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   Chapter 10 No.10

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 9836

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


EARNESTLY as Fanny Markland strove to maintain a calm exterior before her mother and aunt, the effort availed not; and so, as early in the evening as she could retire from the family, without attracting observation, she did so. And now she found herself in a state of deep disquietude. Far too young was the maiden to occupy, with any degree of calmness, the new position in which she was so unexpectedly placed. The sudden appearance of Mr. Lyon, just when his image was beginning to take the highest place in her mind, and the circumstances attending that appearance, had, without effacing the image, dimmed its brightness. Except for the interview with Mr. Allison, this effect might not have taken place. But his words had penetrated deeply, and awakened mental perceptions that it was now impossible to obscure by any fond reasonings in favour of Mr. Lyon. How well did Fanny now remember the instant repulsion felt towards this man, on their first meeting. She had experienced an instant constriction about the heart, as if threatened with suffocation. The shadow, too, about which Aunt Grace had spoken, had also been perceived by her. But in a little while, under the sunshine of a most fascinating exterior, all these first impressions were lost, and, but for the words of Mr. Allison, would have been regarded as false impressions. Too clearly had the wise old man presented the truth-too clearly had he elevated her thoughts into a region where the mind sees with a steadier vision-to leave her in danger of entering the wrong way, without a distinct perception that it was wrong.

In a single hour, Fanny's mind had gained a degree of maturity, which, under the ordinary progression of her life, would not have come for years. But for this, her young, pure heart would have yielded without a struggle. No voice of warning would have mingled in her ears with the sweet voice of the wooer. No string would have jarred harshly amid the harmonies of her life. The lover who came to her with so many external blandishments-who attracted her with so powerful a magnetism-would have still looked all perfection in her eyes. Now, the film was removed; and if she could not see all that lay hidden beneath a fair exterior, enough was visible to give the sad conviction that evil might be there.

Yet was Fanny by no means inclined to turn herself away from Mr. Lyon. Too much power over her heart had already been acquired. The ideal of the man had grown too suddenly into a most palpable image of beauty and perfection. Earnestly did her heart plead for him. Sad, even to tears, was it, at the bare thought of giving him up. There was yet burning on her pure forehead the hot kiss he had left there a few hours before-her hand still felt his thrilling touch-his words of love were in her ears-she still heard the impassioned tones in which he had uttered his parting "God bless you!"

Thus it was with the gentle-hearted girl, exposed, far too soon in life, to influences which stronger spirits than hers could hardly have resisted.

Midnight found Mrs. Markland wakeful and thoughtful. She had observed something unusual about Fanny, and noted the fact of her early retirement, that evening, from the family. Naturally enough, she connected this change in her daughter's mind with the letter received from Mr. Lyon, and it showed her but too plainly that the stranger's image was fixing itself surely in the young girl's heart. This conviction gave her pain rather than pleasure. She, too, had felt that quick repulsion towards Mr. Lyon, at their first meeting, to which we have referred; and with her, no after acquaintance ever wholly removed the effect of a first experience like this.

Midnight, as we have said, found her wakeful and thoughtful. The real cause of her husband's absence was unknown to her; but, connecting itself, as it did, with Mr. Lyon,-he had written her that certain business, which he had engaged to transact for Mr. Lyon, required his presence in New York,-and following so soon upon his singularly restless and dissatisfied state of mind, the fact disquieted her. The shadow of an approaching change was dimming the cheerful light of her spirit.

Scarcely a moment since the reception of her husband's letter, enclosing one for Fanny, was the fact that Mr. Lyon had made advances toward her daughter-yet far too young to have her mind bewildered by love's mazy dream-absent from her mind. It haunted even her sleeping hours. And the more she thought of it, the more deeply it disturbed her. As an interesting, and even brilliant, companion, she had enjoyed his society. With more than usual interest had she listened to his varied descriptions of personages, places, and events; and she had felt more than a common admiration for his high mental accomplishments. But, whenever she imagined him the husband of her pure-hearted child, it seemed as if a heavy hand lay upon h

er bosom, repressing even respiration itself.

Enough was crowding into the mind of this excellent woman to drive slumber from her eyelids. The room adjoining was occupied by Fanny, and, as the communicating door stood open, she was aware that the sleep of her child was not sound. Every now and then she turned restlessly in her bed; and sometimes muttered incoherently. Several times did Mrs. Markland raise herself and lean upon her elbow, in a listening attitude, as words, distinctly spoken, fell from the lips of her daughter. At last the quickly uttered sentence, "Mother! mother! come!" caused her to spring from the bed and hurry to her child.

"What is it, Fanny? What has frightened you?" she said, in a gentle, encouraging voice. But Fanny only muttered something incoherent, in her sleep, and turned her face to the wall.

For several minutes did Mrs. Markland sit upon the bedside, listening, with an oppressed feeling, to the now calm respiration of her child. The dreams which had disturbed her sleep, seemed to have given place to other images. The mother was about returning to her own pillow, when Fanny said, in a voice of sad entreaty-

"Oh! Mr. Lyon! Don't! don't!"

There was a moment or two of breathless stillness, and then, with a sharp cry of fear, the sleeper started up, exclaiming-

"Mother! father! Oh, come to me! Come!"

"Fanny, my child!" was the mother's instant response, and the yet half-dreaming girl fell forward into her arms, which were closed tightly around her. What a strong thrill of terror was in every part of her frame!

"Dear Fanny! What ails you? Don't tremble so! You are safe in my arms. There, love, nothing shall harm you."

"Oh, mother! dear mother! is it you?" half sobbed the not yet fully-awakened girl.

"Yes, love. You are safe with your mother. But what have you been dreaming about?"

"Dreaming!" Fanny raised herself from her mother's bosom, and looked at her with a bewildered air.

"Yes, dear-dreaming. This is your own room, and you are on your own bed. You have only been frightened by a fearful dream."

"Only a dream! How thankful I am! Oh! it was terrible!"

"What was it about, daughter?" asked Mrs. Markland.

Fanny, whose mind was getting clearer and calmer, did not at once reply.

"You mentioned the name of Mr. Lyon," said the mother.

"Did I?" Fanny's voice expressed surprise.

"Yes. Was it of him that you were dreaming?"

"I saw him in my dream," was answered.

"Why were you afraid of him?"

"It was a very strange dream, mother-very strange," said Fanny, evidently not speaking from a free choice.

"I thought I was in our garden among the flowers. And as I stood there, Mr. Lyon came in through the gate and walked up to me. He looked just as he did when he was here; only it seemed that about his face and form there was even a manlier beauty. Taking my hand, he led me to one of the garden chairs, and we sat down side by side. And now I began to see a change in him. His eyes, that were fixed upon mine, grew brighter and deeper, until it seemed as if I could look far down into their burning depths. His breath came hot upon my face. Suddenly, he threw an arm around me, and then I saw myself in the strong folds of a great serpent! I screamed for help, and next found myself in your arms. Oh! it was a strange and a fearful dream!"

"And it may not be all a dream, Fanny," said Mrs. Markland, in a very impressive voice.

"Not all a dream, mother!" Fanny seemed startled at the words.

"No, dear. Dreams are often merely fantastic. But there come visions in sleep, sometimes, that are permitted as warnings, and truly represent things existing in real life."

"I do not understand you, mother."

"There is in the human mind a quality represented by the serpent, and also a quality represented by the dove. When our Saviour said of Herod, 'Go tell that fox,' he meant to designate the man as having the quality of a fox."

"But how does this apply to dreams?" asked Fanny.

"He who sends his angels to watch over and protect us in sleep, may permit them to bring before us, in dreaming images, the embodied form of some predominating quality in those whose association may do us harm. The low, subtle selfishness of the sensual principle will then take its true form of a wily serpent."

Fanny caught her breath once or twice, as these words fell upon her ears, and then said, in a deprecating voice-

"Oh, mother! Don't! don't!" And lifting her head from the bosom of her parent, she turned her face away, and buried it in the pillow. As she did not move for the space of several minutes, Mrs. Markland thought it unwise to intrude other remarks upon her, believing that the distinct image she had already presented would live in her memory and do its work. Soon after, she retired to her own room. Half an hour later, and both were sleeping, in quiet unconsciousness.

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