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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 19160

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


THE maiden's thoughts were yet bewildered, and her heart beating tumultuously, when her quick ears caught the sound of other footsteps than those to whose retreating echoes she had been so intently listening. Hastily retreating into the summer-house, she crouched low upon one of the seats, in order, if possible, to escape observation. But nearer and nearer came the slow, heavy foot-fall of a man, and ere she had time to repress, by a strong effort, the agitation that made itself visible in every feature, Mr. Allison was in her presence. It was impossible for her to restrain an exclamation of surprise, or to drive back the crimson from her flushing face.

"Pardon the intrusion," said the old gentleman, in his usual mild tone. "If I had known that you were here, I would not have disturbed your pleasant reveries."

Some moments elapsed, ere Fanny could venture a reply. She feared to trust her voice, lest more should be betrayed than she wished any one to know. Seeing how much his presence disturbed her, Mr. Allison stepped back a pace or two, saying, as he did so, "I was only passing, my child; and will keep on my way. I regret having startled you by my sudden appearance."

He was about retiring, when Fanny, who felt that her manner must strike Mr. Allison as very singular, made a more earnest effort to regain her self-possession, and said, with a forced smile:

"Don't speak of intrusion; Mr. Allison. Your sudden coming did startle me. But that is past."

Mr. Allison, who had partly turned away, now advanced toward Fanny, and, taking her hand, looked down into her face, from which the crimson flush had not yet retired, with an expression of tender regard.

"Your father is still absent, I believe?" said he.

"Yes, sir."

"He will be home soon."

"We hope so. His visit to New York was unexpected."

"And you therefore feel his absence the more."

"Oh, yes," replied Fanny, now regaining her usual tone of voice and easy address; "and it seems impossible for us to be reconciled to the fact."

"Few men are at home more than your father," remarked Mr. Allison. "His world, it might be said, is included in the circle of his beloved ones."

"And I hope it will always be so."

Mr. Allison looked more earnestly into the young maiden's face. He did not clearly understand the meaning of this sentence, for, in the low tones that gave it utterance, there seemed to his ear a prophecy of change. Then he remembered his recent conversation with her father, and light broke in upon his mind. The absence of Mr. Markland had, in all probability, following the restless, dissatisfied state, which all had observed, already awakened the concern of his family, lest it should prove only the beginning of longer periods of absence.

"Business called your father to New York," said Mr. Allison.

"Yes; so he wrote home to mother. He went to the city in the morning, and we expected him back as usual in the evening, but he sent a note by the coachman, saying that letters just received made it necessary for him to go on to New York immediately."

"He is about entering into business again, I presume."

"Oh, I hope not!" replied Fanny.

Mr. Allison remained silent for some moments, and then said-

"I thought your visitor, Mr. Lyon, went South several days ago."

"So he did," answered Fanny, in a quickened tone of voice, and with a manner slightly disturbed.

"Then I was in error," said Mr. Allison, speaking partly to himself. "I thought I passed him in the road, half an hour ago. The resemblance was at least a very close one. You are certain he went South?"

"Oh! yes, sir," replied Fanny, quickly.

Mr. Allison looked intently upon her, until her eyes wavered and fell to the ground. He continued to observe her for some moments, and only withdrew his gaze when he saw that she was about to look up. A faint sigh parted the old man's lips. Ah! if a portion of his wisdom, experience, and knowledge of character, could only be imparted to that pure young spirit, just about venturing forth into a world where mere appearances of truth deceive and fascinate!

"Does Mr. Lyon design returning soon from the South?"

"I heard him say to father that he did not think he would be in this part of the world again for six or eight months."

And again the eyes of Fanny shunned the earnest gaze of Mr. Allison.

"How far South does he go?"

"I am not able to answer you clearly; but I think I heard father say that he would visit Central America."

"Ah! He is something of a traveller, then?"

"Yes, sir; he has travelled a great deal."

"He is an Englishman?"

"Yes, sir. His father is an old business friend of my father's."

"So I understood."

There was a pause, in which Mr. Allison seemed to be thinking intently.

"It is a little singular, certainly," said he, as if speaking only to himself.

"What is singular?" asked Fanny, looking curiously at her companion.

"Why, that I should have been so mistaken. I doubted not, for a moment, that the person I saw was Mr. Lyon."

Fanny did not look up. If she had done so, the gaze fixed upon her would have sent a deeper crimson to her cheek than flushed it a few moments before.

"Have you any skill in reading character, Fanny?" asked Mr. Allison, in a changed and rather animated voice, and with a manner that took away the constraint that had, from the first, oppressed the mind of the young girl.

"No very great skill, I imagine," was the smiling answer.

"It is a rare, but valuable gift," said the old man. "I was about to call it an art; but it is more a gift than an art; for, if not possessed by nature, it is too rarely acquired. Yet, in all pure minds, there is something that we may call analogous-a perception of moral qualities in those who approach us. Have you never felt an instinctive repugnance to a person on first meeting him?"

"Oh, yes."

"And been as strongly attracted in other cases?"

"Often."

"Have you ever compared this impression with your subsequent knowledge of the person's character?"

Fanny thought for a little while, and then said-

"I am not sure that I have, Mr. Allison."

"You have found yourself mistaken in persons after some acquaintance with them?"

"Yes; more than once."

"And I doubt not, that if you had observed the impression these persons made on you when you met them for the first time, you would have found that impression a true index to their character. Scarcely noticing these first impressions, which are instinctive perceptions of moral qualities, we are apt to be deceived by the exterior which almost every one assumes on a first acquaintance; and then, if we are not adepts at reading character, we may be a long time in finding out the real quality. Too often this real character is manifested, after we have formed intimate relations with the person, that may not be dissolved while the heart knows a life-throb. Is that not a serious thought, Fanny?"

"It is, Mr. Allison,-a very serious, and a solemn thought."

"Do you think that you clearly comprehend my meaning?"

"I do not know that I see all you wish me to comprehend," answered Fanny.

"May I attempt to make it clearer?"

"I always listen to you with pleasure and profit, Mr. Allison," said Fanny.

"Did you ever think that your soul had senses as well as your body?" inquired the old man.

"You ask me a strange question. How can a mere spirit-an airy something, so to speak-have senses?"

"Do you never use the words-'I see it clearly'-meaning that you see some form of truth presented to your mind. As, for instance,-if I say, 'To be good is to be happy,' you will answer, 'Oh, yes; I see that clearly.' Your soul, then, has, at least, the sense of sight. And that it has the sense of taste also, will, I think, be clear to you, when you remember bow much you enjoy the reading of a good book, wherein is food for the mind. Healthy food is sometimes presented in so unpalatable a shape, that the taste rejects it; and so it is with truth, which is the mind's food. I instance this, to make it clearer to you. So you see that the soul has at least two senses-sight and taste. That it has feeling needs scarcely an illustration. The mind is hurt quite as easily as the body, and, the path of an injury is usually more permanent. The child who has been punished unjustly feels the injury inflicted on his spirit, days, months, and, it may be, years, after the body has lost the smarting consciousness of stripes. And you know that sharp words pierce the mind with acutest pain. We may speak daggers, as well as use them. Is this at all clear to you, Miss Markland?"

"Oh, very clear! How strange that I should never have thought of this myself! Yes-I see, hear, taste, and feel with my mind, as well as with my body."

"Think a little more deeply," said the old man. "If the mind have senses, must it not have a body?"

"A body! You are going too deep for me, Mr. Allison. We say mind and body, to indicate that one is immaterial, and the other substantial."

"May there not be such a thing as a spiritual as well as a material substance?"

"To say spiritual substance, sounds, in my ears, like a contradiction in terms," said Fanny.

"There must be a substance before there can be a permanent impression. The mind receives and retains the most lasting impressions; therefore, it must be an organized substance-but spiritual, not material. You will see this clearer, if you think of the endurance of habit. 'As the twig is bent, the tree's inclined,' is a

trite saying that aptly illustrates the subject about which we are now conversing. If the mind were not a substance and a form, how could it receive and retain impressions?"

"True."

"And to advance a step further-if the mind have form, what is that form?"

"The human form, if any," was the answer.

"Yes. And of this truth the minds of all men have a vague perception. A cruel man is called a human monster. In thus speaking, no one thinks of the mere physical body, but of the inward man. About a good man, we say there is something truly human. And believe me, my dear young friend, that our spirits are as really organized substances as our bodies-the difference being, that one is an immaterial and the other a material substance; that we have a spiritual body, with spiritual senses, and all the organs and functions that appertain to the material body, which is only a visible and material outbirth from the spiritual body, and void of any life but what is thence derived."

"I see, vaguely, the truth of what you say," remarked Fanny, "and am bewildered by the light that falls into my mind."

"My purpose in all this," said Mr. Allison, "is to lead you to the perception of a most important fact. Still let your thoughts rest intently on what I am saying. You are aware of the fact, that material substances, as well inorganic as organic, are constantly giving off into the atmosphere minute particles, which we call odors, and which reveal to us their quality. The rose and nightshade, the hawthorn and cicuta fill the air around them with odors which our bodily senses instantly perceive. And it is the same with animals and men. Each has a surrounding material sphere, which is perceived on a near approach, and which indicates the material quality. Now, all things in nature are but effects from interior causes, and correspond to them in every minute particular. What is true of the body will be found true of the mind. Bodily form and sense are but the manifestation, in this outer world, of the body and senses that exist in the inner world. And if around the natural body there exist a sphere by which the natural senses may determine its quality of health or impurity, in like manner is there around the spiritual body a sphere of its quality, that may be discerned by the spiritual senses. And now come back to the philosophy of first impressions, a matter so little understood by the world. These first impressions are rarely at fault, and why? Because the spiritual quality is at once discerned by the spiritual sense. But, as this kind of perception does not fall into the region of thought, it is little heeded by the many. Some, in all times, have observed it more closely than others, and we have proverbs that could only have originated from such observation. We are warned to beware of that man from whose presence a little child shrinks. The reason to me is plain. The innocent spirit of the child is affected by the evil sphere of the man, as its body would be if brought near to a noxious plant that was filling the air with its poisonous vapours. And now, dear Fanny,"-Mr. Allison took the maiden's hand in his, and spoke in a most impressive voice-"think closely and earnestly on what I have said. If I have taxed your mind with graver thoughts than are altogether pleasant, it is because I desire most sincerely to do you good. The world into which you are about stepping, is a false and evil world, and along all its highways and byways are scattered the sad remains of those who have perished ere half their years were numbered; and of the crowd that pressed onward, even to the farthest verge of natural life, how few escape the too common lot of wretchedness! The danger that most threatens you, in the fast-approaching future, is that which threatens every young maiden. Your happiness or misery hangs nicely poised, and if you have not a wise discrimination, the scale may take a wrong preponderance. Alas! if it should be so!"

Mr. Allison paused a moment, and then said:

"Shall I go on?"

"Oh, yes! Speak freely. I am listening to your words as if they came from the lips of my own father."

"An error in marriage is one of life's saddest errors, said Mr. Allison.

"I believe that," was the maiden's calm remark; yet Mr. Allison saw that her eyes grew instantly brighter, and the hue of her cheeks warmer.

"In a true marriage, there must be good moral qualities. No pure-minded woman can love a man for an instant after she discovers that he is impure, selfish, and evil. It matters not how high his rank, how brilliant his intellect, how attractive his exterior person, how perfect his accomplishments. In her inmost spirit she will shrink from him, and feel his presence as a sphere of suffocation. Oh! can the thought imagine a sadder lot for a true-hearted woman! And there is no way of escape. Her own hands have wrought the chains that bind her in a most fearful bondage."

Again Mr. Allison paused, and regarded his young companion with a look of intense interest.

"May heaven spare you from such a lot!" he said, in a low, subdued voice.

Fanny made no reply. She sat with her eyes resting on the ground, her lips slightly parted, and her cheeks of a paler hue.

"Can you see any truth in what I have been saying?" asked Mr. Allison, breaking in upon a longer pause than he had meant should follow his last remark.

"Oh, yes, yes; much truth. A new light seems to have broken suddenly into my mind."

"Men bear about them a spiritual as well as a natural sphere of their quality."

"If there is a spiritual form, there must be a spiritual quality," said Fanny, partly speaking to herself, as if seeking more fully to grasp the truth she uttered.

"And spiritual senses, as well, by which qualities may be perceived," added Mr. Allison.

"Yes,-yes." She still seemed lost in her own thoughts.

"As our bodily senses enable us to discern the quality of material objects, and thus to appropriate what is good, and reject what is evil; in like manner will our spiritual senses serve us, and in a much higher degree, if we will but make the effort to use them."

"I see but darkly. Oh! that my vision were clearer!" exclaimed the maiden, while a troubled expression slightly marred her beautiful face.

"Ever, my dear young friend," said Mr. Allison, impressively, "be true to your native instincts. They will quickly warn you, if evil approaches. Oh! heed the warning. Give no favourable regard to the man toward whom you feel an instinctive repulsion at the first meeting. No matter what his station, connections, or personal accomplishments-heed the significant warning. Do not let the fascinations of a brilliant exterior, nor even ardent expressions of regard, make you for a moment forget that, when he first came near you, your spirit shrunk away, as from something that would do it harm. If you observe such a man closely, weigh all that he does and says, when ardent in the pursuit of some desired object, you will not lack for more palpable evidences of his quality than the simple impression which the sphere of his life made at your first meeting. Guarded as men are, who make an exterior different from their real quality, they are never able to assume a perfect disguise-no more than a deformed person can so hide, by dress, the real shape, that the attentive eye cannot discern its lack of symmetry. The eyes of your spirit see truths, as your natural eyes see material objects; and truths are real things. There are true principles, which, if obeyed, lead to what is good; and there are false principles, which, if followed, lead to evil. The one conducts to happiness, the other to inevitable misery. The warning which another sense, corresponding with the perception of odours in the body, gives you of evil in a man, at his first approach, is intended to put you on your guard, and lead to a closer observation of the person. The eyes of your understanding, if kept clear, will soon give you evidence as to his quality that cannot be gainsaid. And, believe me, Fanny, though a slight acquaintance may seem to contradict the instinctive judgment, in nine cases out of ten the warning indication will be verified in the end. Do you understand me?"

"Oh, yes-yes," was the low, but earnest response. Yet the maiden's eyes were not lifted from the ground.

"Will you try and remember what I have said, Fanny?"

"I can never forget it, Mr. Allison-never!" She seemed deeply disturbed.

Both were silent for some time. Mr. Allison then said:

"But the day is waning, my dear young friend. It is time we were both at home."

"True." And Fanny arose and walked by the old man's side, until their ways diverged. Both of their residences were in sight and near at hand.

"Do not think of me, Fanny," said Mr. Allison, when about parting with his companion, "as one who would oppress you with thoughts too serious for your years. I know the dangers that lie in your path of life, and only seek to guard you from evil. Oh! keep your spirit pure, and its vision clear. Remember what I have said, and trust in the unerring instinct given to every innocent heart."

The old man had taken her hand, and was looking tenderly down upon her sweet, young face. Suddenly her eyes were lifted to his. There was a strong light in them.

"God bless you, sir!"

The energy with which these unexpected words were spoken, almost startled Mr. Allison. Ere he had time for a response, Fanny had turned from him, and was bounding away with fleet footsteps toward her home.

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