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Aunt Jane's Nieces by Edith Van Dyne

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Then they returned to the bank for another long session together, and
there was quite an eager bustle among the clerks as they stretched
their necks to get a glimpse of Mr. Marvin's companion.

"It's John Merrick" passed from mouth to mouth, and the uniformed
official strutted from one window to another, saying:

"I showed him in myself. And he came into the bank as quiet like as
anyone else would."

But he didn't go away quietly, you may be sure. Mr. Marvin and Mr.
Isham both escorted their famous client to the door, where the Marvin
carriage had been ordered to be in readiness for Mr. Merrick's
service.

But Uncle John waived it aside disdainfully.

"I'll walk," he said. "There are some other errands to attend to."

So they shook his hand and reminded him of a future appointment and
let him go his way. In a moment the great Broadway crowd had swallowed
up John Merrick, and five minutes later he was thoughtfully gazing
into a shop window again.

By and bye he bethought himself of the time, and took a cab uptown. He
had more than the twelve cents in his pocket, now, besides the check
book which was carefully hidden away in an inside pocket; so the cost
of the cab did not worry him. He dismissed the vehicle near an uptown
corner and started to walk hastily toward Danny Reeves's restaurant, a
block away, Patsy was standing in the doorway, anxiously watching for
him.

"Oh, Uncle John," she cried, as he strolled "I've been really worried
about you; it's such a big city, and you a stranger. Do you know
you're ten minutes late?"

"I'm sorry," he said, humbly; "but it's a long way here from
downtown."

"Didn't you take a car?"

"No, my dear."

"Why, you foolish old Uncle! Come in at once. The Major has been
terribly excited over you, and swore you should not be allowed to
wander through the streets without someone to look after you. But what
could we do?"

"I'm all right," declared Uncle John, cordially shaking hands with
Patsy's father. "Have you had a good day?"

"Fine," said the Major. "They'd missed me at the office, and were glad
to have me back. And what do you think? I've got a raise."

"Really?" said Uncle John, seeing it was expected of him.

"For a fact. It's Patsy's doing, I've no doubt. She wheedled the firm
into giving me a vacation, and now they're to pay me twelve a week
instead of ten."

"Is that enough?" asked Uncle John, doubtfully.

"More than enough, sir. I'm getting old, and can't earn as much as a
younger man. But I'm pretty tough, and mean to hold onto that twelve a
week as long as possible."

"What pay do you get, Patsy?" asked Uncle John.

"Almost as much as Daddy. We're dreadfully rich, Uncle John; so you
needn't worry if you don't strike a job yourself all at once."

"Any luck today, sir," asked the Major, tucking a napkin under his
chin and beginning on the soup.

Uncle John shook his head.

"Of course not," said Patsy, quickly. "It's too early, as yet. Don't
hurry, Uncle John. Except that it'll keep you busy, there's no need
for you to work at all."

"You're older than I am," suggested the Major, "and that makes it
harder to break in. But there's no hurry, as Patsy says."

Uncle John did not seem to be worrying over his idleness. He kept on
questioning his brother-in-law and his niece about their labors, and
afterward related to them the sights he had seen in the shop windows.
Of course he could not eat much after the feast he had had at
luncheon, and this disturbed Patsy a little. She insisted he was
tired, and carried her men away to the tenement rooms as soon as
possible, where she installed them at the table to play cribbage until
bed-time.

The next day Uncle John seemed to be busy enough, although of course
Patsy could not know what he was doing. He visited a real-estate
office, for one thing, and then telephoned Isham, Marvin & Co. and
issued a string of orders in a voice not nearly so meek and mild as
it was when he was in Patsy's presence. Whatever he had undertaken
required time, for all during the week he left the tenement directly
the Major and his daughter had gone to the city, and bustled about
until it was time to meet them for dinner at the restaurant. But he
was happy and in good spirits and enjoyed his evening game of cribbage
with the Major exceedingly.

"You must be nearly bankrupt, by this time," said Patsy on Tuesday
evening.

"It's an expensive city to live in," sighed Uncle John.

She gave him fifty cents of his money, then, and on Friday fifty cents
more.

"After a time," she said, "you'll manage to get along with less. It's
always harder to economize at first."

"How about the bills?" he inquired. "Don't I pay my share of them?"

"Your expenses are nothing at all," declared the Major, with a wave of
his hand.

"But my dinners at Danny Reeves' place must cost a lot," protested
Uncle John.

"Surely not; Patsy has managed all that for a trifle, and the pleasure
of your company more than repays us for the bit of expense."

On Saturday night there was a pint of red wine for the two men, and
then the weekly cigars were brought--very inexpensive ones, to be
sure. The first whiff he took made Uncle John cough; but the Major
smoked so gracefully and with such evident pleasure that his
brother-in-law clung manfully to the cigar, and succeeded in consuming
it to the end.

"Tomorrow is the day of rest," announced Patsy, "so we'll all go for a
nice walk in the parks after breakfast."

"And we sleep 'till eight o'clock, don't we, Patsy?" asked the Major.

"Of course."

"And the eggs for breakfast?"

"I've bought them already, three for a nickle. You don't care for more
than one, do you, Uncle John?"

"No, my dear."

"It's our Sunday morning extra--an egg apiece. The Major is so fond of
them."

"And so am I, Patsy."

"And now we'll have our cribbage and get to bed early. Heigho! but
Sunday's a great day for folks that work."

CHAPTER XXVI.

A BUNCH OF KEYS.

Uncle John did not sleep well. Perhaps he had a guilty conscience.
Anyway, he tossed about a good deal on the sofa-bed in the
living-room, and wore himself out to such an extent that when Patsy
got up at eight o'clock her uncle had fallen into his first sound
sleep.

She never disturbed him until she had made the fire and cooked the
coffee and boiled the three white eggs. By this time the Major was
dressed and shaved, and he aroused Uncle John and bade him hurry into
the closet and make his toilet, "so that Patsy could put the house to
rights."

Uncle John obeyed eagerly, and was ready as soon as the Major had
brought the smoking rolls from the bakery. Ah, but it was a merry
breakfast; and a delicious one into the bargain. Uncle John seemed
hungry, and looked at the empty egg-shells regretfully.

"Next time, Patsy," he said, "you must buy six eggs."

"Look at his recklessness!" cried Patsy, laughing. "You're just as bad
as the Major, every bit. If you men hadn't me for a guardian you'd be
in the poorhouse in a month."

"But we have you, my dear," said Uncle John, smiling into her dancing
eyes; "so we won't complain at one egg instead of two."

Just then someone pounded on the door, and the girl ran to open it.
There was a messenger boy outside, looking smart and neat in his
blue-and-gold uniform, and he touched his cap politely to the girl.

"Miss Patricia Doyle?"

"That's me."

"A parcel for you. Sign here, please."

Patsy signed, bothering her head the while to know what the little
package contained and who could have sent it. Then the boy was gone,
and she came back slowly to the breakfast table, with the thing in her
hand.

"What is it, Patsy?" asked the Major, curiously.

"I'm dying to know, myself," said the girl.

Uncle John finished his coffee, looking unconcerned.

"A good way is to open it," remarked the Major.

It was a very neat package, wrapped in fine paper and sealed with red
wax. Patsy turned it over once or twice, and then broke the wax and
untied the cord.

A bunch of keys fell out first--seven of them, strung on a purple
ribbon--and then a flat, impressive looking letter was discovered.

The Major stared open-mouthed. Uncle John leaned back in his chair and
watched the girl's face.

"There's a mistake," said Patsy, quite bewildered. Then she read her
name upon the wrapper, quite plainly written, and shook her head.
"It's for me, all right. But what does it mean?"

"Why not read the letter?" suggested the Major.

So she opened the big envelope and unfolded the stiff paper and read
as follows:

"Miss Patricia Doyle, Becker's Flats, Duggan Street, New York. Dear
Miss Doyle: An esteemed client of our house, who desires to remain
unknown, has placed at your disposal the furnished apartments 'D,'
at 3708 Willing Square, for the period of three years, or as long
thereafter as you may care to retain them. Our client begs you to
consider everything the apartments contain as your own, and to use
it freely as it may please you. All rentals and rates are paid in
advance, and you are expected to take possession at once. Moreover,
our firm is commanded to serve you in any and every way you may
require, and it will be our greatest pleasure to be of use to you. The
keys to the apartments are enclosed herewith.

"Most respectfully,

"Isham, Marvin & Co."

Having read this to the end, in a weak voice and with many pauses,
Miss Patricia Doyle sat down in her chair with strange abruptness and
stared blankly at her father. The Major stared back. So did Uncle
John, when her eyes roved toward his face.

Patricia turned the keys over, and jingled them. Then she referred to
the letter again.

"Apartments D, at 3708 Willing Square. Where's that?"

The Major shook his head. So did Uncle John.

"Might look in a directory" suggested the latter, uncertainly.

"Of course," added the Major.

"But what does it all mean?" demanded Patsy, with sudden fierceness.
"Is it a joke? Isham, Marvin & Co., the great bankers! What do I know
of them, or they of me?"

"That isn't the point," observed the Major, reflectively. "Who's their
unknown and mysterious client? That's the question."

"To be sure," said Uncle John. "They're only the agents. You must have
a fairy godmother, Patsy."

She laughed at the idea, and shook her head.

"They don't exist in these days, Uncle John. But the whole thing must
be a joke, and nothing more."

"We'll discover that," asserted the Major, shrewdly scrutinizing
the letter, which he had taken from Patsy's hands. "It surely looks
genuine enough, on the face of it. I've seen the bank letter-head
before, and this is no forgery, you can take my word. Get your things
on, Patsy. Instead of walking in the park we'll hunt up Willing
Square, and we'll take the keys with us."

"A very good idea," said Uncle John. "I'd like to go with you, if I
may."

"Of course you may," answered the girl. "You're one of the family now,
Uncle John, and you must help us to unravel the mystery."

The Major took off his carpet slippers and pulled on his boots, while
Patricia was getting ready for the walk. Uncle John wandered around
the room aimlessly for a time, and then took off his black tie and put
on the white one.

Patsy noticed this, when she came out of her closet, and laughed
merrily.

"You mustn't be getting excited, Uncle John, until we see how this
wonderful adventure turns out." she said. "But I really must wash and
iron that necktie for you, if you're going to wear it on Sundays."

"Not a bad idea," said the Major. "But come, are we all ready?"

They walked down the rickety steps very gravely and sedately, Patsy
jingling the keys as they went, and made their way to the corner drug
store, where the Major searched in the directory for Willing Square.

To his surprise it proved to be only a few blocks away.

"But it's in the dead swell neighborhood," he explained, "where I have
no occasion to visit. We can walk it in five minutes."

Patsy hesitated.

"Really, it's no use going, Dad," she protested. "It isn't in reason
that I'd have a place presented me in a dead swell neighborhood. Now,
is it?"

"We'll have to go, just the same," said Uncle John. "I couldn't sleep
a wink tonight if we didn't find out what this all means."

"True enough," agreed the Major. "Come along, Patsy; it's this way."

Willing Square was not very big, but it was beautiful with flowers and
well tended and 3708 proved to be a handsome building with a white
marble front, situated directly on a corner. The Major examined it
critically from the sidewalk, and decided it contained six suites of
apartments, three on each side.

"D must be the second floor to the right." he said, "and that's a fine
location, sure enough."

A porter appeared at the front door, which stood open, and examined
the group upon the sidewalk with evident curiosity.

Patsy walked up to him, and ignoring the big gold figures over the
entrance she enquired:

"Is this 3708 Willing Square?"

"Yes, Miss," answered the porter; "are you Miss Doyle?"

"I am," she answered, surprised.

"One flight up, Miss, and turn to the right," he continued, promptly;
and then he winked over the girl's head at Uncle John, who frowned so
terribly that the man drew aside and disappeared abruptly. The Major
and Patsy were staring at one another, however, and did not see this
by-play.

"Let's go up," said the Major, in a husky voice, and proceeded to
mount the stairs.

Patsy followed close behind, and then came Uncle John. One flight up
they paused at a door marked "D", upon the panel of which was a rack
bearing a card printed with the word "Doyle."

"Well, well!" gasped the Major. "Who'd have thought it, at all at
all!"

Patsy, with trembling fingers, put a key in the lock, and after one or
two efforts opened the door.

The sun was shining brilliantly into a tiny reception hall, furnished
most luxuriously.

The Major placed his hat on the rack, and Uncle John followed suit.

No one spoke a word as they marched in humble procession into the
living-room, their feet pressing without sound into the thick rugs.
Everything here was fresh and new, but selected with excellent taste
and careful attention to detail. Not a thing; was lacking, from the
pretty upright piano to the enameled clock ticking upon the mantel.
The dining-room was a picture, indeed, with stained-glass windows
casting their soft lights through the draperies and the side-board
shining with silver and glass. There was a cellarette in one corner,
the Major noticed, and it was well stocked.

Beyond was a pantry with well filled shelves and then the
kitchen--this last filled with every article that could possibly
be needed. In a store-room were enough provisions to stock a
grocery-store and Patsy noted with amazement that there was ice in the
refrigerator, with cream and milk and butter cooling beside it.

They felt now as if they were intruding in some fairy domain. It was
all exquisite, though rather tiny; but such luxury was as far removed
from the dingy rooms they had occupied as could well be imagined. The
Major coughed and ahemmed continually; Patsy ah'd and oh'd and seemed
half frightened; Uncle John walked after them silently, but with a
pleased smile that was almost childish upon his round and rugged face.

Across the hall were three chambers, each with a separate bath, while
one had a pretty dressing-room added.

"This will be Patsy's room," said the Major, with a vast amount of
dignity.

"Of course," said Uncle John. "The pins on the cushion spell
'Patricia,' don't they?"

"So they do!" cried Patsy, greatly delighted.

"And this room," continued the Major, passing into the next, "will be
mine. There are fine battle-scenes on the wall; and I declare, there's
just the place for the colonel's photograph over the dresser!"

"Cigars, too," said Patsy, opening a little cabinet; "but 'twill be a
shame to smoke in this palace."

"Then I won't live here!" declared the Major, stoutly, but no one
heeded him.

"Here is Uncle John's room," exclaimed the girl, entering the third
chamber.

"Mine?" enquired Uncle John in mild surprise.

"Sure, sir; you're one of the family, and I'm glad it's as good as the
Major's, every bit."

Uncle John's eyes twinkled.

"I hope the bed is soft," he remarked, pressing it critically.

"It's as good as the old sofa, any day," said Patsy, indignantly.

Just then a bell tinkled, and after looking at one another in silent
consternation for a moment, the Major tiptoed stealthily to the front
door, followed by the others.

"What'll we do?" asked Patsy, in distress.

"Better open it," suggested Uncle John, calmly.

The Major did so, and there was a little maid bowing and smiling
outside. She entered at once, closing the door behind her, and bowed
again.

"This is my new mistress, I suppose," she said, looking at Patsy. "I
am your servant, Miss Patricia."

Patsy gasped and stared at her. The maid was not much older than she
was, but she looked pleasant and intelligent and in keeping with the
rooms. She wore a gray dress with white collar and white apron and
cap, and seemed so dainty and sweet that the Major and Uncle John
approved her at once.

Patsy sat down, from sheer lack of strength to stand up.

"Who hired you, then?" she asked.

"A gentleman from the bank," was the reply. "I'm Mary, if you please,
Miss. And my wages are all arranged for in advance, so there will be
nothing for you to pay," said the little maid.

"Can you cook?" asked Patsy, curiously.

"Yes, Miss," with a smile. "The dinner will be ready at one o'clock."

"Oh; you've been here before, then?"

"Two days, Miss, getting ready for you."

"And where will you sleep?"

"I've a little room beyond the kitchen. Didn't you see it, Miss
Patricia?"

"No, Mary."

"Anything more at present, Miss Patricia?"

"No, Mary."

The maid bowed again, and disappeared toward the kitchen, leaving an
awe-struck group behind her.

The Major whistled softly. Uncle John seemed quite unconcerned. Patsy
took out her handkerchief. The tears _would_ come in spite of her
efforts.

"I--I--I'm going to have a good cry," she sobbed, and rushed into the
living-room to throw herself flat upon the divan.

"It's all right," said the Major, answering Uncle John's startled
look; "the cry will do her good. I've half a mind to join her myself."

But he didn't. He followed Uncle John into the tatter's room and
smoked one of the newly-discovered cigars while the elder man lay back
in an easy chair and silently puffed his pipe.

By and bye Patsy joined them, no longer crying but radiant with glee.

"Tell me, Daddy," said she, perching on the arm of the Major's chair,
"who gave me all this, do you think?"

"Not me," answered the Major, positively. "I couldn't do it on twelve
a week, anyhow at all."

"And you robbed me of all my money when I came to town," said Uncle
John.

"Stop joking," said the girl. "There's no doubt this place is intended
for us, is there?"

"None at all," declared the Major. "It's ours for three years, and not
a penny to pay."

"Well, then, do you think it's Kenneth?"

The Major shook his head.

"I don't know the lad." he said, "and he might be equal to it,
although I doubt it. But he can't touch his money till he comes
of age, and it isn't likely his lawyer guardian would allow such
extravagances."

"Then who can it be?"

"I can't imagine."

"It doesn't seem to matter," remarked Uncle John, lighting a fresh
pipe. "You're not supposed to ask questions, I take it, but to enjoy
your new home as much as you can."

"Ex--actly!" agreed the Major.

"I've been thinking," continued Uncle John, "that I'm not exactly fit
for all this style, Patsy. I'll have to get a new suit of clothes to
match my new quarters. Will you give me back ten dollars of that money
to buy 'em with?"

"I suppose I'll have to," she answered, thoughtfully.

"We'll have to go back to Becker's flats to pack up our traps," said
the Major, "so we might as well go now."

"I hate to leave here for a single moment," replied the girl.

"Why?"

"I'm afraid it will all disappear again."

"Nonsense!" said Uncle John. "For my part, I haven't any traps, so
I'll stay here and guard the treasure till you return."

"Dinner is served, Miss Patricia," said the small maid, appearing in
the doorway.

"Then let's dine!" cried Patsy, clapping her hands gleefully; "and
afterward the Major and I will make our last visit to Becker's flats."

CHAPTER XXVII.

LOUISE MAKES A DISCOVERY.

Uncle John did not stay to guard the treasure, after all, for he knew
very well it would not disappear.

As soon as Patsy and the Major had departed for Becker's flats, he
took his own hat from the rack and walked away to hunt up another
niece, Miss Louise Merrick, whose address he had casually obtained
from Patsy a day or two before.

It was near by, and he soon found the place--a pretty flat in a
fashionable building, although not so exclusive a residence district
as Willing Square.

Up three flights he rode in the elevator, and then rang softly at the
door which here the card of Mrs. Merrick.

A maid opened it and looked at him enquiringly.

"Are the ladies in?" he asked.

"I'll see. Your card, sir?"

"I haven't any."

She half closed the door.

"Any name, then?"

"Yes, John Merrick."

She closed the door entirely, and was gone several minutes. Then she
came back and ushered him through the parlor into a small rear room.

Mrs. Merrick arose from her chair by the window and advanced to meet
him.

"You are John Merrick?" she enquired.

"Your husband's brother, ma'am," he replied.

"How do you do, Uncle John?" called Louise, from the sofa. "Excuse my
getting up, won't you? And where in the world have you come from?"

Mrs. Merrick sat down again.

"Won't you take a chair?" she said, stiffly.

"I believe I will," returned Uncle John. "I just came to make a call,
you know."

"Louise has told me of you," said the lady. "It was very unfortunate
that your sister's death deprived you of a home. An absurd thing,
altogether, that fiasco of Jane Merrick's."

"True," he agreed.

"But I might have expected it, knowing the woman's character as I
did."

Uncle John wondered what Jane's character had to do with the finding
of Tom Bradley's last will; but he said nothing.

"Where are you living?" asked Louise.

"Not anywhere, exactly," he answered, "although Patsy has offered me
a home and I've been sleeping on a sofa in her living-room, the past
week."

"I advise you to stay with the Doyles," said Mrs. Merrick, quickly.
"We haven't even a sofa to offer you here, our flat is so small;
otherwise we would be glad to be of some help to you. Have you found
work?"

"I haven't tried to, yet, ma'am."

"It will be hard to get, at your age, of course. But that is a matter
in which we cannot assist you."

"Oh, I'm not looking for help, ma'am."

She glanced at his worn clothing and soiled white necktie, and smiled.

"But we want to do something for you," said Louise. "Now," sitting up
and regarding him gravely, "I'm going to tell you a state secret. We
are living, in this luxurious way, on the principal of my father's
life insurance. At our present rate of expenditure we figure that the
money will last us two years and nine months longer. By that time I
shall be comfortably married or we will go bankrupt--as the fates
decide. Do you understand the situation?"

"Perfectly. It's very simple," said the old man.

"And rather uncertain, isn't it? But in spite of this, we are better
able to help you than any of your other relatives. The Doyles are
hard-working folks, and very poor. Beth says that Professor De Graf is
over head and ears in debt and earns less every year, so he can't be
counted upon. In all the Merrick tribe the only tangible thing is my
father's life insurance, which I believe you once helped him to pay a
premium on."

"I'd forgotten that," said Uncle John.

"Well, we haven't. We don't want to appear ungenerous in your eyes.
Some day we may need help ourselves. But just now we can't offer you a
home, and, as mother says, you'd better stay with the Doyles. We have
talked of making you a small allowance; but that may not be necessary.
When you need assistance you must come to us, and we'll do whatever we
can, as long as our money lasts. Won't that be the better way?"

Uncle John was silent for a moment. Then he asked:

"Why have you thought it necessary to assist me?"

Louise seemed surprised.

"You are old and seemed to be without means," she answered, "and that
five thousand Aunt Jane left to you turned out to be a myth. But tell
me, have you money, Uncle John?"

"Enough for my present needs," he said, smiling.

Mrs. Merrick seemed greatly relieved.

"Then there is no need of our trying to be generous," she said, "and I
am glad of that on all accounts."

"I just called for a little visit," said Uncle John. "It seemed
unfriendly not to hunt you up, when I was in town."

"I'm glad you did," replied Mrs. Merrick, glancing at the clock. "But
Louise expects a young gentleman to call upon her in a few minutes,
and perhaps you can drop in again; another Sunday, for instance."

"Perhaps so," said Uncle John, rising with a red face. "I'll see."

"Good bye, Uncle," exclaimed Louise, rising to take his hand. "Don't
feel that we've hurried you away, but come in again, whenever you feel
like it."

"Thank you, my dear," he said, and went away.

Louise approached the open window, that led to a broad balcony. The
people in the next flat--young Mr. Isham, the son of the great
banker, and his wife--were sitting on the balcony, overlooking the
street, but Louise decided to glance over the rail to discover if the
young gentleman she so eagerly awaited chanced to be in sight.

As she did so Mr. Isham cried in great excitement:

"There he is, Myra--that's him!" and pointed toward the sidewalk.

"Whom?" enquired Mrs. Isham, calmly.

"Why John Merrick! John Merrick, of Portland, Oregon."

"And who is John Merrick?" asked the lady.

"One of the richest men in the world, and the best client our house
has. Isn't he a queer looking fellow? And dresses like a tramp. But
he's worth from eighty to ninety millions, at least, and controls most
of the canning and tin-plate industries of America. I wonder what
brought him into this neighborhood?"

Louise drew back from the window, pale and trembling. Then she caught
up a shawl and rushed from the room. Uncle John must be overtaken and
brought back, at all hazards.

The elevator was coming down, fortunately, and she descended quickly
and reached the street, where she peered eagerly up and down for the
round, plump figure of the little millionaire. But by some strange
chance he had already turned a corner and disappeared.

While she hesitated the young man came briskly up, swinging his cane.

"Why, Miss Louise," he said in some surprise, "were you, by good
chance, waiting for me?"

"No, indeed," she answered, with a laugh; "I've been saying good-bye
to my rich uncle, John Merrick, of Portland, who has just called."

"John Merrick, the tin-plate magnate? Is he your uncle?"

"My father's own brother," she answered, gaily. "Come upstairs,
please. Mother will be glad to see you!"

CHAPTER XXVIII.

PATSY LOSES HER JOB.

Uncle John reached Willing Square before Patsy and her father
returned, but soon afterward they arrived in an antiquated carriage
surrounded by innumerable bundles.

"The driver's a friend of mine," explained the Major, "and he moved us
for fifty cents, which is less than half price. We didn't bring a bit
of the furniture or beds, for there's no place here to put them; but
as the rent at Becker's flat is paid to the first of next month, we'll
have plenty of time to auction 'em all off."

The rest of the day was spent most delightfully in establishing
themselves in the new home. It didn't take the girl long to put her
few belongings into the closets and drawers, but there were a thousand
little things to examine in the rooms and she made some important
discovery at every turn.

"Daddy," she said, impressively, "it must have cost a big fortune to
furnish these little rooms. They're full of very expensive things, and
none of the grand houses Madam Borne has sent me to is any finer than
ours. I'm sure the place is too good for us, who are working people.
Do you think we ought to stay here?"

"The Doyles," answered the Major, very seriously, "are one of the
greatest and most aristocratic families in all Ireland, which is the
most aristocratic country in the world. If I only had our pedigree I
could prove it to you easily. There's nothing too good for an Irish
gentleman, even if he condescends to bookkeeping to supply the
immediate necessities of life; and as you're me own daughter,
Patricia, though a Merrick on your poor sainted mother's side, you're
entitled to all you can get honestly. Am I right, Uncle John, or do I
flatter myself?"

Uncle John stroked the girl's head softly.

"You are quite right," he said. "There is nothing too good for a
brave, honest girl who's heart is in the right place."

"And that's Patsy," declared the Major, as if the question were
finally settled.

On Monday morning Mary had a dainty breakfast all ready for them at
seven o'clock, and Patsy and her father departed with light hearts for
their work. Uncle John rode part way down town with them.

"I'm going to buy my new suit, today, and a new necktie," he said.

"Don't let them rob you," was Patsy's parting injunction. "Is your
money all safe? And if you buy a ten dollar suit of clothes the dealer
ought to throw in the necktie to bind the bargain. And see that
they're all wool, Uncle John."

"What, the neckties?"

"No, the clothes. Good-bye, and don't be late to dinner. Mary might
scold."

"I'll remember. Good-bye, my dear."

Patsy was almost singing for joy when she walked into Madam Borne's
hair-dressing establishment.

"Don't take off your things," said the Madam, sharply, "Your services
are no longer required."

Patsy looked at her in amazement. Doubtless she hadn't heard aright.

"I have another girl in your place," continued Madam Borne, "so I'll
bid you good morning."

Patsy's heart was beating fast.

"Do you mean I'm discharged?" she asked, with a catch in her voice.

"That's it precisely."

"Have I done anything wrong, Madam?"

"It isn't that," said Madam, pettishly. "I simply do not require your
services. You are paid up to Saturday night, and I owe you nothing.
Now, run along."

Patsy stood looking at her and wondering what to do. To lose this
place was certainly a great calamity.

"You'll give me a testimonial, won't you, Madam?" she asked,
falteringly.

"I don't give testimonials," was the reply.

"Do run away, child; I'm very busy this morning."

Patsy went away, all her happiness turned to bitter grief. What would
the Major say, and what were they to do without her wages? Then she
remembered Willing Square, and was a little comforted. Money was not
as necessary now as it had been before.

Nevertheless, she applied to one or two hair-dressers for employment,
and met with abrupt refusals. They had all the help they needed. So
she decided to go back home and think it over, before taking further
action.

It was nearly ten o'clock when she fitted her pass-key into the carved
door of Apartment D, and when she entered the pretty living-room she
found an elderly lady seated there, who arose to greet her.

"Miss Doyle?" enquired the lady.

"Yes, ma'am," said Patsy.

"I am Mrs. Wilson, and I have been engaged to give you private
instruction from ten to twelve every morning."

Patsy plumped down upon a chair and looked her amazement.

"May I ask who engaged you?" she ventured to enquire.

"A gentleman from the bank of Isham, Marvin & Co. made the
arrangement. May I take off my things?"

"If you please," said the girl, quietly. Evidently this explained why
Madam Borne had discharged her so heartlessly. The gentleman from
Isham, Marvin & Co. had doubtless interviewed the Madam and told her
what to do. And then, knowing she would be at liberty, he had sent her
this private instructor.

The girl felt that the conduct of her life had been taken out of her
own hands entirely, and that she was now being guided and cared for by
her unknown friend and benefactor. And although she was inclined to
resent the loss of her independence, at first, her judgment told her
it would not only be wise but to her great advantage to submit.

She found Mrs. Wilson a charming and cultivated lady, who proved so
gracious and kindly that the girl felt quite at ease in her presence.
She soon discovered how woefully ignorant Patsy was, and arranged a
course of instruction that would be of most benefit to her.

"I have been asked to prepare you to enter a girls' college," she
said, "and if you are attentive and studious I shall easily accomplish
the task."

Patsy invited her to stay to luncheon, which Mary served in the cosy
dining-room, and then Mrs. Wilson departed and left her alone to think
over this new example of her unknown friend's thoughtful care.

At three o'clock the door-bell rang and Mary ushered in another
strange person--a pretty, fair-haired young lady, this time, who said
she was to give Miss Doyle lessons on the piano.

Patsy was delighted. It was the one accomplishment she most longed to
acquire, and she entered into the first lesson with an eagerness that
made her teacher smile approvingly.

Meantime the Major was having his own surprises. At the office the
manager met him on his arrival and called him into his private room.

"Major Doyle," said he, "it is with great regret that we part with
you, for you have served our house most faithfully."

The Major was nonplussed.

"But," continued the manager, "our bankers, Messers. Isham, Marvin
& Co., have asked us to spare you for them, as they have a place
requiring a man of your abilities where you can do much better than
with us. Take this card, sir, and step over to the bankers and enquire
for Mr. Marvin. I congratulate you, Major Doyle, on your advancement,
which I admit is fully deserved."

The Major seemed dazed. Like a man walking in a dream he made his way
to the great banking house, and sent in the card to Mr. Marvin.

That gentleman greeted him most cordially.

"We want you to act as special auditor of accounts," said he. "It is a
place of much responsibility, but your duties will not be arduous. You
will occupy Private Office No. 11, and your hours are only from 10
to 12 each morning. After that you will be at liberty. The salary,
I regret to say, is not commensurate with your value, being merely
twenty-four hundred a year; but as you will have part of the day to
yourself you will doubtless be able to supplement that sum in other
ways. Is this satisfactory, sir?"

"Quite so," answered the Major. Twenty-four hundred a year! And only
two hours' work! Quite satisfactory, indeed!

His little office was very cosy, too; and the work of auditing the
accounts of the most important customers of the house required
accuracy but no amount of labor. It was an ideal occupation for a man
of his years and limited training.

He stayed in the office until two o'clock that day, in order to get
fully acquainted with the details of his work. Then he closed his
desk, went to luncheon, which he enjoyed amazingly, and then decided
to return to Willing Square and await Patsy's return from Madam
Borne's.

As he let himself in he heard an awkward drumming and strumming on the
piano, and peering slyly through the opening in the portierre he was
startled to find Patsy herself making the dreadful noise, while a
pretty girl sat beside her directing the movements of her fingers.

The Major watched for several minutes, in silent but amazed
exultation; then he tiptoed softly to his room to smoke a cigar and
wait until his daughter was at liberty to hear his great news and
explain her own adventures.

When Uncle John came home to dinner he found father and daughter
seated happily together in a loving embrace, their faces wreathed with
ecstatic smiles that were wonderful to behold.

Uncle John was radiant in a brand new pepper-and-salt suit of clothes
that fitted his little round form perfectly. Patsy marvelled that he
could get such a handsome outfit for the money, for Uncle John had on
new linen and a new hat and even a red-bordered handkerchief for the
coat pocket--besides the necktie, and the necktie was of fine silk and
in the latest fashion.

The transformation was complete, and Uncle John had suddenly become an
eminently respectable old gentleman, with very little to criticise in
his appearance.

"Do I match the flat, now?" he asked.

"To a dot!" declared Patsy. "So come to dinner, for it's ready and
waiting, and the Major and I have some wonderful fairy tales to tell
you."

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE MAJOR DEMANDS AN EXPLANATION.

That was a happy week, indeed. Patsy devoted all her spare time to her
lessons, but the house itself demanded no little attention. She would
not let Mary dust the ornaments or arrange the rooms at all, but
lovingly performed those duties herself, and soon became an ideal
housekeeper, as Uncle John approvingly remarked.

And as she flitted from room to room she sang such merry songs that it
was a delight to hear her, and the Major was sure to get home from the
city in time to listen to the strumming of the piano at three o'clock,
from the recess of his own snug chamber.

Uncle John went to the city every morning, and at first this
occasioned no remark. Patsy was too occupied to pay much attention to
her uncle's coming and going, and the Major was indifferent, being
busy admiring Patsy's happiness and congratulating himself on his own
good fortune.

The position at the bank had raised the good man's importance several
notches. The clerks treated him with fine consideration and the heads
of the firm were cordial and most pleasant. His fine, soldierly figure
and kindly, white-moustached face, conferred a certain dignity upon
his employers, which they seemed to respect and appreciate.

It was on Wednesday that the Major encountered the name of John
Merrick on the books. The account was an enormous one, running into
millions in stocks and securities. The Major smiled.

"That's Uncle John's name," he reflected. "It would please him to know
he had a namesake so rich as this one."

The next day he noted that John Merrick's holdings were mostly in
western canning industries and tin-plate factories, and again he
recollected that Uncle John had once been a tinsmith. The connection
was rather curious.

But it was not until Saturday morning that the truth dawned upon him,
and struck him like a blow from a sledge-hammer.

He had occasion to visit Mr. Marvin's private office, but being told
that the gentleman was engaged with an important customer, he lingered
outside the door, waiting.

Presently the door was partly opened.

"Don't forget to sell two thousand of the Continental stock tomorrow,"
he heard a familiar voice say.

"I'll not forget, Mr. Merrick," answered the banker.

"And buy that property on Bleeker street at the price offered. It's a
fair proposition, and I need the land."

"Very well, Mr. Merrick. Would it not be better for me to send these
papers by a messenger to your house?"

"No; I'll take them myself. No one will rob me." And then the door
swung open and, chuckling in his usual whimsical fashion, Uncle John
came out, wearing his salt-and-pepper suit and stuffing; a bundle of
papers into his inside pocket.

The Major stared at him haughtily, but made no attempt to openly
recognize the man. Uncle John gave a start, laughed, and then walked
away briskly, throwing a hasty "good-bye" to the obsequious banker,
who followed him out, bowing low.

The Major returned to his office with a grave face, and sat for the
best part of three hours in a brown study. Then he took his hat and
went home.

Patsy asked anxiously if anything had happened, when she saw his face;
but the Major shook his head.

Uncle John arrived just in time for dinner, in a very genial mood,
and he and Patsy kept up a lively conversation at the table while the
Major looked stern every time he caught the little man's eye.

But Uncle John never minded. He was not even as meek and humble as
usual, but laughed and chatted with the freedom of a boy just out of
school, which made Patsy think the new clothes had improved him in
more ways than one.

When dinner was over the Major led them into the sitting-room, turned
up the lights, and then confronted the little man with a determined
and majestic air.

"Sir," said he, "give an account of yourself."

"Eh?"

"John Merrick, millionaire and impostor, who came into my family under
false pretenses and won our love and friendship when we didn't know
it, give an account of yourself!"

Patsy laughed.

"What are you up to, Daddy?" she demanded. "What has Uncle John been
doing?"

"Deceiving us, my dear."

"Nonsense," said Uncle John, lighting his old briar pipe, "you've been
deceiving yourselves."

"Didn't you convey the impression that you were poor?" demanded the
Major, sternly.

"No."

"Didn't you let Patsy take away your thirty-two dollars and forty-two
cents, thinking it was all you had?"

"Yes."

"Aren't you worth millions and millions of dollars--so many that you
can't count them yourself?"

"Perhaps."

"Then, sir," concluded the Major, mopping the perspiration from his
forehead and sitting down limply in his chair, "what do you mean by
it?"

Patsy stood pale and trembling, her round eyes fixed upon her uncle's
composed face.

"Uncle John!" she faltered.

"Yes, my dear."

"Is it all true? Are you so very rich?"

"Yes, my dear."

"And it's you that gave me this house, and--and everything else--and
got the Major his fine job, and me discharged, and--and--"

"Of course, Patsy. Why not?"

"Oh, Uncle John!"

She threw herself into his arms, sobbing happily as he clasped her
little form to his bosom. And the Major coughed and blew his nose, and
muttered unintelligible words into his handkerchief. Then Patsy sprang
up and rushed upon her father, crying;

"Oh, Daddy! Aren't you glad it's Uncle John?"

"I have still to hear his explanation," said the Major.

Uncle John beamed upon them. Perhaps he had never been so happy before
in all his life.

"I'm willing to explain," he said, lighting his pipe again and
settling himself in his chair. "But my story is a simple one, dear
friends, and not nearly so wonderful as you may imagine. My father had
a big family that kept him poor, and I was a tinsmith with little work
to be had in the village where we lived. So I started west, working my
way from town to town, until I got to Portland, Oregon.

"There was work in plenty there, making the tin cans in which salmon
and other fish is packed, and as I was industrious I soon had a shop
of my own, and supplied cans to the packers. The shop grew to be
a great factory, employing hundreds of men. Then I bought up the
factories of my competitors, so as to control the market, and as I
used so much tin-plate I became interested in the manufacture of this
product, and invested a good deal of money in the production and
perfection of American tin. My factories were now scattered all along
the coast, even to California, where I made the cans for the great
quantities of canned fruits they ship from that section every year.
Of course the business made me rich, and I bought real estate with my
extra money, and doubled my fortune again and again.

"I never married, for all my heart was in the business, and I thought
of nothing else. But a while ago a big consolidation of the canning
industries was effected, and the active management I resigned to other
hands, because I had grown old, and had too much money already.

"It was then that I remembered the family, and went back quietly to
the village where I was born. They were all dead or scattered,
I found; but because Jane had inherited a fortune in some way I
discovered where she lived and went to see her. I suppose it was
because my clothes were old and shabby that Jane concluded I was a
poor man and needed assistance; and I didn't take the trouble to
undeceive her.

"I also found my three nieces at Elmhurst, and it struck me it would
be a good time to study their characters; for like Jane I had a
fortune to leave behind me, and I was curious to find out which girl
was the most deserving. No one suspected my disguise. I don't usually
wear such poor clothes, you know; but I have grown to be careless of
dress in the west, and finding that I was supposed to be a poor man I
clung to that old suit like grim death to a grasshopper."

"It was very wicked of you," said Patsy, soberly, from her father's
lap.

"As it turned out," continued the little man, "Jane's desire to leave
her money to her nieces amounted to nothing, for the money wasn't
hers. But I must say it was kind of her to put me down for five
thousand dollars--now, wasn't it?"

The Major grinned.

"And that's the whole story, my friends. After Jane's death you
offered me a home--the best you had to give--and I accepted it. I had
to come to New York anyway, you know, for Isham, Marvin & Co. have
been my bankers for years, and there was considerable business to
transact with them. I think that's all, isn't it?"

"Then this house is yours?" said Patsy, wonderingly.

"No, my dear; the whole block belongs to you and here's the deed for
it," drawing a package of papers from his pocket. "It's a very good
property, Patsy, and the rents you get from the other five flats will
be a fortune in themselves."

For a time the three sat in silence. Then the girl whispered, softly:

"Why are you so good to me, Uncle John?"

"Just because I like you, Patsy, and you are my niece."

"And the other nieces?"

"Well, I don't mean they shall wait for my death to be made happy,"
answered Uncle John. "Here's a paper that gives to Louise's mother the
use of a hundred thousand dollars, as long as she lives. After that
Louise will have the money to do as she pleases with."

"How fine!" cried Patsy, clapping her hands joyfully.

"And here's another paper that gives Professor De Graf the use of
another hundred thousand. Beth is to have it when he dies. She's a
sensible girl, and will take good care of it."

"Indeed she will!" said Patsy.

"And now," said Uncle John, "I want to know if I can keep my little
room in your apartments, Patsy; or if you'd prefer me to find another
boarding place."

"Your home is here as long as you live, Uncle John. I never meant to
part with you, when I thought you poor, and I'll not desert you now
that I know you're rich."

"Well said, Patsy!" cried the Major.

And Uncle John smiled and kissed the girl and then lighted his pipe
again, for it had gone out.

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