment, finding himself surrounded by a

profound stillness, broken only by the chirping of the birds in the

shrubbery. Perhaps Kenneth was not in. He half decided to retrace

his steps, but finally mounted the stair softly and stood within the

doorway of the room.

The boy and a little stout man were playing chess at a table, and both

were in a deep study of the game. The boy's back was toward him, but

the man observed the newcomer and gave a nod. Then he dropped his eyes

again to the table.

Kenneth was frowning sullenly.

"You're bound to lose the pawn, whichever way you play," said the

little man quietly.

The boy gave an angry cry, and thrust the table from him, sending the

chess-men clattering into a corner.

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