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Aunt Jane's Nieces

A gleam of sunlight filtered through the bushes and

fell aslant Jane Merrick's eyes; but not a lash quivered.

James gave a scream that rang through the air and silenced even the

birds. Then, shrieking like the madman he was, he bounded away through

the hedge, sending old Martha whirling into a rose-bush, and fled as

if a thousand fiends were at his heels.

John Merrick and Mr. Watson, who were not far off, aroused by the

bloodcurdling screams, ran toward Aunt Jane's garden, and saw in a

glance what had happened.

"Poor Jane," whispered the brother, bending over to tenderly close the

staring eyes, "her fate has overtaken her unawares."

"Better so," said the lawyer, gently. "She has found Peace at last."

Together they wheeled her back into her chamber, and called the women

to care for their dead mistress.

CHAPTER XXI.

READING THE WILL.

Aunt Jane's funeral was extremely simple and quiet. The woman had

made no friends during her long residence in the neighborhood, having

isolated herself at "the big house" and refused to communicate in any

way with the families living near by. Therefore, although her death

undoubtedly aroused much interest and comment, no one cared to be

present at the obsequies.

So the minister came from Elmwood, and being unable to say much that

was good or bad of "the woman who had departed from this vale of

tears," he confined his remarks to generalities and made them as brief

as possible. Then the body was borne to the little graveyard a mile

away, followed by the state carriage, containing the three nieces

and Kenneth; the drag with Silas Watson and Uncle John, the former

driving; and then came the Elmhurst carryall with the servants. James

did not join these last; nor did he appear at the house after

that dreadful scene in the garden. He had a little room over the

tool-house, which Jane Merrick had had prepared for him years ago, and

here he locked himself in day and night, stealthily emerging but to

secure the food Susan carried and placed before his door.

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