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HOME > Classical Novels > Aunt Jane's Nieces29 > CHAPTER XVIII. PATRICIA SPEAKS FRANKLY.
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 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 decided1 Aunt Jane to end all misunderstandings and inform her nieces of the fact that she had made a final disposition2 of her property.  
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 pervading3 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 actively4 on her crutches5, 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 inviting6 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 legitimate7 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 fixed8 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 whim9, as I have the right to do, and selected the niece I prefer to become my heiress. You cannot accuse of injustice10, 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 testament11. I have given to you, Louise, the sum of five thousand dollars."
Louise laughed nervously12, and threw out her hands with an indifferent gesture.
"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 dollars."
"Me!" he exclaimed, astounded13. "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 live."
Uncle John laughed. He doubled up in his chair and rocked back and forth14, 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 astonishment15, but Patsy's clear laughter rang above Uncle John's gasping16 chuckles17.
"I hope, dear Uncle," said she, mischievously18, "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 ............
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