You're t doing your duty by those girls, John Merrick! The gentleman at whom this assertion was flung in a rather angry tone did t answer his sister-in-law. He sat gazing reflectively at the pattern in the rug and seemed neither startled r anyed. Mrs. Merrick, a pink-cheeked middle-aged lady attired in an elaborate morning gown, knitted her brows severely as she regarded the chubby little man opposite; then, suddenly remembering that the wrinkles might leave their dreadful mark on her carefully rolled and massaged features, she banished them with a pass of her ringed hand and sighed dismally. It would t have mattered especially had the poor children been left in their original condition of friendless poverty, she said. They were then like a million other girls, content to struggle for a respectable livelihood and a doubtful position in the lower stratas of social communion. But you interfered. You came into their lives abruptly, appearing from those horrid Western wilds with an amazing accumulation of money and a demand that your three nieces become your special protegees. And what is the result? The little man looked up with a charming smile of good humored raillery. His keen gray eyes sparkled as mischievously as a schoolboy's. Softly he rubbed the palms of his hands together, as if enjoying the situation. What is it, Martha, my dear? What is the result? he asked.