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HOME > Classical Novels > Aunt Jane's Nieces29 > CHAPTER IX. COUSINS.
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 "Come in," called Beth, answering a knock at her door.  
Louise entered, and with a little cry ran forward and caught Beth in her arms, kissing her in greeting.
"You must be my new cousin—Cousin Elizabeth—and I'm awfully1 glad to see you at last!" she said, holding the younger girl a little away, that she might examine her carefully.
Beth did not respond to the caress2. She eyed her opponent sharply, for she knew well enough, even in that first moment, that they were engaged in a struggle for supremacy3 in Aunt Jane's affections, and that in the battles to come no quarter could be asked or expected.
So they stood at arm's length, facing one another and secretly forming an estimate each of the other's advantages and accomplishments4.
"She's pretty enough, but has no style whatever," was Louise's conclusion. "Neither has she tact5 nor self-possession, or even a prepossessing manner. She wears her new gown in a dowdy6 manner and one can read her face easily. There's little danger in this quarter, I'm sure, so I may as well be friends with the poor child."
As for Beth, she saw at once that her "new cousin" was older and more experienced in the ways of the world, and therefore liable to prove a dangerous antagonist7. Slender and graceful8 of form, attractive of feature and dainty in manner, Louise must be credited with many advantages; but against these might be weighed her evident insincerity—the volubility and gush9 that are so often affected10 to hide one's real nature, and which so shrewd and suspicious a woman as Aunt Jane could not fail to readily detect. Altogether, Beth was not greatly disturbed by her cousin's appearance, and suddenly realizing that they had been staring at one another rather rudely, she said, pleasantly enough:
"Won't you sit down?"
"Of course; we must get acquainted," replied Louise, gaily11, and perched herself cross-legged upon the window-seat, surrounded by a mass of cushions.
"I didn't know you were here, until an hour ago," she continued. "But as soon as Aunt Jane told me I ran to my room, unpacked12 and settled the few traps I brought with me, and here I am—prepared for a good long chat and to love you just as dearly as you will let me."
"I knew you were coming, but not until this morning," answered Beth, slowly. "Perhaps had I known, I would not have accepted our Aunt's invitation."
"Ah! Why not?" enquired13 the other, as if in wonder.
Beth hesitated.
"Have you known Aunt Jane before today?" she asked.
"Nor I. The letter asking me to visit her was the first I have ever received from her. Even my mother, her own sister, does not correspond with her. I was brought up to hate her very name, as a selfish, miserly old woman. But, since she asked me to visit her, we judged she had softened14 and might wish to become friendly, and so I accepted the invitation. I had no idea you were also invited."
"But why should you resent my being here?" Louise asked, smiling.
"Surely, two girls will have a better time in this lonely old place
than one could have alone. For my part, I am delighted to find you at
"Thank you," said Beth. "That's a nice thing to say, but I doubt if it's true. Don't let's beat around the bush. I hate hypocrisy15, and if we're going to be friends let's be honest with one another from the start."
"Well?" queried16 Louise, evidently amused.
"It's plain to me that Aunt Jane has invited us here to choose which one of us shall inherit her money—and Elmhurst. She's old and feeble, and she hasn't any other relations."
"Oh, yes, she has" corrected Louise.
"You mean Patricia Doyle?"
"What do you know of her?"
"Nothing at all."
"Where does she live?"
"I haven't the faintest idea."
Louise spoke17 as calmly as if she had not mailed Patricia's defiant18 letter to Aunt Jane, or discovered her cousin's identity in the little hair-dresser from Madame Borne's establishment.
"Has Aunt Jane mentioned her?" continued Beth.
"Not in my presence."
"Then we may conclude she's left out of the arrangement," said Beth, calmly. "And, as I said, Aunt Jane is likely to choose one of us to succeed her at Elmhurst. I hoped I had it all my own way, but it's evident I was mistaken. You'll fight for your chance and fight mighty19 hard!"
Louise laughed merrily.
"How funny!" she exclaimed, after a moment during which Beth frowned at her darkly. "Why, my dear cousin, I don't want Aunt Jane's money."
"You don't?"
"Not a penny of it; nor Elmhurst; nor anything you can possibly lay claim to, my dear. My mother and I are amply provided for, and I am only here to find rest from my social duties and to get acquainted with my dead father's sister. That is all."
"Oh!" said Beth, lying back in her chair with a sigh of relief.
"So it was really a splendid idea of yours to be frank with me at our first meeting," continued Louise, cheerfully; "for it has led to your learning the truth, and I am sure you will never again grieve me by suggesting that I wish to supplant20 you in Aunt Jane's favor. Now tell me something about yourself and your people. Are you poor?"
"Poor as poverty," said Beth, gloomily. "My father teaches music, and mother scolds him continually for not being able to earn enough money to keep out of debt."
"Hasn't Aunt Jane helped you?"
"We've never seen a cent of her money, although father has tried at times to borrow enough to help him out of his difficulties."
"That's strange. She seems like such a dear kindly21 old lady," said
Louise, musingly22.
"I think she's horrid," answered Beth, angrily; "but I mustn't let her know it. I even kissed her, when she asked me to, and it sent a shiver all down my back."
Louise laughed with genuine amusement.
"You must dissemble, Cousin Elizabeth," she advised, "and teach our aunt to love you. For my part, I am fond of everyone, and it delights me to fuss around invalids23 and assist them. I ought to have been a trained nurse, you know; but of course there's no necessity of my earning a living."
"I suppose not," said Beth. Then, after a thoughtful silence, she resumed abruptly
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