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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 18104

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


IT was scarcely mid-day when Mr. Markland's carriage drew near to Woodbine Lodge. As he was about entering the gateway to his grounds, he saw Mr. Allison, a short distance beyond, coming down the road. So he waited until the old gentleman came up.

"Home again," said Mr. Allison, in his pleasant, interested way, as he extended his hand. "When did you arrive?"

"Last evening," replied Mr. Markland.

"Been to the city this morning, I suppose."

"Yes. Some matters of business required my attention. The truth is, Mr. Allison, I grow more and more wearied with my inactive life, and find relief in any new direction of thought."

"You do not design re-entering into business?"

"I have no such present purpose." Mr. Markland stepped from his carriage, as he thus spoke, and told the driver to go forward to the house. "Though it is impossible to say where we may come out when we enter a new path. I am not a man to do things by halves. Whatever I undertake, I am apt to prosecute with considerable activity and concentration of thought."

"So I should suppose. It is best, however, for men of your temperament to act with prudence and wise forethought in the beginning-to look well to the paths they are about entering; for they are very apt to go forward with a blind perseverance that will not look a moment from the end proposed."

"There is truth in your remark, no doubt. But I always try to be sure that I am right before I go ahead. David Crockett's homely motto gives the formula for all high success in life."

"Yes; he spoke wisely. There would be few drones in our hive, if all acted up to his precept."

"Few, indeed. Oh! I get out of all patience sometimes with men in business; they act with such feebleness of nerve-such indecision of purpose. They seem to have no life-none of those clear intuitions that spring from an ardent desire to reach a clearly-seen goal. Without earnestness and concentration, nothing of more than ordinary importance is ever effected. Until a man taxes every faculty of his mind to the utmost, he cannot know the power that is in him."

"Truly said. And I am for every man doing his best; but doing it in the right way. It is deplorable to see the amount of wasted effort there is in the world. The aggregate of misapplied energy is enormous."

"What do you call misapplied energy?" said Markland.

"The energy directed by a wrong purpose."

"Will you define for me a wrong purpose?"

"Yes; a merely selfish purpose is a wrong one."

"All men are selfish," said Mr. Markland.

"In a greater or less degree they are, I know."

"Then all misapply their energies?"

"Yes, all-though not always. But there is a beautiful harmony and precision in the government of the world, that bends man's selfish purposes into serving the common good. Men work for themselves alone, each caring for himself alone; yet Providence so orders and arranges, that the neighbour is more really benefited than the individual worker toiling only for himself. Who is most truly served-the man who makes a garment, or the man who enjoys its warmth? the builder of the house, or the dweller therein? the tiller of the soil, or he who eats the fruit thereof? Yet, how rarely does the skilful artisan, or he who labours in the field, think of, or care for, those who are to enjoy the good things of life he is producing! His thought is on what he is to receive, not on what he is giving; and far too many of those who benefit the world by their labour are made unhappy when they think that others really enjoy what they have produced-if their thought ever reaches that far beyond themselves."

"Man is very selfish, I will admit," said Mr. Markland, thoughtfully.

"It is self-love, my friend," answered the old man, "that gives to most of us our greatest energy in life. We work ardently, taxing all our powers, in the accomplishment of some end. A close self-examination will, in most cases, show us that self is the main-spring of all this activity. Now, I hold, that in just so far as this is the case, our efforts are misapplied."

"But did you not just admit that the world was benefited by all active labour, even if the worker toiled selfishly? How, then, can the labour be misapplied?"

"Can you not see that, if every man worked with the love of benefiting the world in his heart, more good would be effected than if he worked only for himself?"

"Oh, yes."

"And that he would have a double reward, in the natural compensation that labour receives, and in the higher satisfaction of having done good."

"Yes."

"To work for a lower end, then, is to misapply labour, so far as the man is concerned. He robs himself of his own highest reward, while Providence bends the efforts he makes, and causes them to effect good uses to the neighbour he would, in too many cases, rather insure than benefit."

"You have a curious way of looking at things, or, rather, into them," said Mr. Markland, forcing a smile. "There is a common saying about taking the conceit out of a man, and I must acknowledge that you can do this as effectually as any one I ever knew."

"When the truth comes to us," said the old gentleman, smiling in return, "it possesses the quality of a mirror, and shows us something of our real state. If we were more earnest to know the truth, so far as it applied to ourselves, we would be wiser, and, it is to be hoped, better. Truth is light, and when it comes to us it reveals our true relation to the world. It gives the ability to define our exact position, and to know surely whether we are in the right or the wrong way. How beautifully has it been called a lamp to our path! And truth possesses another quality-that of water. It cleanses as well as illustrates."

Mr. Markland bent his head in a thoughtful attitude, and walked on in silence. Mr. Allison continued:

"The more of truth we admit into our minds, the higher becomes our discriminating power. It not only gives the ability to know ourselves, but to know others. All our mental faculties come into a more vigorous activity."

"Truth! What is truth?" said Mr. Markland, looking up, and speaking in a tone of earnest inquiry.

"Truth is the mind's light," returned Mr. Allison, "and it comes to us from Him who said 'Let there be light, and there was light,' and who afterward said, 'I am the light of the world.' There is truth, and there is the doctrine of truth-it is by the latter that we are led into a knowledge of truth."

"But how are we to find truth? How are we to become elevated into that region of light in which the mind sees clearly?"

"We must learn the way, before we can go from one place to another."

"Yes."

"If we would find truth, we must first learn the way, or the doctrine of truth; for doctrine, or that which illustrates the mind, is like a natural path or way, along which we walk to the object we desire to reach."

"Still, I do not find the answer to my question. What or where is truth?"

"It often happens that we expect a very different reply to the query we make, from the one which in the end is received-an answer in no way flattering to self-love, or in harmony with our life-purpose. And when I answer you in the words of Him who, spake as never man spoke-'I am the way, the truth, and the life,' I cannot expect my words to meet your state of earnest expectation-to be really light to your mind."

"No, they are not light-at least, not clear light," said Mr. Markland, in rather a disappointed tone. "If I understand the drift of what you have said, it is that the world has no truth but what stands in some relation to God, who is the source of all truth."

"Just my meaning," replied Mr. Allison.

A pause of some moments followed.

"Then it comes to this," said Mr. Markland, "that only through a religious life can a man hope to arrive at truth."

"Only through a life in just order," was the reply.

"What is a life in just order?"

"A life in harmony with the end of our creation."

"Ah! what a volume of meaning, hidden as well as apparent, does your answer involve! How sadly out of order is the world! how little in harmony with itself! To this every man's history is a living attestation."

"If in the individual man we find perverted order, it cannot, of course, be different with the aggregated man."

"No."

"The out of order means, simply, an action or force in the moral and mental machinery of the world, in a direction opposite to the right movement."

"Yes; that is clear."

"The right movement God gave to the mind of man at the beginning, when he made him in the likeness and image of himself."

"Undoubtedly."

"To be in the image and likeness of God, is, of course, to have qualities like him."

"Yes."

"Love is the essential principle of God-and love seeks the good of another, not its own good. It is, therefore, the nature of God to bless others out of himself; and that he might do this, he created man. Of course, only while man continued in true order could he be happy.

The moment he obliterated the likeness and image of his Creator-that is, learned to love himself more than his neighbour-that moment true order was perverted: then he became unhappy. To learn truth is to learn the way of return to true order. And we are not left in any doubt in regard to this truth. It has been written for us on Tables of Stone, by the finger of God himself."

"In the Ten Commandments?"

"Yes. In them we find the sum of all religion. They make the highway along which man may return, without danger of erring, to the order and happiness that were lost far back in the ages now but dimly seen in retrospective vision. No lion is found in this way, nor any ravenous beast; but the redeemed of the Lord may walk there, and return with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads."

"It will be in vain, then, for man to hope for any real good in this life, except he keep the commandments," said Mr. Markland.

"All in vain," was answered. "And his keeping of them must involve something more than a mere literal obedience. He must be in that interior love of what they teach, which makes obedience to the letter spontaneous, and not constrained. The outward act must be the simple effect of a living cause."

"Ah, my friend!" sighed Mr. Markland. "It may be a true saying, but who can hear it?"

"We have wandered far in the wrong direction-are still moving with a swift velocity that cannot be checked without painfully jarring the whole machinery of life; but all this progress is toward misery, not happiness, and, as wise men, it behooves us stop, at no matter what cost of present pain, and begin retracing the steps that have led only to discontent and disappointment. It is all in vain that we fondly imagine that the good we seek lies only a little way in advance-that the Elysian fields will, in the end, be reached. If we are descending instead of ascending, how are we ever to gain the mountain top? If we turn our backs upon the Holy City, and move on with rapid footsteps, is there any hope that we shall ever pass through its gates of pearl or walk its golden streets? To the selfish natural mind, it is a 'hard saying' as you intimate, for obedience to the commandments requires the denial and rejection of self; and such a rejection seems like an extinguishment of the very life. But, if we reject this old, vain life, a new vitality, born of higher and more enduring principles, will at once begin. Remember that we are spiritually organized forms, receptive of life. If the life of selfish and perverted ends becomes inactive, a new, better, and truer life will begin. We must live; for life, inextinguishable life, is the inheritance received from the Creator, who is life eternal in himself. It is with us to determine the quality of life. Live we must, and forever-whether in order or disorder, happiness or misery, is left to our own decision."

"How the thought, as thus presented," said Mr. Markland, very soberly-almost sadly, "thrills me to the very centre of my being! Ah! my excellent friend, what vast interests does this living involve!"

"Vast to each one of us."

"I do not wonder," added Mr. Markland, "that the old hermits and anchorites, oppressed, so to speak, by the greatness of immortal interests over those involved in natural life, separated themselves from the world, that, freed from its allurements, they might lead the life of heaven."

"Their mistake," said Mr. Allison, "was quite as fatal as the mistake of the worldling. Both missed the road to heaven."

"Both?" Mr. Markland looked surprised.

"Yes; for the road to heaven lies through the very centre of the world, and those who seek bypaths will find their termination at an immense distance from the point they had hoped to gain. It is by neighbourly love that we attain to a higher and diviner love. Can this love be born in us, if, instead of living in and for the world's good, we separate ourselves from our kind, and pass the years in fruitless meditation or selfish idleness? No. The active bad man is often more useful to the world than the naturally good or harmless man who is a mere drone. Only the brave soldier receives the laurels of his country's gratitude; the skulking coward is execrated by all."

The only response on the part of Markland was a deep sigh. He saw the truth that would make him free, but did not feel within himself a power sufficient to break the cords that bound him. The two men walked on in silence, until they came near a lovely retreat, half obscured by encircling trees, the scene of Fanny's recent and impassioned interview with Mr. Lyon. The thoughts of Mr. Allison at once reverted to his own meeting with Fanny in the same place, and the disturbed condition of mind in which he found her. The image of Mr. Lyon also presented itself. As the two men paused, at a point where the fountain and some of the fine statues were visible, Mr. Allison said, with an abruptness that gave the pulse of his companion a sudden acceleration-

"Did your English friend, Mr. Lyon, really go South, before you left New York?"

"He did. But why do you make the inquiry?" Mr. Markland turned, and fixed his eyes intently upon the old man's face.

"I was sure that I met him a day or two ago. But I was mistaken, as a man cannot be in two places at once."

"Where did you see the person you took for Mr. Lyon?"

"Not far distant from here?"

"Where?"

"A little way from the railroad station. He was coming in this direction, and, without questioning the man's identity, I naturally supposed that he was on his way to your house."

"Singular! Very singular!" Mr. Markland spoke to himself.

"I met Fanny a little while afterward," continued Mr. Allison, "and I learned from her that Mr. Lyon had actually left the city. No doubt I was mistaken; but the person I saw was remarkably like your friend from England."

"Where did you meet Fanny?" abruptly asked Mr. Markland.

"In the little summer-house, yonder. I stepped aside, as I often do, to enjoy the quiet beauty of the place for a few moments, and found your daughter there alone. She answered, as you have done, my inquiry about Mr. Lyon, that he left for the South a few days before."

"He did. And yet, singularly enough, you are not the only one who has mentioned to me that a person resembling Mr. Lyon was seen after he had left for the South-seen, too, almost on the very day that letters from him arrived by mail. The coincidence is at least remarkable."

"Remarkable enough," answered the old man, "to lead you, at least, to a close scrutiny into the matter."

"I believe it only to be a coincidence," said Mr. Markland, more confidently.

"If the fact of his being here, at the time referred to, would change in any respect your relation to him, then let me advise the most rigid investigation. I cannot get rid of the impression that he really was here-and, let me speak a plainer word-nor that he met your daughter in the summer-house."

Markland started as if an adder had stung him, uttering the word-

"Impossible!"

"Understand me," calmly remarked the old man, "I do not say that it was so. I have no proof to offer. But the impression has haunted me ever since, and I cannot drive it away."

"It is only an impression, then?"

"Nothing more."

"But what, was there in my daughter's conduct that led you to so strange an impression?"

"Her manner was confused; a thing that has never happened at any previous meeting with her. But, then, I came upon her suddenly, as she sat in the summer-house, and gave her, in all probability, a nervous start."

"Most likely that is the true interpretation. And I can account for her rather disturbed state of mind on other grounds than a meeting with Mr. Lyon."

"That is good evidence on the other side," returned Mr. Allison, "and I hope you will pardon the freedom I have taken in speaking out what was in my thoughts. In no other way could I express so strongly the high regard I have for both yourself and family, and the interest I feel in your most excellent daughter. The singular likeness to Mr. Lyon in the person I met, and the disturbed state in which Fanny appeared to be, are facts that have kept almost constant possession of my mind, and haunted me ever since. To mention these things to you is but a common duty."

"And you have my thanks," said Mr. Markland, "my earnest thanks."

The two men had moved on, and were now at some distance from the point where the sight of the fountain and summer-house brought a vivid recollection to the mind of Mr. Allison of his interview with Fanny.

"Our ways part here," said the old man.

"Will you not keep on to the house? Your visits always give pleasure," said Mr. Markland.

"No-not at this time. I have some matters at home requiring present attention."

They stood and looked into each other's faces for a few moments, as if both had something yet in their minds unsaid, but not yet in a shape for utterance-then separated with a simple "Good-by."

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