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Aunt Jane's Nieces

The girl also took occasion to inform both Beth

and Louise that a new will had been made in which they both profited

largely, but she kept the secret of who the real heir was, and both

her cousins grew to believe they would share equally in the entire


So now an air of harmony settled upon Elmhurst, and Uncle John

joined the others in admiration of the girl who had conquered the

stubbornness of her stern old aunt and proved herself so unselfish and


One morning Aunt Jane had Phibbs wheel her into her little garden, as

usual, and busied herself examining the flowers and plants of which

she had always been so fond.

"James has been neglecting his work, lately," she said, sharply, to

her attendant.

"He's very queer, ma'am," replied old Martha, "ever since the young

ladies an' Master John came to Elmhurst. Strangers he never could

abide, as you know, and he runs and hides himself as soon as he sees

any of 'em about."

"Poor James!" said Miss Merrick, recalling her old gardener's

infirmity. "But he must not neglect my flowers in this way, or they

will be ruined."

"He isn't so afraid of Master John," went on Phibbs, reflectively, "as

he is of the young ladies. Sometimes Master John talks to James,

in his quiet way, and I've noticed he listens to him quite

respectively--like he always does to you, Miss Jane."

"Go and find James, and ask him to step here," commanded the mistress,

"and then guard the opening in the hedge, and see that none of my

nieces appear to bother him."

Phibbs obediently started upon her errand, and came upon James in the

tool-house, at the end of the big garden. He was working among his

flower pots and seemed in a quieter mood than usual.

Phibbs delivered her message, and the gardener at once started

to obey. He crossed the garden unobserved and entered the little

enclosure where Miss Jane's chair stood. The invalid was leaning back

on her cushions, but her eyes were wide open and staring.

"I've come, Miss," said James; and then, getting; no reply, he looked

into her face.

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