THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
BARBARA. [Continued.] “ Oh, what a lovely thing ! ” said Theo, coveting the rose and stretching out her plump little hands. “Is it for me ? ” “ No,” said Eben, rather gruffly. “ 1 have had an eye on this bud for some time. I noticed that your Lady Isabels are in fine condition, you will have a cluster of them by the day after to-mor-row.” “ Well, you old stingy, I suppose you dont mind running down' to the mail for me; I forgot what Barbara asked me to do, and I shall get a scolding from mamma ; you can’t have Bab crossed in anything, you know.” “I shall have to go down and see Nanson about the wagon gear anyway to-night, and I can just as well stop at the postoffice. Is it the letter from— New Haven ? ” and Eben very thoughtlessly bit off the leaves of the rose and mangled them with his strong white teeth.
Yes, it was the letter from New Haven, and Eben was charged to bring up a new novel and some pink sewing silk and eighteen celluloid buttons by Tlieo, who ran after him to suggest chocolate caramels in case the letter failed. It was a sort of satisfaction to him hat the letter did fail. But it hurt him to see Barbara’s disappointment. He had remembered Theo’s womanish little errands, and he still held the rose, which he had laid now on Barbara’s clasped hands. For all she had grown to hate the old place, she loved its oldfashioned big fluffy roses as fond as when a child, and Eben had braided a long garland of them out of the finest and best. She caressed the rose and tucked it in among the curling locks, where it nestled just against her cheek. Eben flushed and paled as he remembered how he had laid his heart in the heart of that rose. •‘The letter will be sure to be here to-morrow,” he said gently, “I am going down the first thing in the morning. The young ladies around Larborough are not to be without a gallant this season. I handsome young man from New York has has come down to stay some weeks in the neighborhood; I met him with Dr. Ormsby in the gig.”
Eben was not slow to note that this bit of news awakened a faint show of interest in Barbara. “ What was he like? ” said Barbara, blushing a little. “ I trust he is an acquisition. Did he look like a gentleman ? ”
Yes, he looked like one. Eben was compelled to admit that he did, and that he wore elegant clothes, and had slender, soft white hands, which Eben had not.
Days after this, Eben, in an agony of jealous anguish was compelled to accord the stranger a great many other advantages and accomplishments. He' rode well, "’as a good shot, talked fluently, sketched passably, understood women, and was Miss Leighton’s most ardent admirer.
Eben foresaw all this, and yet once, when their mingled voices floated out to his little. den, he brought down a hammer wrathfully and smashed his thumb nail. Morning and night he saddled and brought round horses for Barbara and Mr. Ney, and went away to his work in the hot fields, while they were cantering down the shady roads, and Mrs. Leighton and Theo were beating eggs in the buttery and getting up rare dishes for tea. The letter had come from New Haven and Barbara had answered briefly that she would not go until some other time later. She had never looked so animated and beautiful as now. She rarely saw Eben, sending him her requests by her sister, and Eben went on at his inventions, feeling as if every blow ‘of his chisel drove out a piece of his heart’s core. And, although he would have scorned the idea, Eben had grown wonderfully haggard and pale, with great dark circles under his eyes since Dr. Ormsby had introduced Edgar Ney to the Leightons. He took little pride in the knowledge that he was the better man of the two, but he did know that. he. could .crush Ney with one hand into a : limp, shapeless mass, and he wondered why he did
not. One day he was seized with a fit of trembling. He was pruning a pear tree when he looked up and Barbara stood before him, in her habit, switching at the mottled butterflies that fluttered on the hollyhocks, and around Eben’s brown hands.
“ How pale and ill you look, Eben,” It was the' least she could say, and it was the truth. Eben’s heart beat madly for a moment and then went on slowly. “ I am not one to get ill, Miss Barbara; l am not browned sd much as usual, perhaps.” y His “Miss Barbara” sounded oddly, and his looks belied his words. She looked down at the ground and said nervously :
“ I hope you will not argue with me this morning, Eben, but I’ve set my heart on riding the old colt, Tani O’Shanter, to the falls. I am not in the least afraid.”
“But I am,” said Eben calmly. “ I cannot permit you to risk your life with that vicious colt,” ;
“ Mr. Ney will take care of his viciousness,” Barbara answered, a trifle insolently. “ Mr. Ney may ride O’Shanter, and welcome, but I cannot consent' for you to.”
“Then I must do it without your consent. Be so kind as to have the
colt round in a quarter of an hour.” Eben finished his pear tree and went into the shop to wash his hands, of blood He had cut himself to the bone. Barbara and Ney sat on the
porch reading from the “ Princess,” when the horses appeared. The colt' shied and reared when Barbara sprang lightly in her saddle. An admirable horsewoman, she held her own finely,.
and Eben stood as if rooted to the ground until a turn in the road hid them from sight, then like a deer he set off - down a footpath toward where the . railroad crossed the road, as with horror 1 he remembered that the morning ex- ~ press would be down in ten minutes. The riders had stopped by the way to permit Mr.' Ney to dismount and gather the first cardinals for Barbara. As they trotted sharply down ; the .road , the roar of the train was heard just beyond the curve. Maddened with terror, the young horse Barbara rode * reared, plunged and sprang away' from > ' the other horse, and darted down the , . cut toward the train. ' With, a hoarse shout to “ sit firm,” Eben rushed out from the copse and flung himself under his hoofs. He caught, the bit in his hands and pulled the colt on his haunches, and then a. violent kick made him drop like a log. Some woodchoppers came to the rescue, and as they lifted Barbara off the train thundered by. Eben was picked up for dead, and even Mr. Ney declared he was a “ brave fellow.” . ~ ;
In an agony of grief and remorse Barbara hung near him all those tedious days when Eben’s mind wandered, and he muttered troubled, incoherent sentences, in which, poor fellow, he told all his hopes and feats.-/; He ,• was now indeed haggard and ghostly pale, with an ugly scar in his temple, and his hands lay week and nerveless on the coverlet, >The first mdtpentloflf j sanity and consciousness made him • sigh and wish that he had remained , oblivious to life and its miseries. It was Barbara who leaned over him while her great brown eyes filled with tears, “ Oh, Eben, how canyou bear to look at me ? You can never forgive me !” “ You would not say that if you knew what is in my heart.” ~, . “ Can not you tell me, Eben ? I : a*m “ ■ so wretched.” “ I am sorry for that .; I must tell . you, Barbara. I cannot suffer more than I have.” “Then shall I tell you something?” and she hid her face in the pillow. He put out his hand and touched her head caressingly. • rAii “ I have been very wilful and blind, and very unhappy, Eben. I would have - - given up my life to save yours, as you 1 ' gave yours for me.” “But, Barbara; oh, Barbara, my darling, I gave mine because I loved you better than life, than Heaven. ‘ I would rather have died than live to lose you forever.” “ But you will not lose me.” Her arm stole tenderly around him and she laid her cheek against his, “ I owe ray life to you, and it is yours.” “ Barbara, think what you are saying. I shall be mad enough to think that you care for me !” “ Eben, my love, you; are -all the ;, world to me. Cannot you see this- is-' so ?” ...... “ My own !” , ; With one great effort and a spasm of his old strength, Eben pressed’ her to his heart. ■. “ And you never meant to marry Ney?” - .. “I am afraid lonljhmeanti 16 mlkd i■ you jealous,” said Barbara, with her old saucinessl “ I shall mend now fast enough, but not until you have promised to abide by what L say, my darling.” - - - “ I promise solemnlj’.” “ Then we shall be married to-mor- " row.” ' (Concltided).- ■ ■ .
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 217, 15 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 217, 15 December 1880
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