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   Chapter 6 No.6

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 13834

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


BEFORE Mr. Lyon's visit to Woodbine Lodge, Mr. Markland rarely went to the city. Now, scarcely a day passed that he did not order his carriage immediately after breakfast; and he rarely came back until nightfall. "Some matters of business," he would answer to the questions of his family; but he gave no intimation as to the nature of the business, and evidently did not care to be inquired of too closely.

"What's come over Edward? He isn't the same man that he was a month ago," said Miss Grace, as she stood in the portico, beside Mrs. Markland, one morning, looking after the carriage which was bearing her brother off to the city. There had been a hurried parting with Mr. Markland, who seemed more absorbed than usual in his own thoughts.

Mrs. Markland sighed faintly, but made no answer.

"I wonder what takes him off to town, post-haste, every day?"

"Business, I suppose," was the half-absent remark.

"Business! What kind of business, I'd like to know?"

"Edward has not informed me as to that," quietly answered Mrs. Markland.

"Indeed!" a little querulously. "Why don't you ask him?"

"I am not over-anxious on the subject. If he has any thing to confide to me, he will do it in his own good time."

"Oh! you're too patient." The tone and manner of Miss Grace showed that she, at least, was not overstocked with the virtue.

"Why should I be impatient?"

"Why? Goodness me! Do you suppose that if I had a husband-and it's a blessed thing for me that I haven't-that I'd see him going off, day after day, with lips sealed like an oyster, and remain as patient as a pet lamb tied with a blue ribbon? Oh dear! no! Grace Markland's made of warmer stuff than that. I like people who talk right out. I always do. Then you know where to place them. But Edward always had a hidden way about him."

"Oh, no, Grace; I will not agree to that for a moment," said Mrs. Markland.

"Won't you, indeed! I'm his sister, and ought to know something about him."

"And I'm his wife," was the gentle response to this.

"I know you are, and a deal too good for him-the provoking man!" said Grace, in her off-hand way, drawing her arm within that of Mrs. Markland, to whom she was strongly attached. "And that's what riles me up so."

"Why, you're in a strange humour, Grace! Edward has done nothing at which I can complain."

"He hasn't, indeed?"

"No."

"I'd like to know what he means by posting off to the city every day for a week at a stretch, and never so much as breathing to his wife the purpose of his visits?"

"Business. He said that business required his attention."

"What business?"

"As to that, he did not think it necessary to advise me. Men do not always explain business matters to their wives. One-half would not understand what they were talking about, and the other half would take little interest in the subject."

"A compliment to wives, certainly!" said Grace Markland, with a rather proud toss of her head. "One of your lords of creation would find different stuff in me. But I'm not satisfied with Edward's goings on, if you are, Agnes. It's my opinion that your Mr. Lee Lyon is at the bottom of all this."

A slight shade dimmed the face of Mrs. Markland. She did not reply; but looked, with a more earnest expression, at her sister-in-law.

"Yes-your Mr. Lee Lyon." Grace was warming again. "He's one of your men that cast shadows wherever they go. I felt it the moment his foot crossed our threshold-didn't you?"

Grace gave thought and words to what, with Mrs. Markland, had only been a vague impression. She had felt the shadow of his presence without really perceiving from whence the shadow came. Pausing only a moment for an answer to her query, Grace went on:-

"Mr. Lyon is at the bottom of all this, take my word for it; and if he doesn't get Edward into trouble before he's done with him, my name's not Grace Markland."

"Trouble! What do you mean, Grace?" Another shade of anxiety flitted over the countenance of Mrs. Markland.

"Don't you suppose that Edward's going to town every day has something to do with this Mr. Lyon?"

"Mr. Lyon went South nearly two weeks ago," was answered.

"That doesn't signify. He's a schemer and an adventurer-I could see it in every lineament of his face-and, there's not a shadow of doubt in my mind, has got Edward interested in some of his doings. Why, isn't it as plain as daylight? Were not he and Edward all-absorbed about something while he was here? Didn't he remain a week when he had to be urged, at first, to stay a single day? And hasn't Edward been a different man since he left, from what he was before he came?"

"Your imagination is too active, Grace," Mrs. Markland replied, with a faint smile. "I don't see any necessary connection between Mr. Lyon and the business that requires Edward's attention in the city. The truth is, Edward has grown weary of an idle life, and I shall not at all regret his attention to some pursuit that will occupy his thoughts. No man, with his mental and bodily powers in full vigour, should be inactive."

"That will altogether depend on the direction his mind takes," said Grace.

"Of course. And I do not see any good reason you have for intimating that in the present case the right direction has not been taken." There was just perceptible a touch of indignation in the voice of Mrs. Markland, which, being perceived by Grace, brought the sententious remark,-

"Fore-warned, fore-armed. If my suspicion is baseless, no one is injured."

Just then, Fanny, the oldest daughter, returned from a short walk, and passed her mother and aunt on the portico, without looking up or speaking. There was an air of absent-mindedness about her.

"I don't know what has come over Fanny," said Mrs. Markland. "She isn't at all like herself." And as she uttered these words, not meaning them for other ears than her own, she followed her daughter into the house.

"Don't know what's come over Fanny!" said Aunt Grace to herself, as she moved up and down the vine-wreathed portico-"well, well,-some people are blind. This is like laying a block in a man's way, and wondering that he should fall down. Don't know what's come over Fanny? Dear! dear!"

Enough had been said by her sister-in-law to give direction to the vague anxieties awakened in the mind of Mrs. Markland by the recent deportment of her husband. He was not only absent in the city every day, but his mind was so fully occupied when at home, that he took little interest in the family circle. Sometimes he remained alone in the library until a late hour at night; and his sleep, when he did retire, was not sound; a fact but too well known to his wakeful partner.

All through this day there was an unusual pressure on the feelings of Mrs. Markland. When she inquired of herself as to the cause, she tried to be satisfied with assigning it wholly to the remarks of her si

ster-in-law, and not to any really existing source of anxiety. But in this she was far from being successful; and the weight continued to grow heavier as the hours moved on. Earlier than she had expected its return, the carriage was announced, and Mrs. Markland, with a suddenly-lightened heart, went tripping over the lawn to meet her husband at the outer gate. "Where is Mr. Markland?" she exclaimed, growing slightly pale, on reaching the carriage, and seeing that it was empty.

"Gone to New York," answered the coachman, at the same time handing a letter.

"To New York! When did he go?" Mrs. Markland's thoughts were thrown into sudden confusion.

"He went at five o'clock, on business. Said he must be there to-morrow morning. But he'll tell you all about it in the letter, ma'am."

Recovering herself, Mrs. Markland stepped from the side of the carriage, and as it passed on, she broke the seal of her letter, which she found to contain one for Fanny, directed in a hand with which she was not familiar.

"A letter for you, dear," she said; for Fanny was now by her side.

"Who is it from? Where is father?" asked Fanny in the same breath.

"Your father has gone to New York," said Mrs. Markland, with forced composure.

Fanny needed no reply to the first question; her heart had already given the answer. With a flushed cheek and quickening pulse, she bounded away from her mother's side, and returning into the house, sought the retirement of her own chamber.

"Dear Agnes,"-so ran the note of Mr. Markland to his wife,-"I know that you will be surprised and disappointed at receiving only a letter, instead of your husband. But some matters in New York require my attention, and I go on by the evening train, to return day after to-morrow. I engaged to transact some important business for Mr. Lyon, when he left for the South, and in pursuance of this, I am now going away. In a letter received from Mr. Lyon, to-day, was one for Fanny. I do not know its contents. Use your own discretion about giving it to her. You will find it enclosed. My mind has been so much occupied to-day, that I could not give the subject the serious consideration it requires. I leave it with you, having more faith in your intuitions than in my own judgment. He did not hint, even remotely, at a correspondence with Fanny, when he left; nor has he mentioned the fact of enclosing a letter for her in the one received from him to-day. Thus, delicately, has he left the matter in our hands. Perhaps you had better retain the letter until I return. We can then digest the subject more thoroughly. But, in order to furnish your mind some basis to rest upon, I will say, that during the time Mr. Lyon was here I observed him very closely; and that every thing about him gave me the impression of a pure, high-minded, honourable man. Such is the testimony borne in his favour by letters from men of standing in England, by whom he is trusted with large interests. I do not think an evidence of prepossession for our daughter, on his part, need occasion anxiety, but rather pleasure. Of course, she is too young to leave the home-nest for two or three years yet. But time is pressing, and my mind is in no condition, just now, to think clearly on a subject involving such important results. I think, however, that you had better keep the letter until my return. It will be the most prudent course."

Keep the letter! Its contents were already in the heart of Fanny!

"Where's Edward? What's the matter?" queried Aunt Grace, coming up at this moment, and seeing that all colour had left the cheeks of Mrs. Markland.

Scarcely reflecting on what she did, the latter handed her husband's letter in silence to her sister-in-law, and tottered, rather than walked, to a garden chair near at hand.

"Well, now, here is pretty business, upon my word!" exclaimed Aunt Grace, warmly. "Sending a letter to our Fanny! Who ever heard of such assurance! Oh! I knew that some trouble would come of his visit here. I felt it the moment I set my eyes on him. Keep the letter from Fanny? Of course you will; and when you have a talk with Edward about it, just let me be there; I want my say."

"It is too late," murmured the unhappy mother, in a low, sad voice.

"Too late! How? What do you mean, Agnes?"

"Fanny has the letter already."

"What!" There was a sharp, thrusting rebuke in the voice of Aunt Grace, that seemed like a sword in the heart of Mrs. Markland.

"She stood by me when I opened her father's letter, enclosing the one for her. I did not dream from whence it came, and handed it to her without a thought."

"Agnes! Agnes! What have you done?" exclaimed Aunt Grace, in a troubled voice.

"Nothing for which I need reproach myself," said Mrs. Markland, now grown calmer. "Had the discretion been left with me, I should not have given Fanny the letter until Edward returned. But it passed to her hands through no will of mine. With the Great Controller of events it must now be left."

"Oh dear! Don't talk about the Controller of events in a case of this kind. Wise people control such things through the wisdom given them. I always think of Jupiter and the wagoner, when I hear any one going on this way."

Aunt Grace was excited. She usually was when she thought earnestly. But her warmth of word and manner rarely disturbed Mrs. Markland, who knew her thoroughly, and valued her for her good qualities and strong attachment to the family. No answer was made, and Aunt Grace added, in a slightly changed voice,-

"I don't know that you are so much to blame, Agnes, seeing that Fanny saw the letter, and that you were ignorant of its contents. But Edward might have known that something like this would happen. Why didn't he put the letter into his pocket, and keep it until he came home? He seems to have lost his common sense. And then he must go off into that rigmarole about Mr. Lyon, and try to make him out a saint, as if to encourage you to give his letter to Fanny. I've no patience with him! Mr. Lyon, indeed! If he doesn't have a heart-scald of him before he's done with him, I'm no prophet. Important business for Mr. Lyon! Why didn't Mr. Lyon attend to his own business when he was in New York? Oh! I can see through it all, as clear as daylight. He's got his own ends to gain through Edward, who is blind and weak enough to be led by him."

"Hasty in judgment as ever," said Mrs. Markland, with a subdued, resigned manner, as she arose and commenced moving toward the house, her sister-in-law walking by her side,-"and quick to decide upon character. But neither men nor women are to be read at a glance."

"So much the more reason for holding strangers at arms' length," returned Aunt Grace.

But Mrs. Markland felt in no mood for argument on so fruitless a subject. On entering the house, she passed to her own private apartment, there to commune with herself alone.

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