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Aunt Jane's Nieces
by Edith Van Dyne
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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.

THE END

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