Part 3 out of 4
such an expensive present."
"I don't believe he has a penny in the world," said Louise, who sat by
with some needle-work.
"All he owns," remarked Beth, with a laugh, "is an extra necktie,
"But he's a dear old man," said Patsy, loyally, "and I'm sure he would
have given all those things to Kenneth had he been able."
"Then who was it?" asked the boy.
"Why, Aunt Jane, to be sure," declared Patsy.
The boy scowled, and shook his head.
"She wouldn't do anything to please me, even to save her life," he
growled. "She hates me, I know that well enough."
"Oh, no; I'm sure she doesn't," said Patsy. "Aunt Jane has a heap
of good in her; but you've got to dig for it, like you do for gold.
'Twould be just like her to make you this present and keep it a
"If she really did it," replied the boy, slowly, "and it seems as if
she is the only one. I know who could afford such a gift, it stands to
reason that either Uncle John or Mr. Watson asked her to, and she did
it to please them. I've lived here for years, and she has never spoken
a kindly word to me or done me a kindly act. It isn't likely she'd
begin now, is it?"
Unable to make a reassuring reply, Patsy remained silent, and the boy
went on with his work. He first outlined the picture in pencil, and
then filled it in with water color. They all expressed admiration for
the drawing; but the color effect was so horrible that even Patsy
found no words to praise it, and the boy in a fit of sudden anger tore
the thing to shreds and so destroyed it.
"But I must have my picture, anyhow," said the girl. "Make it in pen
and ink or pencil, Ken. and I'm sure it will be beautiful."
"You need instruction, to do water color properly," suggested Louise.
"Then I can never do it," he replied, bitterly. But he adopted Patsy's
suggestion and sketched the garden very prettily in pen and ink.
By the time the second picture was completed Patsy had received
permission to leave her room, which she did in Aunt Jane's second-best
Her first trip was to Aunt Jane's own private garden, where the
invalid, who had not seen her niece since the accident, had asked her
Patsy wanted Kenneth to wheel her, but the boy, with a touch of his
old surly demeanor, promptly refused to meet Jane Merrick face to
face. So Beth wheeled the chair and Louise walked by Patsy's side, and
soon the three nieces reached their aunt's retreat.
Aunt Jane was not in an especially amiable mood.
"Well, girl, how do you like being a fool?" she demanded, as Patsy's
chair came to a stand just opposite her own.
"It feels so natural that I don't mind it," replied Patsy, laughing.
"You might have killed yourself, and all for nothing," continued the
old woman, querulously.
Patsy looked at her pityingly. Her aunt's face had aged greatly in the
two weeks, and the thin gray hair seemed now almost white.
"Are you feeling better, dear?" asked the girl.
"I shall never be better," said Jane Merrick, sternly. "The end is not
far off now."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear you say that!" said Patsy; "but I hope it is
not true. Why, here are we four newly found relations all beginning to
get acquainted, and to love one another, and we can't have our little
party broken up, auntie dear."
"Five of us--five relations," cried Uncle John, coming around the
corner of the hedge. "Don't I count, Patsy, you rogue? Why you're
looking as bright and as bonny as can be. I wouldn't be surprised if
you could toddle."
"Not yet," she answered, cheerfully. "But I'm doing finely, Uncle
John, and it won't be long before I can get about as well as ever."
"And to think," said Aunt Jane, bitterly, "that all this trouble was
caused by that miserable boy! If I knew where to send him he'd not
stay at Elmhurst a day longer."
"Why, he's my best friend, aunt," announced Patsy, quietly. "I don't
think I could be happy at Elmhurst without Kenneth."
"He has quite reformed," said Louise, "and seems like a very nice
"He's a little queer, yet, at times," added Beth, "but not a bit rude,
as he used to be."
Aunt Jane looked from one to the other in amazement. No one had
spoken so kindly of the boy before in years. And Uncle John, with a
thoughtful look on his face, said slowly:
"The fact is, Jane, you've never given the boy a chance. On the
contrary, you nearly ruined him by making a hermit of him and giving
him no schooling to speak of and no society except that of servants.
He was as wild as a hawk when I first came, but these girls are just
the sort of companions he needs, to soften him and make him a man.
I've no doubt he'll come out all right, in the end."
"Perhaps you'd like to adopt him yourself, John," sneered the woman,
furious at this praise of the one person she so greatly disliked.
Her brother drew his hands from his pockets, looked around in a
helpless and embarrassed way, and then tried fumblingly to fill his
"I ain't in the adopting business, Jane," he answered meekly. "And if
I was," with a quaint smile, "I'd adopt one or two of these nieces o'
mine, instead of Tom Bradley's nephew. If Bradley hadn't seen you,
Jane, and loved your pretty face when you were young, Kenneth Forbes
would now be the owner of Elmhurst. Did you ever think of that?"
Did she ever think of it? Why, it was this very fact that made the boy
odious to her. The woman grew white with rage.
"John Merrick, leave my presence."
"All right, Jane."
He stopped to light his pipe, and then slowly walked away, leaving an
embarrassed group behind him.
Patsy, however, was equal to the occasion. She began at once to
chatter about Dr. Eliel, and the scar that would always show on her
forehead; and how surprised the Major, her father, would be when he
returned from the visit to his colonel and found his daughter had been
through the wars herself, and bore the evidence of honorable wounds.
Louise gracefully assisted her cousin to draw Aunt Jane into a more
genial mood, and between them they presently succeeded. The interview
that had begun so unfortunately ended quite pleasantly, and when
Patricia returned to her room her aunt bade her adieu almost tenderly.
"In fact," said Louise to Beth, in the privacy of the latter's
chamber, "I'm getting rather worried over Aunt Jane's evident weakness
for our Cousin Patsy. Once or twice today I caught a look in her eye
when she looked at Patsy that she has never given either you or me.
The Irish girl may get the money yet."
"Nonsense," said Beth. "She has said she wouldn't accept a penny of
it, and I'm positive she'll keep her word."
AUNT JANE'S HEIRESS.
"Silas," said Aunt Jane to her lawyer, the next morning after her
interview with Patsy, "I'm ready to have you draw up my will."
Mr. Watson gave a start of astonishment. In his own mind he had
arrived at the conclusion that the will would never be executed, and
to have Miss Merrick thus suddenly declare her decision was enough to
startle even the lawyer's natural reserve.
"Very well, Jane," he said, briefly.
They were alone in the invalid's morning room, Phibbs having been
asked to retire.
"There is no use disguising the fact, Silas, that I grow weaker every
day, and the numbness is creeping nearer and nearer to my heart," said
Miss Merrick, in her usual even tones. "It is folly for me to trifle
with these few days of grace yet allowed me, and I have fully made up
my mind as to the disposition of my property."
"Yes?" he said, enquiringly, and drew from his pocket a pencil and
"I shall leave to my niece Louise five thousand dollars."
"Yes, Jane," jotting down the memorandum.
"And to Elizabeth a like sum."
The lawyer seemed disappointed. He tapped the pencil against his
teeth, musingly, for a moment, and then wrote down the amount.
"Also to my brother, John Merrick, the sum of five thousand dollars,"
"To your brother?"
"Yes. That should be enough to take care of him as long as he lives.
He seems quite simple in his tastes, and he is an old man."
The lawyer wrote it down.
"All my other remaining property, both real and personal, I shall
leave to my niece, Patricia Doyle."
"Did you hear me?"
"Then do as I bid you, Silas Watson."
He leaned back in his chair and looked at her thoughtfully.
"I am not only your lawyer, Jane; I am also your friend and
counsellor. Do you realize what this bequest means?" he asked, gently.
"It means that Patricia will inherit Elmhurst--and a fortune besides.
Why not, Silas? I liked the child from the first. She's frank and open
and brave, and will do credit to my judgment."
"She is very young and unsophisticated," said the lawyer, "and of all
your nieces she will least appreciate your generosity."
"You are to be my executor, and manage the estate until the girl comes
of age. You will see that she is properly educated and fitted for her
station in life. As for appreciation, or gratitude, I don't care a
snap of my finger for such fol-de-rol."
The lawyer sighed.
"But the boy, Jane? You seem to have forgotten him," he said.
"Drat the boy! I've done enough for him already."
"Wouldn't Tom like you to provide for Kenneth in some way, however
She glared at him angrily.
"How do you know what Tom would like, after all these years?" she
asked, sternly. "And how should I know, either? The money is mine, and
the boy is nothing to me. Let him shift for himself."
"There is a great deal of money, Jane," declared the lawyer,
impressively. "We have been fortunate in our investments, and you have
used but little of your ample income. To spare fifty thousand dollars
to Kenneth, who is Tom's sole remaining relative, would be no hardship
to Patricia. Indeed, she would scarcely miss it."
"You remind me of something, Silas," she said, looking at him with
friendly eyes. "Make a memorandum of twenty thousand dollars to Silas
Watson. You have been very faithful to my interests and have helped
materially to increase my fortune."
"Thank you, Jane."
He wrote down the amount as calmly as he had done the others.
"And the boy?" he asked, persistently.
Aunt Jane sighed wearily, and leaned against her pillows.
"Give the boy two thousand," she said.
"Make it ten, Jane."
"I'll make it five, and not a penny more," she rejoined. "Now leave
me, and prepare the paper at once. I want to sign it today, if
He bowed gravely, and left the room.
Toward evening the lawyer came again, bringing with him a notary from
the village. Dr. Eliel, who had come to visit Patricia, was also
called into Jane Merrick's room, and after she had carefully read the
paper in their presence the mistress of Elmhurst affixed her signature
to the document which transferred the great estate to the little Irish
girl, and the notary and the doctor solemnly witnessed it and retired.
"Now, Silas," said the old woman, with a sigh of intense relief, "I
can die in peace."
Singularly enough, the signing of the will seemed not to be the end
for Jane Merrick, but the beginning of an era of unusual comfort. On
the following morning she awakened brighter than usual, having passed
a good night, freed from the worries and anxieties that had beset her
for weeks. She felt more like her old self than at any time since the
paralysis had overtaken her, and passed the morning most enjoyably
in her sunshiney garden. Here Patricia was also brought in her wheel
chair by Beth, who then left the two invalids together.
They conversed genially enough, for a time, until an unfortunate
remark of Aunt Jane's which seemed to asperse her father's character
aroused Patricia's ire. Then she loosened her tongue, and in her
voluable Irish way berated her aunt until poor Phibbs stood aghast at
such temerity, and even Mr. Watson, who arrived to enquire after his
client and friend, was filled with amazement.
He cast a significant look at Miss Merrick, who answered it in her
usual emphatic way.
"Patricia is quite right, Silas," she declared, "and I deserve all
that she has said. If the girl were fond enough of me to defend me as
heartily as she does her father, I would be very proud, indeed."
Patricia cooled at once, and regarded her aunt with a sunny smile.
"Forgive me!" she begged. "I know you did not mean it, and I was wrong
to talk to you in such a way."
So harmony was restored, and Mr. Watson wondered more and more at
this strange perversion of the old woman's character. Heretofore any
opposition had aroused in her intense rage and a fierce antagonism,
but now she seemed delighted to have Patsy fly at her, and excused the
girl's temper instead of resenting it.
But Patsy was a little ashamed of herself this morning, realizing
perhaps that Aunt Jane had been trying to vex her, just to enjoy her
indignant speeches; and she also realized the fact that her aunt was
old and suffering, and not wholly responsible for her aggravating and
somewhat malicious observations. So she firmly resolved not to be so
readily entrapped again, and was so bright and cheery during the next
hour that Aunt Jane smiled more than once, and at one time actually
laughed at her niece's witty repartee.
After that it became the daily program for Patsy to spend her mornings
in Aunt Jane's little garden, and although they sometimes clashed,
and, as Phibbs told Beth, "had dreadful fights," they both enjoyed
these hours very much.
The two girls became rather uneasy during the days their cousin spent
in the society of Aunt Jane. Even the dreadful accounts they received
from Phibbs failed wholly to reassure them, and Louise redoubled her
solicitious attentions to her aunt in order to offset the influence
Patricia seemed to be gaining over her.
Louise had also become, by this time, the managing housekeeper of
the establishment, and it was certain that Aunt Jane looked upon her
eldest and most competent niece with much favor.
Beth, with all her friends to sing her praises, seemed to make less
headway with her aunt than either of the others, and gradually she
sank into a state of real despondency.
"I've done the best I could," she wrote her mother, "but I'm not as
clever as Louise nor as amusing as Patricia; so Aunt Jane pays little
attention to me. She's a dreadful old woman, and I can't bring myself
to appear to like her. That probably accounts for my failure; but I
may as well stay on here until something happens."
In a fortnight more Patricia abandoned her chair and took to crutches,
on which she hobbled everywhere as actively as the others walked. She
affected her cousins' society more, from this time, and Aunt Jane's
society less, for she had come to be fond of the two girls who had
nursed her so tenderly, and it was natural that a young girl would
prefer to be with those of her own age rather than a crabbed old woman
like Aunt Jane.
Kenneth also now became Patsy's faithful companion, for the boy had
lost his former bashfulness and fear of girls, and had grown to feel
at ease even in the society of Beth and Louise. The four had many
excursions and picnics into the country together; but Kenneth and
Patsy were recognized as especial chums, and the other girls did not
interfere in their friendship except to tease them, occasionally, in a
good natured way.
The boy's old acquaintances could hardly recognize him as the same
person they had known before Patricia's adventure on the plank. His
fits of gloomy abstraction and violent bursts of temper had alike
vanished, or only prevailed at brief intervals. Nor was he longer rude
and unmannerly to those with whom he came in contact. Awkward he still
was, and lacking in many graces that education and good society can
alone confer; but he was trying hard to be, as he confided to old
Uncle John, "like other people," and succeeded in adapting himself
very well to his new circumstances.
Although he had no teacher, as yet, he had begun to understand color
a little, and succeeded in finishing one or two water-color sketches
which Patsy, who knew nothing at all of such things, pronounced
"wonderfully fine." Of course the boy blushed with pleasure and was
encouraged to still greater effort.
The girl was also responsible for Kenneth's sudden advancement in the
household at Elmhurst.
One day she said calmly to Aunt Jane:
"I've invited Kenneth to dinner this evening."
The woman flew angry in an instant.
"Who gave you such authority?" she demanded.
"No one. I just took it," said Patsy, saucily.
"He shall not come," declared Aunt Jane, sternly. "I'll have no
interference from you, Miss, with my household arrangements. Phibbs,
Patsy's brow grew dark. Presently Louise appeared.
"Instruct the servants to forbid that boy to enter my dining room this
evening," she said to Louise.
"Also, Louise," said Patsy, "tell them not to lay a plate for me, and
ask Oscar to be ready with the wagon at five o'clock. I'm going home."
Louise hesitated, and looked from Miss Jane to Patsy, and back again.
They were glaring upon each other like two gorgons.
Then she burst into laughter; she could not help it, the sight was too
ridiculous. A moment later Patsy was laughing, too, and then Aunt Jane
allowed a grim smile to cross her features.
"Never mind, Louise," she said, with remarkable cheerfulness; "We'll
"How?" asked Patsy.
"By putting a plate for Kenneth," said her aunt, cooly. "I imagine I
can stand his society for one evening."
So the matter was arranged to Patricia's satisfaction, and the boy
came to dinner, trembling and unhappy at first, but soon placed at
ease by the encouragements of the three girls. Indeed, he behaved so
well, in the main, and was so gentle and unobstrusive, that Aunt Jane
looked at him with surprise, and favored him with one or two speeches
which he answered modestly and well.
Patsy was radiant with delight, and the next day Aunt Jane remarked
casually that she did not object to the boy's presence at dinner, at
all, and he could come whenever he liked.
This arrangement gave great pleasure to both Uncle John and Mr.
Watson, the latter of whom was often present at the "state dinner,"
and both men congratulated Patsy upon the distinct victory she had
won. No more was said about her leaving Elmhurst. The Major wrote that
he was having a splendid time with the colonel, and begged for an
extension of his vacation, to which Patsy readily agreed, she being
still unable on account of her limb to return to her work at Madam
And so the days glided pleasantly by, and August came to find a happy
company of young folks at old Elmhurst, with Aunt Jane wonderfully
improved in health and Uncle John beaming complacently upon everyone
he chanced to meet.
PATRICIA SPEAKS FRANKLY.
It was Lawyer Watson's suggestion that she was being unjust to Beth
and Louise, in encouraging them to hope they might inherit Elmhurst,
that finally decided Aunt Jane to end all misunderstandings and inform
her nieces of the fact that she had made a final disposition of her
So one morning she sent word asking them all into her room, and when
the nieces appeared they found Uncle John and the lawyer already
in their aunt's presence. There was an air of impressive formality
pervading the room, although Miss Merrick's brother, at least, was as
ignorant as her nieces of the reason why they had been summoned.
Patsy came in last, hobbling actively on her crutches, although the
leg was now nearly recovered, and seated herself somewhat in the rear
of the apartment.
Aunt Jane looked into one expectant face after another with curious
interest, and then broke the silence by saying, gravely, but in more
gentle tones than she was accustomed to use:
"I believe, young ladies, that you have understood from the first my
strongest reason for inviting you to visit Elmhurst this summer. I
am old, and must soon pass away, and instead of leaving you and
your parents, who would be my legitimate heirs, to squabble over my
property when I am gone, I decided to excute a will bequeathing my
estate to some one who would take proper care of it and maintain it in
a creditable manner. I had no personal acquaintance with any of you,
but judged that one out of the three might serve my purpose, and
therefore invited you all here."
By this time the hearts of Louise and Beth were fluttering with
excitement, and even Patsy looked interested. Uncle John sat a little
apart, watching them with an amused smile upon his face, and the
lawyer sat silent with his eyes fixed upon a pattern in the rug.
"In arriving at a decision, which I may say I have succeeded in
doing," continued Aunt Jane, calmly, "I do not claim to have acted
with either wisdom or discernment. I have simply followed my own whim,
as I have the right to do, and selected the niece I prefer to become
my heiress. You cannot accuse of injustice, because none of you had a
right to expect anything of me; but I will say this, that I am well
pleased with all three of you, and now wish that I had taken pains to
form your acquaintance earlier in life. You might have cheered my old
age and rendered it less lonely and dull."
"Well said, Jane," remarked Uncle John, nodding his head approvingly.
She did not notice the interruption, but presently continued:
"Some days ago I asked my lawyer, Mr. Watson, to draw up my will. It
was at once prepared and signed, and now stands as my last will and
testament. I have given to you, Louise, the sum of five thousand
Louise laughed nervously, and threw out her hands with an indifferent
"Many thanks, Aunt," she said, lightly.
"To you, Beth," continued Miss Merrick, "I have given the same sum."
Beth's heart sank, and tears forced themselves into her eyes in spite
of her efforts to restrain them. She said nothing.
Aunt Jane turned to her brother.
"I have also provided for you, John, in the sum of five thousand
"Me!" he exclaimed, astounded. "Why, suguration, Jane, I don't--"
"Silence!" she cried, sternly. "I expect neither thanks nor protests.
If you take care of the money, John, it will last you as long as you
Uncle John laughed. He doubled up in his chair and rocked back and
forth, shaking his little round body as if he had met with the most
amusing thing that had ever happened in his life. Aunt Jane stared
at him, while Louise and Beth looked their astonishment, but Patsy's
clear laughter rang above Uncle John's gasping chuckles.
"I hope, dear Uncle," said she, mischievously, "that when poor Aunt
Jane is gone you'll be able to buy a new necktie."
He looked at her whimsically, and wiped the tears from his eyes.
"Thank you, Jane," said the little man to his sister. "It's a lot of
money, and I'll be proud to own it."
"Why did you laugh." demanded Aunt Jane.
"I just happened to think that our old Dad once said I'd never be
worth a dollar in all my life. What would he say now, Jane, if he knew
I stood good to have five thousand--if I can manage to outlive you?"
She turned from him with an expression of scorn.
"In addition to these bequests," said she, "I have left five thousand
to the boy and twenty thousand to Mr. Watson. The remainder of the
property will go to Patricia."
For a moment the room was intensely still. Then Patricia said, with
"You may as well make another will, Aunt. I'll not touch a penny of
"Why not?" asked the woman, almost fiercely.
"You have been kind to me, and you mean well," said Patricia. "I would
rather not tell you my reasons."
"I demand to know them!"
"Ah, aunt; can't you understand, without my speaking?"
"No," said the other; but a flush crossed her pale cheek,
Patsy arose and stumped to a position directly in front of Jane
Merrick, where she rested on her crutches. Her eyes were bright and
full of indignation, and her plain little face was so white that every
freckle showed distinctly.
"There was a time, years ago," she began in a low voice, "when you
were very rich and your sister Violet, my mother, was very poor. Her
health was bad, and she had me to care for, while my father was very
ill with a fever. She was proud, too, and for herself she would never
have begged a penny of anyone; but for my sake she asked her rich
sister to loan her a little money to tide her over her period of want.
What did you do, Jane Merrick, you who lived in a beautiful mansion,
and had more money than you could use? You insulted her, telling her
she belonged to a family of beggars, and that none of them could
wheedle your money away from you!"
"It was true," retorted the elder woman, stubbornly. "They were after
me like a drove of wolves--every Merrick of them all--and they would
have ruined me if I had let them bleed me as they wished."
"So far as my mother is concerned, that's a lie," said Patsy, quietly.
"She never appealed to you but that once, but worked as bravely as she
could to earn money in her own poor way. The result was that she died,
and I was left to the care of strangers until my father was well
enough to support me."
She paused, and again the room seemed unnaturally still.
"I'm sorry, girl," said Aunt Jane, at last, in trembling tones. "I was
wrong. I see it now, and I am sorry I refused Violet."
"Then I forgive you!" said Patsy, impulsively. "I forgive you all,
Aunt Jane; for through your own selfishness you cut yourself off from
all your family--from all who might have loved you--and you have lived
all these years a solitary and loveless life. There'll be no grudge
of mine to follow you to the grave, Aunt Jane. But," her voice
hardening, "I'll never touch a penny of the money that was denied my
poor dead mother. Thank God the old Dad and I are independent, and can
earn our own living."
Uncle John came to where Patsy stood and put both arms around her,
pressing her--crutches and all--close to his breast. Then he released
her, and without a word stalked from the room.
"Leave me, now," said Aunt Jane, in a husky voice. "I want time to
Patricia hobbled forward, placed one hand caressingly upon the gray
head, and then bent and kissed Aunt Jane's withered cheek.
"That's right," she whispered. "Think it over, dear. It's all past
and done, now, and I'm sorry I had to hurt you. But--not a penny,
aunt--remember, not a penny will I take!"
Then she left the room, followed by Louise and Beth, both of whom were
glad to be alone that they might conquer their bitter disappointment.
Louise, however, managed to accept the matter philosophically, as the
following extract from her letter to her mother will prove:
"After all, it isn't so bad as it might be, mater, dear," she wrote.
"I'll get five thousand, at the very worst, and that will help us on
our way considerably. But I am quite sure that Patsy means just what
she says, and that she will yet induce Aunt Jane to alter her will. In
that case I believe the estate will either be divided between Beth and
me, or I will get it all. Anyway, I shall stay here and play my best
cards until the game is finished."
Aunt Jane had a bad night, as might have been expected after her
trials of the previous day.
She sent for Patricia early in the forenoon, and when the girl arrived
she was almost shocked by the change in her aunt's appearance. The
invalid's face seemed drawn and gray, and she lay upon her cushions
breathing heavily and without any appearance of vitality or strength.
Even the sharpness and piercing quality of her hard gray eyes was
lacking and the glance she cast at her niece was rather pleading than
"I want you to reconsider your decision of yesterday, Patricia," she
"Don't ask me to do that, aunt," replied the girl, firmly. "My mind is
fully made up."
"I have made mistakes, I know," continued the woman feebly; "but I
want to do the right thing, at last."
"Then I will show you how," said Patricia, quickly. "You mustn't think
me impertinent, aunt, for I don't mean to be so at all. But tell me;
why did you wish to leave me your money?"
"Because your nature is quite like my own, child, and I admire your
independence and spirit."
"But my cousins are much more deserving," said she, thoughtfully.
"Louise is very sweet and amiable, and loves you more than I do, while
Beth is the most sensible and practical girl I have ever known."
"It may be so," returned Aunt Jane, impatiently; "but I have left each
a legacy, Patricia, and you alone are my choice for the mistress of
Elmhurst. I told you yesterday I should not try to be just. I mean to
leave my property according to my personal desire, and no one shall
hinder me." This last with a spark of her old vigor.
"But that is quite wrong, aunt, and if you desire me to inherit your
wealth you will be disappointed. A moment ago you said you wished to
do the right thing, at last. Don't you know what that is?"
"Perhaps you will tell me," said Aunt Jane, curiously.
"With pleasure," returned Patsy. "Mr. Bradley left you this property
because he loved you, and love blinded him to all sense of justice.
Such an estate should not have passed into the hands of aliens because
of a lover's whim. He should have considered his own flesh and blood."
"There was no one but his sister, who at that time was not married and
had no son," explained Aunt Jane, calmly. "But he did not forget her
and asked me to look after Katherine Bradley in case she or her heirs
ever needed help. I have done so. When his mother died, I had the boy
brought here, and he has lived here ever since."
"But the property ought to be his," said Patricia, earnestly. "It
would please me beyond measure to have you make your will in his
favor, and you would be doing the right thing at last."
"I won't," said Aunt Jane, angrily.
"It would also be considerate and just to the memory of Mr. Bradley,"
continued the girl. "What's going to became of Kenneth?"
"I have left him five thousand," said the woman.
"Not enough to educate him properly," replied Patsy, with a shake of
her head. "Why, the boy might become a famous artist, if he had good
masters; and a person with an artistic temperament, such as his,
should have enough money to be independent of his art."
Aunt Jane coughed, unsympathetically.
"The boy is nothing to me," she said.
"But he ought to have Elmhurst, at least," pleaded the girl. "Won't
you leave it to him, Aunt Jane?"
"Then do as you please," cried Patsy, flying angry in her turn. "As a
matter of justice, the place should never have been yours, and I won't
accept a dollar of the money if I starve to death!"
"Think of your father," suggested Aunt Jane, cunningly.
"Ah, I've done that," said the girl, "and I know how many comforts I
could buy for the dear Major. Also I'd like to go to a girl's college,
like Smith or Wellesley, and get a proper education. But not with your
money, Aunt Jane. It would burn my fingers. Always I would think that
if you had not been hard and miserly this same money would have saved
my mother's life. No! I loathe your money. Keep it or throw it to the
dogs, if you won't give it to the boy it belongs to. But don't you
dare to will your selfish hoard to me."
"Let us change the subject, Patricia."
"Will you change your will?"
"Then I won't talk to you. I'm angry and hurt, and if I stay here I'll
say things I shall be sorry for."
With these words she marched out of the room, her cheeks flaming, and
Aunt Jane looked after her with admiring eyes.
"She's right," she whispered to herself. "It's just as I'd do under
the same circumstances!"
This interview was but the beginning of a series that lasted during
the next fortnight, during which time the invalid persisted in sending
for Patricia and fighting the same fight over and over again. Always
the girl pleaded for Kenneth to inherit, and declared she would not
accept the money and Elmhurst; and always Aunt Jane stubbornly refused
to consider the boy and tried to tempt the girl with pictures of the
luxury and pleasure that riches would bring her.
The interviews were generally short and spirited, however, and during
the intervals Patsy associated more than ever with her cousins, both
of whom grew really fond of her.
They fully believed Patricia when she declared she would never accept
the inheritance, and although neither Beth nor Louise could understand
such foolish sentimentality they were equally overjoyed at the girl's
stand and the firmness with which she maintained it. With Patsy out of
the field it was quite possible the estate would be divided between
her cousins, or even go entire to one or the other of them; and this
hope constantly buoyed their spirits and filled their days with
interest as they watched the fight between their aunt and their
Patricia never told them she was pleading so hard for the boy. It
would only pain her cousins and make them think she was disloyal to
their interests; but she lost no opportunity when with her Aunt Jane
of praising Kenneth and proving his ability, and finally she seemed to
win her point.
Aunt Jane was really worn out with the constant squabbling with her
favorite niece. She had taken a turn for the worse, too, and began to
decline rapidly. So, her natural cunning and determination to have her
own way enhanced by her illness, the woman decided to deceive Patricia
and enjoy her few remaining days in peace.
"Suppose," she said to Mr. Watson, "my present will stands, and after
my death the estate becomes the property of Patricia. Can she refuse
"Not legally," returned the lawyer. "It would remain in her name,
but under my control, during her minority. When she became of age,
however, she could transfer it as she might choose."
"By that time she will have gained more sense," declared Aunt Jane,
much pleased with this aspect of the case, "and it isn't reasonable
that having enjoyed a fortune for a time any girl would throw it away.
I'll stick to my point, Silas, but I'll try to make Patricia believe
she has won me over."
Therefore, the very next time that the girl pleaded with her to make
Kenneth her heir, she said, with a clever assumption of resignation:
"Very well, Patricia; you shall have your way. My only desire, child,
is to please you, as you well know, and if you long to see Kenneth the
owner of Elmhurst I will have a new will drawn in his favor."
Patricia could scarcely believe her ears.
"Do you really mean it, aunt?" she asked, flushing red with pleasure.
"I mean exactly what I say, and now let us cease all bickerings, my
dear, and my few remaining days will be peaceful and happy."
Patricia thanked her aunt with eager words, and said, as indeed she
felt, that she could almost love Aunt Jane for her final, if dilatory,
act of justice.
Mr. Watson chanced to enter the room at that moment, and the girl
"Tell him, aunt! Let him get the paper ready at once."
"There is no reason for haste," said Aunt Jane, meeting; the lawyer's
questioning gaze with some embarrassment.
Silas Watson was an honorable and upright man, and his client's
frequent doubtful methods had in past years met his severe censure.
Yet he had once promised his dead friend, Tom Bradley, that he would
serve Jane Merrick faithfully. He had striven to do so, bearing with
her faults of character when he found that he could not correct them.
His influence over her had never been very strong, however, and he had
learned that it was the most easy as well as satisfactory method to
bow to her iron will.
Her recent questionings had prepared him for some act of duplicity,
but he had by no means understood her present object, nor did she mean
that he should. So she answered his questioning look by saying:
"I have promised Patricia that you shall draw a new will, leaving
all my estate to Kenneth Forbes, except for the bequests that are
mentioned in the present paper."
The lawyer regarded her with amazement. Then his brow darkened, for he
thought she was playing with the girl, and was not sincere.
"Tell him to draw up the paper right away, aunt!" begged Patricia,
with sparkling eyes.
"As soon as you can, Silas," said the invalid.
"And, aunt, can't you spare a little more to Louise and Beth? It would
make them so happy."
"Double the amount I had allowed to each of them," the woman commanded
"Can it all be ready to sign tonight?" asked Patsy, excitedly.
"I'll try, my dear," replied the old lawyer, gravely. Then he turned
to Jane Merrick.
"Are you in earnest?" he asked.
Patsy's heart suddenly sank.
"Yes," was the reply. "I am tired of opposing this child's wishes.
What do I care what becomes of my money, when I am gone? All that I
desire is to have my remaining days peaceful."
The girl spring forward and kissed her rapturously.
"They shall be, aunt!" she cried. "I promise it."
IN THE GARDEN.
From this hour Patsy devoted herself untiringly to Aunt Jane, and
filled her days with as much sunshine as her merry ways and happy
nature could confer. Yet there was one thing that rendered her uneasy:
the paper that Lawyer Watson had so promptly drawn had never yet been
signed and witnessed. Her aunt had allowed her to read it, saying she
wished the girl to know she had acted in good faith, and Patsy had no
fault at all to find with the document. But Aunt Jane was tired, and
deferred signing it that evening. The next day no witnesses could be
secured, and so another postponement followed, and upon one pretext or
another the matter was put off until Patricia became suspicious.
Noting this, Aunt Jane decided to complete her act of deception.
She signed the will in the girl's presence, with Oscar and Susan to
witness her signature. Lawyer Watson was not present on this occasion,
and as soon as Patsy had left her Miss Merrick tore off the signatures
and burned them, wrote "void" in bold letters across the face of the
paper, and then, it being rendered of no value, she enclosed it in a
large yellow envelope, sealed it, and that evening handed the envelope
to Mr. Watson with the request that it be not opened until after her
Patricia, in her delight, whispered to the lawyer that the paper
was really signed, and he was well pleased and guarded the supposed
treasure carefully. 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
"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. 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.
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.
No one minded James much, for all the inmates of Elhurst were under
severe and exciting strain in the days preceding the funeral.
The girls wept a little, but it was more on account of the solemnity
following the shadow of death than for any great affection they bore
their aunt. Patsy, indeed, tried to deliver a tribute to Aunt Jane's
memory; but it was not an emphatic success.
"I'm sure she had a good heart," said the girl, "and if she had lived
more with her own family and cultivated her friends she would have
been much less hard and selfish. At the last, you know, she was quite
"I hadn't noticed it," remarked Beth.
"Oh, I did. And she made a new will, after that awful one she told us
of, and tried to be just and fair to all"
"I'm glad to hear that" said Louise. "Tell us, Patsy, what does the
will say? You must know all about it."
"Mr. Watson is going to read it, after the funeral," replied the girl,
"and then you will know as much about it as I do. I mustn't tell
secrets, my dear."
So Louise and Beth waited in much nervous excitement for the final
realization of their hopes or fears, and during the drive to the
cemetery there was little conversation in the state carriage.
Kenneth's sensitive nature was greatly affected by the death of the
woman who had played so important a part in the brief story of his
life, and the awe it inspired rendered him gloomy and silent. Lawyer
Watson had once warned him that Miss Merrick's death might make him an
outcast, and he felt the insecurity of his present position.
But Patsy, believing he would soon know of his good fortune, watched
him curiously during the ride, and beamed upon him as frequently as
her own low spirits would permit.
"You know, Ken," she reminded him, "that whatever happens we are
always to remain friends."
"Of course," replied the boy, briefly.
The girl had thrown aside her crutches, by this time, and planned to
return to her work immediately after the funeral.
The brief services at the cemetery being concluded, the little
cavalcade returned to Elmhurst, where luncheon was awaiting them.
Then Mr. Watson brought into the drawing room the tin box containing
the important Elmhurst papers in his possession, and having requested
all present to be seated he said:
"In order to clear up the uncertainty that at present exists
concerning Miss Merrick's last will and testament, I will now proceed
to read to you the document, which will afterward be properly probated
according to law."
There was no need to request their attention. An intense stillness
pervaded the room.
The lawyer calmly unlocked the tin box and drew out the sealed yellow
envelope which Miss Merrick had recently given him. Patsy's heart was
beating with eager expectancy. She watched the lawyer break the seal,
draw out the paper and then turn red and angry. He hesitated a moment,
and then thrust the useless document into its enclosure and cast it
"Is anything wrong?" asked the girl in a low whisper, which was yet
distinctly heard by all.
Mr. Watson seemed amazed. Jane Merrick's deceitful trickery,
discovered so soon after her death, was almost horrible for him to
contemplate. He had borne much from this erratic woman, but had never
believed her capable of such an act.
So he said, in irritable tones:
"Miss Merrick gave me this document a few days ago, leading me to
believe it was her last will. I had prepared it under her instruction
and understood that it was properly signed. But she has herself torn
off and destroyed the signature and marked the paper 'void,' so that
the will previously made is the only one that is valid."
"What do you mean?" cried Patsy, in amazement. "Isn't Kenneth to
inherit Elmhurst, after all?"
"Me! Me inherit?" exclaimed the boy.
"That is what she promised me," declared Patsy, while tears of
indignation stood in her eyes, "I saw her sign it, myself, and if she
has fooled me and destroyed the signature she's nothing but an old
fraud--and I'm glad she's dead!"
With this she threw herself, sobbing, upon a sofa, and Louise and
Beth, shocked to learn that after all their cousin had conspired
against them, forebore any attempt to comfort her.
But Uncle John, fully as indignant as Patricia, came to her side and
laid a hand tenderly on the girl's head.
"Never mind, little one." he said. "Jane was always cruel and
treacherous by nature, and we might have expected she'd deceive her
friends even in death. But you did the best you could, Patsy, dear,
and it can't be helped now."
Meantime the lawyer had been fumbling in the box, and now drew out the
"Give me your attention, please," said he.
Patsy sat up and glared at him.
"I won't take a cent of it!" she exclaimed.
"Be silent!" demanded the lawyer, sternly. "You have all, I believe,
been told by Miss Merrick of the terms of this will, which is properly
signed and attested. But it is my duty to read it again, from
beginning to end, and I will do so."
Uncle John smiled when his bequest was mentioned, and Beth frowned.
Louise, however, showed no sign of disappointment. There had been a
miserable scramble for this inheritance, she reflected, and she was
glad the struggle was over. The five thousand dollars would come in
handy, after all, and it was that much more than she had expected to
have before she received Aunt Jane's invitation. Perhaps she and her
mother would use part of it for a European trip, if their future plans
seemed to warrant it.
"As far as I am concerned," said Patsy, defiantly, "you may as well
tear up this will, too. I won't have that shameful old woman's money."
"That is a matter the law does not allow you to decide," returned the
lawyer, calmly. "You will note the fact that I am the sole executor of
the estate, and must care for it in your interests until you are of
age. Then it will he turned over to you to do as you please with."
"Can I give it away, if I want to?"
"Certainly. It is now yours without recourse, and although you cannot
dispose of it until you are of legal age, there will be nothing then
to prevent your transfering it to whomsoever you please. I called
Miss Merrick's attention to this fact when you refused to accept the
"What did she say?"
"That you would be more wise then, and would probably decide to keep
Patsy turned impulsively to the boy.
"Kenneth," she said, "I faithfully promise, in the presence of these
witnesses, to give you Elmhurst and all Aunt Jane's money as soon as I
am of age."
"Good for you, Patsy," said Uncle John.
The boy seemed bewildered.
"I don't want the money--really I don't!" he protested. "The five
thousand she left me will be enough. But I'd like to live here at
Elmhurst for a time, until it's sold or some one else comes to live in
"It's yours," said Patsy, with a grand air. "You can live here
Mr. Watson seemed puzzled.
"If that is your wish, Miss Patricia," bowing gravely in her
direction, "I will see that it is carried out. Although I am, in
this matter, your executor, I shall defer to your wishes as much as
"Thank you," she said and then, after a moment's reflection, she
added: "Can't you give to Louise and Beth the ten thousand dollars
they were to have under the other will, instead of the five thousand
each that this one gives them?"
"I will consider that matter," he replied; "perhaps it can be
Patsy's cousins opened their eyes at this, and began to regard her
with more friendly glances. To have ten thousand each instead of
five would be a very nice thing, indeed, and Miss Patricia Doyle
had evidently become a young lady whose friendship it would pay to
cultivate. If she intended to throw away the inheritance, a portion of
it might fall to their share.
They were expressing to Patsy their gratitude when old Donald suddenly
appeared in the doorway and beckoned to Uncle John.
"Will you please come to see James, sir?" he asked. "The poor fellow's
JAMES TELLS A STRANGE STORY.
Uncle John followed the coachman up the stairs to the little room
above the tool-house, where the old man had managed to crawl after old
Sam had given him a vicious kick in the chest.
"Is he dead?" he asked.
"No, sir; but mortally hurt, I'm thinkin'. It must have happened while
we were at the funeral."
He opened the door, outside which Susan and Oscar watched with
frightened faces, and led John Merrick into the room.
James lay upon his bed with closed eyes. His shirt, above the breast,
was reeking with blood.
"The doctor should be sent for," said Uncle John.
"He'll be here soon, for one of the stable boys rode to fetch him. But
I thought you ought to know at once, sir."
"Quite right, Donald."
As they stood there the wounded man moved and opened his eyes, looking
from one to the other of them wonderingly. Finally he smiled.
"Ah, it's Donald," he said.
"Yes, old friend," answered the coachman. "And this is Mr. John."
"Mr. John? Mr. John? I don't quite remember you, sir," with a slight
shake of the gray head. "And Donald, lad, you've grown wonderful old,
"It's the years, Jeemes," was the reply. "The years make us all old,
sooner or later."
The gardener seemed puzzled, and examined his companions more
carefully. He did not seem to be suffering any pain. Finally he
"The dreams confuse me," he said, as if to explain something. "I can't
always separate them, the dreams from the real. Have I been sick,
"Yes, lad. You're sick now."
The gardener closed his eyes, and lay silent.
"Do you think he's sane?" whispered Uncle John.
"I do, sir. He's sane for the first time in years."
James looked at them again, and slowly raised his hand to wipe the
damp from his forehead.
"About Master Tom," he said, falteringly. "Master Tom's dead, ain't
"That was real, then, an' no dream. I mind it all, now--the shriek of
the whistle, the crash, and the screams of the dying. Have I told you
about it, Donald?"
"It all happened before we knew it. I was on one side the car and
Master Tom on the other. My side was on top, when I came to myself,
and Master Tom was buried in the rubbish. God knows how I got him out,
but I did. Donald, the poor master's side was crushed in, and both
legs splintered. I knew at once he was dying, when I carried him to
the grass and laid him down; and he knew it, too. Yes, the master knew
he was done; and him so young and happy, and just about to be married
to--to--the name escapes me, lad!"
His voice sank to a low mumble, and he closed his eyes wearily.
The watchers at his side stood still and waited. It might be that
death had overtaken the poor fellow. But no; he moved again, and
opened his eyes, continuing his speech in a stronger tone.
"It was hard work to get the paper for Master Tom," he said; "but he
swore he must have it before he died. I ran all the way to the station
house and back--a mile or more--and brought the paper and a pen and
ink, besides. It was but a telegraph blank--all I could find. Naught
but a telegraph blank, lad."
Again his voice trailed away into a mumbling whisper, but now Uncle
John and Donald looked into one another's eyes with sudden interest.
"He mustn't die yet!" said the little man; and the coachman leaned
over the wounded form and said, distinctly:
"Yes, lad; I'm listening."
"To be sure," said James, brightening a bit. "So I held the paper for
him, and the brakeman supported Master Tom's poor body, and he wrote
out the will as clear as may be."
"Sure enough; Master Tom's last will. Isn't my name on it, too, where
I signed it? And the conductor's beside it, for the poor brakeman
didn't dare let him go? Of course. Who should sign the will with
Master Tom but me--his old servant and friend? Am I right, Donald?"
"'Now,' says Master Tom, 'take it to Lawyer Watson, James, and bid him
care for it. And give my love to Jane--that's the name, Donald; the
one I thought I'd forgot--'and now lay me back and let me die.' His
very words, Donald. And we laid him back and he died. And he died.
Poor Master Tom. Poor, poor young Master. And him to--be married--in
"The paper, James!" cried Uncle John, recalling the dying man to the
present. "What became of it?"
"Sir, I do not know you," answered James, suspiciously. "The paper's
for Lawyer Watson. It's he alone shall have it."
"Here I am, James," cried the lawyer, thrusting the others aside and
advancing to the bed. "Give me the paper. Where is it? I am Lawyer
The gardener laughed--a horrible, croaking laugh that ended with a
gasp of pain.
"_You_ Lawyer Watson?" he cried, a moment later, in taunting tones.
"Why, you old fool, Si Watson's as young as Master Tom--as young as I
am! You--_you_ Lawyer Watson! Ha, ha, ha!"
"Where is the paper?" demanded the lawyer fiercely.
James stared at him an instant, and then suddenly collapsed and fell
back inert upon the bed.
"Have you heard all?" asked John Merrick, laying his hand on the
"Yes; I followed you here as soon as I could. Tom Bradley made another
will, as he lay dying. I must have it, Mr. Merrick."
"Then you must find it yourself," said Donald gravely, "for James is
The doctor, arriving a few minutes later, verified the statement.
It was evident that the old gardener, for years insane, had been so
influenced by Miss Merrick's death that he had wandered into
the stables where he received his death blow. When he regained
consciousness the mania had vanished, and in a shadowy way he could
remember and repeat that last scene of the tragedy that had deprived
him of his reason. The story was logical enough, and both Mr. Watson
and John Merrick believed it.
"Tom Bradley was a level-headed fellow until he fell in love with your
sister," said the lawyer to his companion. "But after that he would
not listen to reason, and perhaps he had a premonition of his own
sudden death, for he made a will bequeathing all he possessed to his
sweetheart. I drew up the will myself, and argued against the folly of
it; but he had his own way. Afterward, in the face of death, I believe
he became more sensible, and altered his will."
"Yet James' story may all be the effect of a disordered mind," said
"I do not think, so; but unless he has destroyed the paper in his
madness, we shall he able to find it among his possessions."
With this idea in mind, Mr. Watson ordered the servants to remove the
gardener's body to a room in the carriage-house, and as soon as this
was done he set to work to search for the paper, assisted by John
"It was a telegraph blank, he said."
"Then we cannot mistake it, if we find any papers at all," declared
The most likely places in James' room for anything to be hidden were a
small closet, in which were shelves loaded with odds and ends, and an
old clothes-chest that was concealed underneath the bed.
This last was first examined, but found to contain merely an
assortment of old clothing. Having tossed these in a heap upon the
floor the lawyer begun an examination of the closet, the shelves
promising well because of several bundles of papers they contained.
While busy over these, he heard Uncle John say, quietly:
"I've got it."
The lawyer bounded from the closet. The little man had been searching
the pockets of the clothing taken from the chest, and from a faded
velvet coat he drew out the telegraph blank.
"Is it the will?" asked the lawyer, eagerly.
"Read it yourself," said Uncle John.
Mr. Watson put on his glasses.
"Yes; this is Tom Bradley's handwriting, sure enough. The will is
brief, but it will hold good in law. Listen: I bequeath to Jane
Merrick, my affianced bride, the possession and use of my estate
during the term of her life. On her death all such possessions, with
their accrument, shall be transferred to my sister, Katherine Bradley,
if she then survives, to have and to hold by her heirs and assignees
forever. But should she die without issue previous to the death of
Jane Merrick, I then appoint my friend and attorney, Silas Watson, to
distribute the property among such organized and worthy charities as
he may select.' That is all."
"Quite enough," said Uncle John, nodding approval.
"And it is properly signed and witnessed. The estate is Kenneth's,
sir, after all, for he is the sole heir of his mother. Katherine
Bradley Forbes. Hurrah!" ended the lawyer, waving the yellow paper
above his head.
"Hurrah!" echoed Uncle John, gleefully; and the two men shook hands.
PATSY ADOPTS AN UNCLE.
Uncle John and Mr. Watson did not appear at dinner, being closeted in
the former's room. This meal, however, was no longer a state function,
being served by the old servants as a mere matter of routine. Indeed,
the arrangements of the household had been considerably changed by the
death of its mistress, and without any real head to direct them
the servants were patiently awaiting the advent of a new master or
mistress. It did not seem clear to them yet whether Miss Patricia or
Lawyer Watson was to take charge of Elmhurst: but there were few tears
shed for Jane Merrick, and the new regime could not fail to be an
improvement over the last.
At dinner the young folks chatted together in a friendly and eager
manner concerning the events of the day. They knew of old James'
unfortunate end, but being unaware of its import gave it but passing
attention. The main subject of conversation was Aunt Jane's surprising
act in annulling her last will and forcing Patricia to accept the
inheritance when she did not want it. Kenneth, being at his ease when
alone with the three cousins, protested that it would not be right
for Patsy to give him all the estate. But, as she was so generous,
he would accept enough of his Uncle Tom's money to educate him as an
artist and provide for himself an humble home. Louise and Beth, having
at last full knowledge of their cousin's desire to increase their
bequests, were openly very grateful for her good will; although
secretly they could not fail to resent Patsy's choice of the boy as
the proper heir of his uncle's fortune. The balance of power seemed to
be in Patricia's hands, however; so it would be folly at this juncture
to offend her.
Altogether, they were all better provided for than they had feared
would be the case; so the little party spent a pleasant evening and
separated early, Beth and Louise to go to their rooms and canvass
quietly the events of the day, and the boy to take a long stroll
through the country lanes to cool his bewildered brain. Patsy wrote a
long letter to the major, telling him she would be home in three days,
and then she went to bed and slept peacefully.
After breakfast they were all again summoned to the drawing-room, to
their great surprise. Lawyer Watson and Uncle John were there, looking
as grave as the important occasion demanded, and the former at once
proceeded to relate the scene in James' room, his story of the death
of Thomas Bradley, and the subsequent finding of the will.
"This will, which has just been recovered," continued the lawyer,
impressively, "was made subsequent to the one under which Jane
Merrick inherited, and therefore supercedes it. Miss Jane had, as
you perceive, a perfect right to the use of the estate during her
lifetime, but no right whatever to will a penny of it to anyone. Mr.
Bradley having provided for that most fully. For this reason the will
I read to you yesterday is of no effect, and Kenneth Forbes inherits
from his uncle, through his mother, all of the estate."
Blank looks followed Mr. Watson's statement.
"Good-by to my five thousand," said Uncle John, with his chuckling
laugh. "But I'm much obliged to Jane, nevertheless."
"Don't we get anything at all?" asked Beth, with quivering lip.
"No, my dear," answered the lawyer, gently. "Your aunt owned nothing
to give you."
Patsy laughed. She felt wonderfully relieved.
"Wasn't I the grand lady, though, with all the fortune I never had?"
she cried merrily. "But 'twas really fine to be rich for a day, and
toss the money around as if I didn't have to dress ten heads of hair
in ten hours to earn my bread and butter."
"It was all a great farce," she said. "I shall take the afternoon
train to the city. What an old fraud our dear Aunt Jane was! And how
foolish of me to return her hundred dollar check."
"I used mine," said Beth, bitterly. "It's all I'll ever get, it
seems." And then the thought of the Professor and his debts overcame
her and she burst, into tears.
The boy sat doubled within his chair, so overcome by the extraordinary
fortune that had overtaken him that he could not speak, nor think even
clearly as yet.
Patsy tried to comfort Beth.
"Never mind, dear," said she. "We're no worse off than before we
came, are we? And we've had a nice vacation. Let's forget all
disappointments and be grateful to Aunt Jane's memory. As far as she
knew, she tried to be good to us."
"I'm going home today," said Beth, angrily drying her eyes.
"We'll all go home," said Patsy, cheerfully.
"For my part," remarked Uncle John, in a grave voice, "I have no
Patsy ran up and put her arm around his neck.
"Poor Uncle John!" she cried. "Why, you're worse off than any of us.
What's going to become of you, I wonder?"
"I'm wondering that myself," said the little man, meekly.
"Ah! You can stay here," said the boy, suddenly arousing from his
"No," replied Uncle John, "the Merricks are out of Elmhurst now, and
it returns to its rightful owners. You owe me nothing, my lad."
"But I like you," said Kenneth, "and you're old and homeless. Stay at
Elmhurst, and you shall always be welcome."
Uncle John seemed greatly affected, and wrung the boy's hand
earnestly. But he shook his head.
"I've wandered all my life," he said. "I can wander yet."
"See here," exclaimed Patsy. "We're all three your nieces, and we'll
take care of you between us. Won't we, girls?"
Louise smiled rather scornfully, and Beth scowled.
"My mother and I live so simply in our little flat," said one, "that
we really haven't extra room to keep a cat. But we shall be glad to
assist Uncle John as far as we are able."
"Father can hardly support his own family," said the other; "but I
will talk to my mother about Uncle John when I get home, and see what
"Oh, you don't need to, indeed!" cried Patsy, in great indignation.
"Uncle John is my dear mother's brother, and he's to come and live
with the Major and me, as long as he cares to. There's room and to
spare, Uncle," turning to him and clasping his hand, "and a joyful
welcome into the bargain. No, no! say nothing at all, sir! Come you
shall, if I have to drag you; and if you act naughty I'll send for the
Major to punish you!"
Uncle John's eyes were moist. He looked on Patsy most affectionately
and cast a wink at Lawyer Watson, who stood silently by.
"Thank you, my dear," said he; "but where's the money to come from?"
"Money? Bah!" she said. "Doesn't the Major earn a heap with his
bookkeeping, and haven't I had a raise lately? Why, we'll be as snug
and contented as pigs in clover. Can you get ready to come with me
today, Uncle John?"
"Yes," he said slowly. "I'll be ready, Patsy."
So the exodus from Elmhurst took place that very day, and Beth
travelled in one direction, while Louise, Patsy and Uncle John took
the train for New York. Louise had a seat in the parlor car, but Patsy
laughed at such extravagance.
"It's so much easier than walking," she said to Uncle John, "that the
common car is good enough," and the old man readily agreed with her.
Kenneth and Mr. Watson came to the station to see them off, and they
parted with many mutual expressions of friendship and good will.
Louise, especially, pressed an urgent invitation upon the new master
of Elmhurst to visit her mother in New York, and he said he hoped to
see all the girls again. They were really like cousins to him, by this
time. And after they were all gone he rode home on Nora's back quite
disconsolate, in spite of his wonderful fortune.
The lawyer, who had consented to stay at the mansion for a time, that
the boy might not be lonely, had already mapped put a plan for the
young heir's advancement. As he rode beside Kenneth he said:
"You ought to travel, and visit the art centers of Europe, and I shall
try to find a competent tutor to go with you."
"Can't you go yourself?" asked the boy.
The lawyer hesitated.
"I'm getting old, and my clients are few and unimportant, aside from
the Elmhurst interests," he said. "Perhaps I can manage to go abroad
"I'd like that," declared the boy. "And we'd stop in New York,
wouldn't we, for a time?"
"Of course. Do you want to visit New York especially?"
"It's rather a stupid city," said the lawyer, doubtfully.
"That may be," answered the boy. "But Patsy will be there, you know."
The Major was at the station to meet them. Uncle John had shyly
suggested a telegram, and Patsy had decided they could stand the
expense for the pleasure of seeing the old Dad an hour sooner.
The girl caught sight of him outside the gates, his face red and
beaming as a poppy in bloom and his snowy moustache bristling with
eagerness. At once she dropped her bundles and flew to the Major's
arms, leaving the little man in her wake to rescue her belongings and
He could hardly see Patsy at all, the Major wrapped her in such an
ample embrace; but bye and bye she escaped to get her breath, and then
her eyes fell upon the meek form holding her bundles.
"Oh, Dad," she cried, "here's Uncle John, who has come to live with
us; and if you don't love him as much as I do I'll make your life
"On which account," said the Major, grasping the little man's hand
most cordially, "I'll love Uncle John like my own brother. And
surely," he added, his voice falling tenderly, "my dear Violet's
brother must be my own. Welcome, sir, now and always, to our little
home. It's modest, sir; but wherever Patsy is the sun is sure to
"I can believe that," said Uncle John, with a nod and smile.
They boarded a car for the long ride up town, and as soon as they were
seated Patsy demanded the story of the Major's adventures with his
colonel, and the old fellow rattled away with the eagerness of a
boy, telling every detail in the most whimsical manner, and finding
something humorous in every incident.
"Oh, but it was grand, Patsy!" he exclaimed, "and the Colonel wept on
my neck when we parted and stained the collar of me best coat, and he
give me a bottle of whiskey that would make a teetotaler roll his eyes
in ecstacy. 'Twas the time of my life."
"And you're a dozen years younger, Major!" she cried, laughing, "and
fit to dig into work like a pig in clover."
His face grew grave.
"But how about the money, Patsy dear?" he asked. "Did you get nothing
out of Jane Merrick's estate?"
"Not a nickle, Dad. 'Twas the best joke you ever knew. I fought with
Aunt Jane like a pirate and it quite won her heart. When she died she
left me all she had in the world."
"Look at that, now!" said the Major, wonderingly.
"Which turned out to be nothing at all," continued Patsy. "For another
will was found, made by Mr. Thomas Bradley, which gave the money to
his own nephew after Aunt Jane died. Did you ever?"
"Wonderful!" said the Major, with a sigh.
"So I was rich for half a day, and then poor as ever."
"It didn't hurt you, did it?" asked the Major. "You weren't vexed with
disappointment, were you, Patsy?"
"Not at all, Daddy."
"Then don't mind it, child. Like as not the money would be the
ruination of us all. Eh, sir?" appealing to Uncle John.
"To be sure," said the little man. "Jane left five thousand to me,
also, which I didn't get. But I'm not sorry at all."
"Quite right, sir," approved the Major, sympathetically, "although
it's easier not to expect anything at all, than to set your heart on a
thing and then not get it. In your case, it won't matter. Our house is
yours, and there's plenty and to spare."
"Thank you," said Uncle John, his face grave but his eyes merry.
"Oh, Major!" cried Patsy, suddenly. "There's Danny Reeves's
restaurant. Let's get off and have our dinner now; I'm as hungry as a
So they stopped the car and descended, lugging all the parcels into
the little restaurant, where they were piled into a chair while the
proprietor and the waiters all gathered around Patsy to welcome her
My, how her eyes sparkled! She fairly danced for joy, and ordered the
dinner with reckless disregard of the bill.
"Ah, but it's good to be back," said the little Bohemian, gleefully.
"The big house at Elmhurst was grand and stately, Major, but there
wasn't an ounce of love in the cupboard."
"Wasn't I there. Patsy?" asked Uncle John, reproachfully.
"True, but now you're here; and our love, Uncle, has nothing to do
with Elmhurst. I'll bet a penny you liked it as little as I did."
"You'd win," admitted the little man.
"And now," said the girl to the smiling waiter, "a bottle of red
California wine for Uncle John and the Major, and two real cigars.
We'll be merry tonight if it bankrupts the Doyle family entirely."
But, after a merry meal and a good one, there was no bill at all when
it was called for.
Danny Reeves himself came instead, and made a nice little speech,
saying that Patsy had always brought good luck to the place, and this
dinner was his treat to welcome her home.
So the Major thanked him with gracious dignity and Patsy kissed Danny
on his right cheek, and then they went away happy and content to find
the little rooms up the second flight of the old tenement.
"It's no palace," said Patsy, entering to throw down the bundles as
soon as the Major unlocked the door, "but there's a cricket in the
hearth, and it's your home, Uncle John, as well as ours."
Uncle John looked around curiously. The place was so plain after the
comparative luxury of Elmhurst, and especially of the rose chamber
Patsy had occupied, that the old man could not fail to marvel at the
girl's ecstatic joy to find herself in the old tenement again. There
was one good sized living-room, with an ancient rag-carpet partially
covering the floor, a sheet-iron stove, a sofa, a table and three or
four old-fashioned chairs that had probably come from a second-hand
Opening from this were two closet-like rooms containing each a bed and
a chair, with a wash-basin on a bracket shelf. On the wails were a
few colored prints from the Sunday newspapers and one large and fine
photograph of a grizzled old soldier that Uncle John at once decided
must represent "the Colonel."
Having noted these details, Patsy's uncle smoothed back his stubby
gray hair with a reflective and half puzzled gesture.
"It's cozy enough, my child; and I thank you for my welcome," said he.
"But may I enquire where on earth you expect to stow me in this rather
"Where? Have you no eyes, then?" she asked, in astonishment. "It's the
finest sofa in the world, Uncle John, and you'll sleep there like a
top, with the dear Colonel's own picture looking down at you to keep
you safe and give you happy dreams. Where, indeed!"
"Ah; I see," said Uncle John.
"And you can wash in my chamber," added the Major, with a grand air,
"and hang your clothes on the spare hooks behind my door."
"I haven't many," said Uncle John, looking thoughtfully at his red
The Major coughed and turned the lamp a little higher.
"You'll find the air fine, and the neighborhood respectable," he said,
to turn the subject. "Our modest apartments are cool in summer and
warm in winter, and remarkably reasonable in price. Patsy gets our
breakfast on the stove yonder, and we buy our lunches down town, where
we work, and then dine at Danny Reeves's place. A model home, sir, and
a happy one, as I hope you'll find it."
"I'm sure to be happy here," said Uncle John, taking out his pipe.
"May I smoke?"
"Of course; but don't spoil the lace curtains, dear," answered Patsy,
mischievously. And then, turning to her father, she exclaimed: "Oh,
daddy! What will the Uncle do all the day while we're at work?"
"That's as he may choose," said the Major, courteously.
"Couldn't we get him a job?" asked Patsy, wistfully. "Not where
there'll be much work, you know, for the Uncle is old. But just to
keep him out of mischief, and busy. He can't hang around all day and
be happy, I suppose."
"I'll look around," answered the Major, briskly, as if such a "job"
was the easiest thing in the world to procure. "And meantime--"
"Meantime," said Uncle John, smiling at them, "I'll look around
"To be sure," agreed the Major. "Between the two of us and Patsy, we
ought to have no trouble at all."
There was a moment of thoughtful silence after this, and then Patsy
"You know it won't matter, Uncle John, if you don't work. There'll
easy be enough for all, with the Major's wages and my own."
"By the bye," added the Major, "if you have any money about you, which
is just possible, sir, of course, you'd better turn it over to Patsy
to keep, and let her make you an allowance. That's the way I do--it's
"The Major's extravagant," exclaimed Patsy; "and if he has money he
wants to treat every man he meets."
Uncle John shook his head, reproachfully, at the Major.
"A very bad habit, sir," he said.
"I acknowledge it, Mr. Merrick," responded the Major. "But Patsy is
fast curing me. And, after all, it's a wicked city to be carrying a
fat pocketbook around in, as I've often observed."
"My pocketbook is not exactly fat," remarked Uncle John.
"But you've money, sir, for I marked you squandering it on the train,"
said Patsy, severely. "So out with it, and we'll count up, and see how
much of an allowance I can make you 'till you get the job."
Uncle John laughed and drew his chair up to the table. Then he emptied
his trousers' pockets upon the cloth, and Patsy gravely separated the
keys and jackknife from the coins and proceeded to count the money.
"Seven dollars and forty-two cents," she announced. "Any more?"
Uncle John hesitated a moment, and then drew from an inner pocket of
his coat a thin wallet. From this, when she had received it from his
hand, the girl abstracted two ten and one five dollar bills, all crisp
"Good gracious!" she cried, delightedly. "All this wealth, and you
"I never said I was a pauper," returned Uncle John, complacently.
"You couldn't, and be truthful, sir," declared the girl. "Why, this
will last for ages, and I'll put it away safe and be liberal with
your allowance. Let me see," pushing the coins about with her slender
fingers, "you just keep the forty-two cents, Uncle John. It'll do for
car-fare and a bit of lunch now and then, and when you get broke you
can come to me."
"He smokes," observed the Major, significantly.
"Bah! a pipe," said Patsy. "And Bull Durham is only five cents a bag,
and a bag ought to last a week. And every Saturday night, sir, you
shall have a cigar after dinner, with the Major. It's it our regular
"Thank you, Patsy," said Uncle John, meekly, and gathered up his
"You've now a home, and a manager, sir, with money in the bank of
Patsy & Company, Limited," announced the Major. "You ought to be very
"I am," replied Uncle John.
UNCLE JOHN ACTS QUEERLY.
When Patsy and the Major had both departed for work on Monday morning
Uncle John boarded a car and rode downtown also. He might have
accompanied them part of the way, but feared Patsey might think him
extravagant if she found him so soon breaking into the working fund of
forty-two cents, which she charged him to be careful of.
He seemed to be in no hurry, for it was early yet, and few of the
lower Broadway establishments were open. To pass the time he turned
into a small restaurant and had coffee and a plate of cakes, in spite
of the fact that Patsy had so recently prepared coffee over the
sheet-iron stove and brought some hot buns from a near-by bakery. He
was not especially hungry; but in sipping the coffee and nibbling the
cakes he passed the best part of an hour.
He smiled when he paid out twenty-five cents of his slender store for
the refreshment. With five cents for car-fare he had now but twelve
cents left of the forty-two Patsy had given him! Talk about the
Major's extravagance: it could not be compared to Uncle John's.
Another hour was spent in looking in at the shop windows. Then,
suddenly noting the time. Uncle John started down the street at a
swinging pace, and presently paused before a building upon which was
a sign, reading: "Isham, Marvin & Co., Bankers and Brokers." A
prosperous looking place, it seemed, with a host of clerks busily
working in the various departments. Uncle John walked in, although the
uniformed official at the door eyed him suspiciously.
"Mr. Marvin in?" he inquired, pleasantly.
"Not arrived yet," said the official, who wore a big star upon his
"I'll wait," announced Uncle John, and sat down upon a leather-covered
The official strutted up and down, watching the customers who entered
the bank or departed, and keeping a sharp watch on the little man upon
Another hour passed.
Presently Uncle John jumped up and approached the official.
"Hasn't Mr. Marvin arrived yet?" he enquired, sharply.
"An hour ago," was the reply.
"Then why didn't you let me know? I want to see him."
"He's busy mornings. Has to look over the mail. He can't see you yet."
"Well, he will see me, and right away. Tell him John Merrick is here."
"Your card, sir."
"I haven't any. My name will do."
The official hesitated, and glanced at the little man's seedy garb and
countryfied air. But something in the angry glance of the shrewd
eye made him fear he had made a mistake. He opened a small door and
In a moment the door burst open to allow egress to a big, red-bearded
man in his shirtsleeves, who glanced around briefly and then rushed at
Uncle John and shook both his hands cordially.
"My dear Mr. Merrick!" he exclaimed, "I'm delighted and honored to see
you here. Come to my room at once. A great surprise and pleasure, sir!
Thomas, I'm engaged!"
This last was directed at the head of the amazed porter, who, as the
door slammed in his face, nodded solemnly and remarked:
"Fooled ag'in, and I might 'a' known it. Drat these 'ere billionaires!
Why don't they dress like decent people?"
Uncle John had been advised by Patsy where to go for a good cheap
luncheon; but he did not heed her admonition. Instead, he rode in a
carriage beside the banker to a splendid club, where he was served
with the finest dishes the chef could provide on short notice.
Moreover, Mr. Marvin introduced him to several substantial gentlemen
as "Mr. John Merrick, of Portland"; and each one bowed profoundly and
declared he was "highly honored."
Yet Uncle John seemed in no way elated by this reception. He retained
his simple manner, although his face was more grave than Patsy had
often seen it; and he talked with easy familiarity of preferred stocks
and amalgamated interests and invested, securities and many other
queer things that the banker seemed to understand fully and to listen
to with respectful deference.