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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 16432

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


WHILE Mr. Markland was brooding over his own unhappy state, and seeking to shut out the light shining too strongly in upon his real quality of mind, Mrs. Markland was living, in some degree, the very life that seemed so unattractive to him, and receiving her measure of reward. While he wandered, with an unquiet spirit, over his fields, or sat in cool retreats by plashing fountains, his thoughts reaching forward to embrace the coming future, she was active in works of love. Her chief desire was the good of her beloved ones, and she devoted herself to this object with an almost entire forgetfulness of self. Home was therefore the centre of her thoughts and affections, but not the selfish centre: beyond that happy circle often went out her thoughts, laden with kind wishes that died not fruitless.

The family of Mr. Markland consisted of his wife, four children, and a maiden sister-Grace Markland,-the latter by no means one of the worst specimens of her class. With Agnes, in her seventh year, the reader has already a slight acquaintance. Francis, the baby, was two years old, and the pet of every one but Aunt Grace, who never did like children. But he was so sweet a little fellow, that even the stiff maiden would bend toward him now and then, conscious of a warmer heart-beat. George, who boasted of being ten-quite an advanced age, in his estimation-might almost be called a thorn in the flesh to Aunt Grace, whose nice sense of propriety and decorum he daily outraged by rudeness and want of order. George was boy all over, and a strongly-marked specimen of his class-"as like his father, when at his age, as one pea to another," Aunt Grace would say, as certain memories of childhood presented themselves with more than usual vividness. The boy was generally too much absorbed in his own purposes to think about the peculiar claims to respect of age, sex, or condition. Almost from the time he could toddle about the carpeted floor, had Aunt Grace been trying to teach him what she called manners. But he was never an apt scholar in her school. If he mastered the A B C to-day, most probably on her attempt to advance him to-morrow into his a-b ab's, he had wholly forgotten the previous lesson. Poor Aunt Grace! She saw no hope for the boy. All her labour was lost on him.

Fanny, the oldest child, just completing her seventeenth year, was of fair complexion and delicate frame; strikingly beautiful, and as pure in mind as she was lovely in person. All the higher traits of womanhood that gave such a beauty to the mother's character were as the unfolding bud in her. Every one loved Fanny, not even excepting Aunt Grace, who rarely saw any thing in her niece that violated her strict sense of propriety. Since the removal of the family to Woodbine Lodge, the education of Fanny had been under the direction of a highly accomplished governess. In consequence, she was quite withdrawn from intercourse with young ladies of her own age. If, from this cause, she was ignorant of many things transpiring in city life, the purer atmosphere she daily breathed gave a higher moral tone to her character. In all the sounder accomplishments Fanny would bear favourable comparison with any; and as for grace of person and refinement of manners, these were but the expression of an inward sense of beauty.

As Fanny unfolded toward womanhood, putting forth, like an opening blossom, some newer charms each day, the deep love of her parents began to assume the character of jealous fear. They could not long hide from other's eyes the treasure they possessed, and their hearts grew faint at the thought of having it pass into other hands. But very few years would glide away ere wooers would come, and seek to charm her ears with songs sweeter than ever thrilled them in her own happy home. And there would be a spell upon her spirit, so that she could not help but listen. And, mayhap, the song that charmed her most might come from unworthy lips. Such things had been, alas!

Thus it was with the family of Mr. Markland at the time of our introduction to them. We have not described each individual with minuteness, but sufficiently indicated to give them a place in the reader's mind. The lights and shadows will be more strongly marked hereafter.

The effect of Mr. Allison's conversation was, as has been seen, to leave Markland in a still more dissatisfied state of mind. After various fruitless efforts to get interested in what was around him, and thus compel self-forgetfulness, he thought of some little matter in the city that required his attention, and forthwith ordered the carriage.

"I shall not be home till evening," he said, as he parted with his wife.

During the day, Mrs. Markland paid another visit to the humble home of Mrs. Elder, and ministered as well to her mental as to her bodily wants. She made still closer inquiries about her daughter's family; and especially touching the husband's character for industry, intelligence, and trustworthiness. She had a purpose in this; for the earnest desire expressed by Mrs. Elder to have her daughter with her, had set Mrs. Markland to thinking about the ways and means of effecting the wished-for object. The poor woman was made happier by her visit.

It was near sundown when the carriage was observed approaching through the long, shaded avenue. Mrs. Markland and all the children stood in the porch, to welcome the husband and father, whose absence, though even for the briefest period, left for their hearts a diminished brightness. As the carriage drew nearer, it was seen to contain two persons.

"There is some one with your father," said Mrs. Markland, speaking to Fanny.

"A gentleman-I wonder who it can be?"

"Your Uncle George, probably."

"No; it isn't Uncle George," said Fanny, as the carriage reached the oval in front of the house, and swept around towards the portico. "It's a younger man; and he is dressed in black."

Further conjecture was suspended by the presence of the individual in regard to whom they were in doubt. He was a stranger, and Mr. Markland presented him as Mr. Lyon, son of an old and valued business correspondent, residing in Liverpool. A cordial welcome awaited Mr. Lyon at Woodbine Lodge, as it awaited all who were introduced by the gentlemanly owner. If Mr. Markland thought well enough of any one to present him at home, the home-circle opened smilingly to receive.

The stranger was a young man, somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and thirty; above the medium height; with a well-formed person, well-balanced head, and handsome countenance. His mouth was the least pleasing feature of his face. The lips were full, but too firmly drawn back against his teeth. Eyes dark, large, and slightly prominent, with great depth, but only occasional softness, of expression. His was a face with much in it to attract, and something to repel. A deep, rich voice, finely modulated, completed his personal attractions.

It so happened that Mr. Lyon had arrived from New York that very day, with letters to Mr. Markland. His intention was to remain only until the next morning. The meeting with Mr. Markland was accidental; and it was only after earnest persuasion that the young man deferred his journey southward, and consented to spend a day or two with the retired merchant, in his country home. Mr. Lyon was liberally educated, bad travelled a good deal, and been a close observer and thinker. He was, moreover, well read in human nature. That he charmed the little circle at Woodbine Lodge on the first evening of his visit there, is scarcely a matter of wonder. Nor was he less charmed. Perhaps the only one not altogether pleased was Aunt Grace. By habit a close reader of all who came within range of her observation, she occupied quite as much time in scanning the face of Mr. Lyon, and noting each varying expression of eyes, lips, and voice, as in listening to his entertaining description of things heard and seen.

"I don't just like him." Thus she soliloquized after she had retired to her own room.' "He's deep-any one can see that-deep as the sea. And he has a way of turning his eyes without turning his head that don't please me exactly. Edward i

s wonderfully taken with him; but he never looks very far below the surface. And Fanny-why the girl seemed perfectly fascinated!"

And Aunt Grace shook her head ominously, as she added-

"He's handsome enough; but beauty's only skin-deep, and he may be as black as Lucifer inside."

A greater part of the next day Mr. Markland and Mr. Lyon spent alone, either in the library or seated in some one of the many shady arbours and cool retreats scattered invitingly over the pleasant estate. The stranger had found the mind of his host hungering for new aliment, and as his own mind was full stored with thought and purpose, he had but to speak to awaken interest. Among other things, he gave Mr. Markland, a minute detail of certain plans for acquiring an immense fortune, in the prosecution of which, in company with some wealthy capitalists, he was now engaged. The result was sure; for every step had been taken with the utmost cautions and every calculation thrice verified.

"And what a dreaming idler I am here!" said Markland, half to himself, in one of the conversational pauses, as there was presented to his mind a vivid contrast of his fruitless inactivity with the vigorous productive industry of others. "I half question, at times, whether, in leaving the busy world, I did not commit a serious error."

"Have you given up all interest in business?" asked Mr. Lyon.

"All."

"Ah!" with slight evidence of surprise. "How do you live?"

"The life of an oyster, I was going to say," replied Markland, with a faint smile.

"I would die if not active. True enjoyment, a wise friend has often said to me, is never found in repose, but in activity. To me a palace would be a prison, if I could find nothing to do; while a prison would be a palace, if mind and hands were fully employed."

"I lack the motive for renewed effort," said Markland. "Wealth beyond my present possession I do not desire. I have more than enough safely invested to give me every comfort and luxury through life."

"But your children?" remarked the guest.

"Will have ample provision."

"There is another motive."

"What?"

"Money is power."

"True."

"And by its proper use a man may elevate himself into almost any position. It is the lever that moves the world."

Markland only shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Have you no ambition?" inquired the other, in a familiar way.

"Ambition!" The question awakened surprise.

"To stand out prominently in the world's eye, no matter for what, so the distinction be honourable," said Mr. Lyon. "Of the thousands and tens of thousands who toil up the steep and often rugged paths to wealth, and attain the desired eminence, how few are ever heard of beyond the small community in which they live! Some of these, to perpetuate a name, establish at death some showy charity, and thus build for themselves a monument not overshadowed by statelier mausoleums amid the rivalries of a fashionable cemetery. Pah! All this ranges far below my aspiring. I wish to make a name while living. Wealth in itself is only a toy. No true man can find pleasure in its mere glitter for a day. It is only the miser who loves gold for its own sake, and sees nothing beautiful or desirable except the yellow earth he hoards in his coffers. Have you found happiness in the mere possession of wealth?"

"Not in its mere possession," was answered.

"Nor even in its lavish expenditure?"

"I have great pleasure in using it for the attainment of my wishes," said Mr. Markland.

"The narrower the bound of our wishes, the quicker comes their consummation, and then all is restlessness again, until we enter upon a new pursuit."

"Truly spoken."

"Is it not wise, then, to give a wide sweep to our aspirations? to lift the ideal of our life to a high position; so that, in its attainment, every latent power may be developed? Depend upon it, Mr. Markland, we may become what we will; and I, for one, mean to become something more than a mere money-getter and money-saver. But first the money-getting, as a means to an end. To that every energy must now be devoted."

Mr. Lyon's purpose was to interest Mr. Markland, and he was entirely successful. He drew for him various attractive pictures, and in the contemplation of each, as it stood vividly before him, the retired merchant saw much to win his ardent admiration. Very gradually, and very adroitly, seeming all the while as if he had not the slightest purpose to interest Mr. Markland in that particular direction, did Mr. Lyon create in his mind a strong confidence in the enlarged schemes for obtaining immense wealth in which he was now engaged. And the tempter was equally successful in his efforts to awaken a desire in Mr. Markland to have his name stand out prominently, as one who had shown remarkable public spirit and great boldness in the prosecution of a difficult enterprise.

One, two, three days went by, and still Mr. Lyon was a lingerer at Woodbine Lodge; and during most of that time he was alone and in earnest conference with Mr. Markland. The evenings were always pleasant seasons in the family circle. Fanny's voice had been well cultivated, and she sung with fine taste; and as Mr. Lyon was also a lover of music, and played and sung exquisitely, the two very naturally spent a portion of their time at the piano. If it crossed the father's mind that an attachment might spring up between them, it did not disturb his feelings.

At the end of a week Mr. Lyon found it necessary to tear himself away from the little paradise into which he had been so unexpectedly introduced. Every day that he lingered there diminished the ardour of his ambition, or robbed of some charm the bright ideal he had worshipped. And so he broke the silken bonds that wove themselves around him, at first light as gossamer, but now strong as twisted cords.

Mr. Markland accompanied him to the city, and did not return home until late in the evening. He was then much occupied with his own thoughts, and entered but little into conversation. Fanny was absent-minded, a fact that did not escape the mother's observation. Aunt Grace noted the change which the stranger's coming and departure had occasioned, and, shaking her wise head, spoke thus within herself-

"He may be very handsome, but he casts a shadow, for all that. I don't see what Edward was thinking about. He'd better let Fanny go right into the world, where she can see dozens of handsome young men, and contrast one with another, than hide her away here, until some attractive young Lucifer comes along-a very Son of the Morning! How can the girl help falling in love, if she sees but one man, and he elegant, accomplished, handsome, and full of winning ways, even though his hidden heart be black with selfishness?"

But Aunt Grace always looked at the shadowy side. Even if the sun shone bright above, she thought of the clouds that were gathering somewhere, and destined ere long to darken the whole horizon.

On the day following, Mr. Markland went again to the city, and was gone until late in the evening. His mind was as much occupied as on the evening previous, and he spent the hours from tea-time until eleven o'clock in the library, writing. If Mrs. Markland did not appear to notice any change in her husband since Mr. Lyon came to Woodbine Lodge, it was not that the change had escaped her. No-she was too deeply interested in all that concerned him to fail in noting every new aspect of thought or feeling. He had said nothing of awakened purpose, quickened into activity by long conferences with his guest, but she saw that such purposes were forming. Of their nature she was in entire ignorance. That they would still further estrange him from Woodbine Lodge, she had too good reason, in a knowledge of his character, to fear. With him, whatever became a pursuit absorbed all others; and he looked to the end with a visions so intent, that all else was seen in obscurity. And so, with a repressed sigh, this gentle, true-hearted, loving woman, whose thought rarely turned in upon herself, awaited patiently the time when her husband would open to her what was in his thoughts. And the time, she knew, was not distant.

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