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Aunt Jane's Nieces


"Jane's queer, too," said that lady's brother, with a sigh. "In fact,

Mr. Watson, it's a queer world, and the longer I live in it the

queerer I find it. Once I thought it would be a good idea to regulate

things myself and run the world as it ought to be run; but I gave it

up long ago. The world's a stage, they say; but the show ain't always

amusing, by a long chalk, and sometimes I wish I didn't have a

reserved seat."



Lawyer Watson, unable to direct events at Elmhurst, became a silent

spectator of the little comedy being enacted there, and never

regretted that, as Uncle John expressed it, he "had a reserved seat at

the show."

Jane Merrick, formerly the most imperious and irrascible of women, had

become wonderfully reserved since the arrival of her nieces, and was

evidently making a sincere effort to study their diverse characters.

Day by day the invalid's health was failing visibly. She had no more

strokes of paralysis, but her left limb did not recover, and the

numbness was gradually creeping upward toward her heart.

Perhaps the old woman appreciated this more fully than anyone else. At

any event, she became more gentle toward Phibbs and Misery, who mostly

attended her, and showed as much consideration as possible for her

nieces and her brother. Silas Watson she kept constantly by her side.

He was her oldest and most trusted friend, and the only differences

they had ever had were over the boy Kenneth, whom she stubbornly

refused to favor.

Uncle John speedily became an established fixture at the place. The

servants grew accustomed to seeing him wander aimlessly about the

grounds, his pipe always in his mouth, his hands usually in his

pockets. He had a pleasant word always for Donald or Oscar or James,

but was not prone to long conversations. Every evening, when he

appeared at dinner, he wore his soiled white tie; at other times

the black one was always in evidence; but other than this his dress

underwent no change. Even Kenneth came to wonder what the bundle had

contained that Uncle John brought under his arm to Elmhurst.

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