THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
BARBARA. “ Was there any mails, Eben ?” And leaning over the little wicket gate, her dark locks falling about her in pretty careless tresses, Barbara looked wistfully down the shady street and then up at the tossing elms, where the busy birds were chattering. And sad to relate, a frown of discontent crept over Barbara’s low white brow. “No, there were no letters for the Leightons,” said Eben, in rather _ a savage mood. “ I made special inquiries for you,” and Eben’s lower lip trembled a little, and his voice softened wonderfully for him. “ I suppose you are anxious to get away from this old place, Miss Barbara ?” “ Yes,, I am,” said Miss Leighton, sharply, with an imperial air. “I am sick of it. I should be glad to go anywhere from here.”
Eben made no reply. Ke looked down at the tangled curls, the soft, wistful brown eyes, the dimpled hands clasped over the mesh of honeysuckles —then away over the top of the snowy balsams towards the great world where Barbara’s heart was. He was thinking, with one cruel pang which gripped his heart at that moment, of what life would be at the farm without Barbara. He had tried of late to live without connecting her in any way with his days and nights, his duties, his hardships, and his joys, but he had made very sorry work of it. It gave Eben a fright to know how much everything depended on this proud, spoiled beauty, whose dream now was to get away from such as he—the common folks around Larborough. Barbara, at eighteen, had a great longing for that gay world of which she had read in summer evenings when sitting under the musky vines in the farmhouse porch, when lying amid the cowslips in the meadows where, under a growing weight of care Eben toiled with great brown hands in the capacity of help to the Widow Leighton. Eben was as much part and parcel of the place as the crumbling headstones in the graveyard on the hill, where all the Leightons were lying. No one ever dreamed of his going away, although his merits were acknowledged, and it was cheerfully admitted that the boyhad grown into a strong, handsome man, with shrewd capacities as a financier, and a turn for machinery. A great many at the village had dropped into the habit of addressing him lately as Mr. Hexford, and Eben’s muscles commanded respect. He had a little snuggery in the barn he called his workshop, where at odd hours and on rainy days, he tinkered with lathes and pulleys and edge tools. When his farm work had been tidied up and the cows milked and turned into the green woodlands again, Eben shut himself up in his workshop and pottered over his numerous inventions, and thought of what great possibilities might have been his if he had been born something better than Mr. Leighton’s farm hand. He realised sensibly that there were still possibilities for him out beyond the dark lines of elms and firs which he could see from his study window. But hisbenefactor died and left all thetangled threads of his affairs for young Hexford to unravel, and he could not have deserted Mrs. Leighton and the girls Barbara and Theo. It would not have been right or manly. Things were going straight now, however ; the farm was in a prosperous condition, and even an indifferent manager could have kept the wheels moving which Eben had fixed in their places. But Eben remained on the farm while the seasons waxed and waned, and the girls were growing into fine, tall young women, with restless yearnings for a busier life than was to be had at Larborough. He had expected that a girl so pretty as Barbara would be some time leaving so dull a place, but he nevertheless felt a wild, savage pain in his heart, when he learned that a letter had been sent to a distant aunt to see if she would not look after Barbara while she enjoyed the advantages of a finishing school for young ladies. The longest summer days would fade into short summer nights, and by-and-by, when the first, yellow leaves would be dropping into pools and hollows, Barbara would go away—perhaps forever.
Eben was too much of a man to sigh, and too muscular to do without his supper, but he fell into the bad habit of taking long walks alone, or of sitting under the honeysuckles on the porch where he could see the moon rise and where he could hear the young ladies singing rather plaintive songs, accompanied by the cracked strains of the old harpsicord in the best room. He had just plucked the first round, full rose of May, and twirling it thoughtfully in his fingers as he strolled down the garden path to his workshop, when he heard the breezy flutter of a muslin robe and a light footfall behind him on the gravel walk. He turned with a blaze of fire in his black eyes and the rose extended. His hands dropped to his side. It was Theo who came rapidly after him swinging a white sunbonnet by one string. Theo was a saucy, petulant, provoking young person of sixteen, whose pranks and whims had often tried Eben’s temper sorely—having him slop the harvesting to saddle Kulof her pony, or meddle with his tools and upset his newest invention. But Theo’s eyes were such lovely blue and her smile so bewitching that Eben had not the heart to scold, besides he had humored her in all her wilfulness himself, and there was the faintest resemblance to Barbara in the brow and dimple chin which tied him hand and foot. (To be continued.)
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