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   Chapter 30 JOY AT EVENTIDE

Jess of the Rebel Trail By H. A. Cody Characters: 9856

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

It was early that evening as Jess kissed her father and advised him to go to sleep at once.

"You are tired, daddy, after the excitement of the day, so you need a good long rest."

"I suppose I do," was the reply. "But it will be somewhat hard to get to sleep after the events of the afternoon. Isn't it wonderful, Jess, what a change has come over your mother? I never saw anything like it."

"A great burden has been lifted from her mind, that's the reason. And, daddy, you forgive me for what I did?"

"Certainly, dear, certainly. But I am not your father any longer, remember."

"Oh, yes you are," and the girl smiled. "Just behave as you have since your accident, and I wouldn't change you for any man I know."

"Be careful, be careful what you say, Jess. I am not altogether blind and deaf."

A rich flush overspread the girl's cheeks, and her eyes sparkled as she turned them upon her father's face. She understood the meaning of his words.

"I want you always as my father," she replied; "that is what I mean.

But, there, you cannot get to sleep if I stay here and chatter."

"Where are you going, Jess?"

"Over to see how Eben is getting along."

"That is good. And you will tell him what we were talking about this afternoon, will you not? I hope he will agree to my plan."

"I believe he will, daddy, and I am so glad you are going to do something for him. He is a fine boy, and we owe him much for what he did at Island Lake."

Giving her father another kiss, Jess hurried downstairs and found John waiting for her upon the verandah. It was a beautiful evening, calm and mild. The western sky was aglow with the glory of departing day, and the shades of night were slowly stealing over the land. The two spoke but little as they walked, slowly across the field toward the Tobin house. It was the first time they had been alone since they had heard the wonderful news that afternoon under the apple tree. They longed to speak about it, and yet a natural reserve restrained them. They both felt that the time had now arrived when the great question must be decided, and this thought affected their free and easy manner of the past. But they were happy in each other's company, so words were unnecessary.

They found Eben lying in an invalid's chair upon the verandah, with the captain sitting by his side. He was still very weak, and the marks of the burns were visible upon his face. He smiled as the visitors drew near and sat down upon the steps. His old jealousy and animosity toward John had disappeared.

"How are you feeling this evening?" Jess asked.

"Somewhat better, I guess," was the reply.

"He's a great deal better, Miss," the captain declared. "I'm merely judgin' by the way he eats, fer that's allus a sure sign with Eben of jist how he's feeling."

The captain was in excellent spirits, for his foot was almost well, and he was hoping to be back upon the river in a few days. He was also greatly pleased at what Eben had done at Island Lake, and the praise he had received, especially in the newspapers. In fact, the latter were almost worn out, so often had he read the articles, and shown them to every person who came to the house.

"Yes," he continued, "Eben's appetite's all right, an' I expect it'll be hard to keep him filled, when we git back on the boat."

"I don't want to go back on the boat," Eben replied. "I'm sick of it."

"Ye'll have to git over yer sickness, then," the captain reminded. "I can't git along without ye, an' what is there fer ye to do if ye don't go on the boat?"

"Oh, I'll find something, dad. I'm not worryin' about that now."

"How would you like to study civil engineering?" Jess asked.

Eben looked at her with surprise, wondering whether he had heard aright. Then he smiled, somewhat wistfully.

"I mean it," Jess insisted. "Father is willing to send you to college, and pay all your expenses. Isn't it great?"

"Great!" Eben fairly shouted the word, weak though he was. "Send me to college to be a civil engineer! Say yer jist foolin', ain't ye?"

"Indeed I am not. Daddy is willing and ready to do all he can to help you, so there."

"But what am I to do?" the captain demanded. "If Eben goes to college, I'll be left alone on the 'Eb an' Flo.' Guess I might as well close up bizness, too."

"Oh, daddy will make that all right, Captain. We talked it over this afternoon, so if you agree to let Eben go to college, he will arrange with you about the boat. Daddy is very much interested in the scheme."

"H'm, it seems to me he's changed a great deal since the night he was here asking about you. He was like a roarin' lion then."

"He has changed, Captain, until I hardly know him. I believe it was his narrow escape from death which did it. He is so gentle now, and a real companion. I am so thankful! And you will agree to let Eben go, won't you?"

"Guess we'll have to see Martha an' Flo,

Miss. They'll have the most to say. But mebbe they'll agree, fer they'd like to see the boy git on."

"Where do I come in on this?" Eben unexpectedly asked. "I'm goin' to college, no matter what anyone says. I'm old enough now to think fer myself, an' I'm goin' to."

"Tut, tut, Eben," his father chided. "Ye needn't git on yer high-horse. Sartinly yer goin' to college. Yer ma an' Flo'll agree. I'll jist go after 'em. They're doin' the chores. We might as well git this matter settled while you're here, Miss. It'll smooth things somewhat to have you present. You kin explain to Martha better'n I kin."

The captain stepped off the verandah, and limped around the corner of the house in the direction of the barn. No sooner had he disappeared than Eben leaned eagerly toward his visitors.

"Yell both forgive me, won't ye, fer throwin' that stone?" he whispered.

"At the quarry, you mean?" Jess asked.

"Yes, that, an' the stick on the shore. The devil got into me, I guess."

"Certainly I forgive you, Eben, for what you did to me, and I know John will do the same."

"Indeed I will," the latter agreed. "You have made up for all that many times over. You risked your life for my mother and Miss Randall. We can never repay you."

"I don't think I'd a done it but fer that stone, Miss. Ye see, I couldn't git it out of my mind, so I wanted to make up in some way fer the harm I did. That was my only chance."

"And were you really thinking of that when you came through the fire to save us?" Jess asked in surprise.

"Yes, Miss, I was. I'm awful sorry fer what I did. I was a big fool, all right."

Just then his father returned, so nothing more was said about the matter.

"They won't come," the captain announced. "They say they're not dressed to receive company, an' I guess they're right. Martha does sartinly git on queer togs when she looks after the barn an' the chickens. I wish to goodness, Miss, ye'd slip out an' surprise her. It'd be a fine joke."

"Oh, that wouldn't be fair," Jess laughingly replied. "I wouldn't like for anyone to do that to me. We can come again."

Having bidden the captain and his son good-night, the young couple strolled down through the field toward the shore. The darkness had now deepened, but before them flowed the river, touched with the last rich rosy tints of the departed sun.

"Isn't it beautiful!" Jess exclaimed, as she stopped and looked out upon the water. "This is a perfect ending of a perfect day."

"It has truly been a wonderful day," John replied, "but I am not sure yet about the perfect ending. That remains to be seen."

"In what way, John? Could anything be more perfect than this?"

"Come, and I will explain," was all the young man said, as once more they moved forward,

They passed along the path leading to Beech Cove, and when near the shore, they sat down upon an old log which years before had been stranded upon the beach.

"This is where Eben threw the stick," Jess remarked, as she looked around. "He has changed a great deal since then. He was not one bit jealous of you to-night."

John laughed as he nervously tore off a splinter from the log and broke it into bits. "I had two rivals then, but now I have none. One has repented of his own free will, while the other will trouble you no longer. Are you glad?"

"I suppose I should be," the girl slowly replied.

"And it will not be necessary to run away from your father now, and work for your own living," John continued. "So that matter is settled."

"But I have no father now," was the low response. "You have taken my place, so if I don't work I shall have to depend upon my own mother for a living, and I could not think of doing that."

"But you will have plenty, Jess. Your father, I mean my father. Dear me, I am all mixed up. Suppose I say, 'Our father'? Anyway, he wants me to go to the city, and help him in his business, which he says is too much for him to manage alone. He told me this afternoon that he would do what he could for the developing of the mine, and feels quite sure that he will succeed. Now, if we change places everything will be terribly mixed up. There is only one way out of it, Jess, and you know what that is. You must be my wife. It is you I want more than anything else in the world. I asked you once before, and you told me to wait. But now I can wait no longer. Oh, Jess, tell me that you love me, and will be my wife."

For a few seconds an intense silence reigned. Then the girl, her eyes misty with tears, turned her face to her lover's, and laid her hand in his.

"Take me, John," she simply said. "I am yours."

With his face radiant with joy, John enfolded her in his arms, and pressed his lips to hers.

"I agree with you now," he whispered, "that this is a perfect ending of a perfect day."

"And the beginning of many perfect days, let us hope," was the girl's low, happy reply.


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