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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 11785

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


"WALKING here yet, Edward?" said Mrs. Markland, as she joined her husband in the spacious portico, after her return from the sick woman's cottage; and drawing her arm within his, she moved along by his side. He did not respond to her remark, and she continued:-

"Italy never saw a sunset sky more brilliant. Painter never threw on canvas colours so full of a living beauty. Deep purple and lucent azure,-crimson and burnished gold! And that far-off island-cloud-

'A Delos in the airy ocean-'

seems it not a floating elysium for happy souls?"

"All lovely as Nature herself," answered Mr. Markland, abstractedly, as his eyes sought the western horizon, and for the first time since the sun went down, he noticed the golden glories of the occident.

"Ah! Edward! Edward!" said Mrs. Markland, chidingly, "You are not only in the world, but of the world."

"Of the earth, earthy, did you mean to say, my gentle monitor?" returned the husband, leaning towards his wife.

"Oh, no, no! I did not mean grovelling or sordid; and you know I did not." She spoke quickly and with mock resentment.

"Am I very worldly-minded?"

"I did not use the term."

"You said I was not only in the world, but of it."

"Well, and so you are; at least in a degree. It is the habit of the world to close its eyes to the real it possesses, and aspire after an ideal good."

"And do you find that defect in me, Agnes?"

"Where was thought just now, that your eyes were not able to bring intelligence to your mind of this glorious sunset?"

"Thought would soon become a jaded beast of burden, Agnes, if always full laden with the present, and the actually existent. Happily, like Pegasus, it has broad and strong pinions-can rise free from the prisoner's cell and the rich man's dainty palace. Free! free! How the heart swells, elated and with a sense of power, at this noble word-Freedom! It has a trumpet-tone."

"Softly, softly, my good husband," said Mrs. Markland. "This is all enthusiasm."

"And but for enthusiasm, where would the world be now, my sweet philosopher?"

"I am no philosopher, and have but little enthusiasm. So we are not on equal ground for an argument. I I don't know where the world would be under the circumstances you allege, and so won't pretend to say. But I'll tell you what I do know."

"I am all attention."

"That if people would gather up each day the blessings that are scattered like unseen pearls about their feet, the world would be rich in contentment."

"I don't know about that, Agnes; I've been studying for the last half hour over this very proposition."

"Indeed! and what is the conclusion at which you have arrived?"

"Why, that discontent with the present, is a law of our being, impressed by the Creator, that we may ever aspire after the more perfect."

"I am far from believing, Edward," said his wife, "that a discontented present is any preparation for a happy future. Rather, in the wooing of sweet Content to-day, are we making a home for her in our hearts, where she may dwell for all time to come-yea, forever and forever."

"Beautifully said, Agnes; but is that man living whose heart asks not something more than it possesses-who does not look to a coming time with vague anticipations of a higher good than he has yet received?"

"It may be all so, Edward-doubtless is so-but what then? Is the higher good we pine for of this world? Nay, my husband. We should not call a spirit of discontent with our mere natural surroundings a law of the Creator, established as a spur to advancement; for this disquietude is but the effect of a deeper cause. It is not change of place, but change of state that we need. Not a going from one point in space to another, but a progression of the spirit in the way of life eternal."

"You said just now, Agnes, that you were no philosopher." Mr. Markland's voice had lost much of its firmness. "But what would I not give to possess some of your philosophy. Doubtless your words are true; for there must be a growth and progression of the spirit as well as of the body; for all physical laws have their origin in the world of mind, and bear thereto exact relations. Yet, for all this, when there is a deep dissatisfaction with what exists around us, should we not seek for change? Will not a removal from one locality to another, and an entire change of pursuits, give the mind a new basis in natural things, and thus furnish ground upon which it may stand and move forward?"

"Perhaps, if the ground given us to stand upon were rightly tilled, it would yield a richer harvest than any we shall ever find, though we roam the world over; and it may be, that the narrow path to heaven lies just across our own fields. It is in the actual and the present that we are to seek a true development of our spiritual life. 'Work while it is to-day,' is the Divine injunction."

"But if we can find no work, Agnes?"

"If the heart be willing and the hands ready," was the earnestly spoken answer, "work enough will be found to do."

"I have a willing heart, Agnes,-I have ready hands-but the heart is wearied of its own fruitless desires, and the hands hang down in idleness. What shall I do? The work in which I have found so much delight for years, is completed; and now the restless mind springs away from this lovely Eden, and pines for new fields in which to display its powers. Here I fondly hoped to spend the remainder of my life-contented-happy. The idea was a dreamy illusion. Daily is this seen in clear light. I reprove myself; I chide the folly, as I call it; but, all in vain. Beauty for me, has faded from the landscape, and the air is no longer balmy with odours. The birds sing for my ears no more; I hear not, as of old, the wind spirits whispering to each other in the tree tops. Dear Agnes!-wife of my heart-what does it mean?"

An answer was on the lip of

Mrs. Markland, but words so unlooked for, swelled, suddenly, the wave of emotion in her heart, and she could not speak. A few moments her hand trembled on the arm of her husband. Then it was softly removed, and without a word, she passed into the house, and going to her own room, shut the door, and sat down in the darkness to commune with her spirit. And first, there came a gush of tears. These were for herself. A shadow had suddenly fallen upon the lovely home where she had hoped to spend all the days of her life-a shadow from a storm-boding cloud. Even from the beginning of their wedded life, she had marked in her husband a defect of character, which, gaining strength, had led to his giving up business, and their retirement to the country. That defect was the common one, appertaining to all, a looking away from the present into the future for the means of enjoyment. In all the years of his earnest devotion to business, Mr. Markland had kept his eye steadily fixed upon the object now so completely attained; and much of present enjoyment had been lost in the eager looking forward for this coveted time. And now, that more than all his fondest anticipations were realized, only for a brief period did he hold to his lips the cup full of anticipated delight. Already his hand felt the impulse that moved him to pour its crystal waters upon the ground.

Mrs. Markland's clear appreciation of her husband's character was but a prophecy of the future. She saw that Woodbine Lodge-now grown into her affections, and where she hoped to live and die-even if it did not pass from their possession-bartered for some glittering toy-could not remain their permanent home. For this flowed her first tears; and these, as we have said, were for herself. But her mind soon regained its serenity; and from herself, her thoughts turned to her husband. She was unselfish enough not only to be able to realize something of his state of mind, but to sympathize with him, and pity his inability to find contentment in the actual. This state of mind she regarded as a disease, and love prompted all self-denial for his sake.

"I can be happy any, where, if only my husband and children are left. My husband, so generous, so noble-minded-my children, so innocent, so loving."

Instantly the fountain of tears were closed. These unselfish words, spoken in her own heart, checked the briny current. Not for an instant did Mrs. Markland seek to deceive herself or hearken to the suggestion that it was but a passing state in the partner of her life. She knew too well the origin of his disquietude to hope for its removal. In a little while, she descended and joined her family in the sitting-room, where the soft astral diffused its pleasant light, and greeted her sober-minded husband with loving smiles and cheerful words. And he was deceived. Not for an instant imagined he, after looking upon her face, that she had passed through a painful, though brief conflict, and was now possessed of a brave heart for any change that might come. But he had not thought of leaving Woodbine Lodge. Far distant was this from his imagination. True-but Agnes looked with a quick intuition from cause to effect. The elements of happiness no longer existed here for her husband; or, if they did exist, he had not the skill to find them, and the end would be a searching elsewhere for the desired possession.

"You did not answer my question, Agnes," said Mr. Markland, after the children had retired for the evening, and they were again alone.

"What question?" inquired Mrs. Markland; and, as she lifted her eyes, he saw that they were dim with tears.

"What troubles you, dear?" he asked, tenderly.

Mrs. Markland forced a smile, as she replied, "Why should I be troubled? Have I not every good gift the heart can desire?"

"And yet, Agnes, your eyes are full of tears."

"Are they?" A light shone through their watery vail. "Only an April shadow, Edward, that is quickly lost in April sunshine. But your question is not so easily answered."

"I ought to be perfectly happy here; nothing seems wanting. Yet my spirit is like a aged bird that flutters against its prison-bars."

"Oh, no, Edward; not so bad as that," replied Mrs. Markland. "You speak in hyperbole. This lovely place, which everywhere shows the impress of your hand, is not a prison. Call it rather, a paradise."

"A paradise I sought to make it. But I am content no longer to be an idle lingerer among its pleasant groves; for I have ceased to feel the inspiration of its loveliness."

Mrs. Markland made no answer. After a silence of some minutes, her husband said, with a slight hesitation in his voice, as if uncertain as to the effect of his words-

"I have for some time felt a strong desire to visit Europe."

The colour receded from Mrs. Markland's face; and there was a look in her eyes that her husband did not quite understand, as they rested steadily in his.

"I have the means and the leisure," he added, "and the tour would not only be one of pleasure, but profit."

"True," said his wife, and, then her, face was bent down so low that he could not see, its expression for the shadows by which it was partially concealed.

"We would both enjoy the trip exceedingly."

"Both! You did not think of taking me?"

"Why, Aggy, dear!-as if I could dream for a moment of any pleasure in which you had not a share!"

So earnestly and tenderly was this said, that Mrs. Markland felt a thrill of joy tremble over her heart-strings. And yet, for all, she could not keep back the overflowing tears, but hid her face, to conceal them, on her husband's bosom.

Her true feelings Mr. Markland did not read: and often, as he mused on what appeared singular in her manner that evening, he was puzzled to comprehend its meaning. Nor had his vision ever penetrated deep enough to see all that was in her heart.

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