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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 12223

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


ALL doubt in regard to the presence of Mr. Lyon in the neighborhood, as affirmed by Mr. Lamar and others, had, as we have seen, passed from the mind of Markland. He was entirely satisfied that the individual seen by these men was Mr. Willet. But since the refusal of Brainard, regarded as one of the shrewdest men in the city, to enter into a speculation to him so full of promise, he did not feel altogether easy in mind. He had spoken more from impulse than sound judgment, when he declared it to be his purpose to risk forty thousand dollars in the scheme, instead of twenty thousand. A cooler state left room for doubts. What did he really know of Mr. Lyon, on whose discretion, as an agent, so much would depend? The question intruded itself, like an unwelcome guest; and his effort to answer it to his own satisfaction was in vain. Had he been in possession of his daughter's secret, all would have been plain before him. Not for an instant would he have hesitated about keeping faith with a man who could so deceive him.

"I must see Mr. Fenwick again," he said, in his perplexity, after leaving the office of Mr. Brainard.

"Forty thousand dollars is a large sum to invest; and I shall have to sell some of my best property to raise it property yearly increasing in value. Twenty thousand I could have managed by parting with stocks. What folly in Brainard! I'm sadly out with him. Yes, I must see Mr. Fenwick immediately."

In the next train that left for New York, Mr. Markland was a passenger. A hurried note, received by his family that evening, announced the fact of his journey, and threw a deeper shadow on the heart of his troubled wife.

Vainly had Mrs. Markland striven to gain the unreserved confidence of Fanny. The daughter's lips were sealed. Pressing importunity plainly wrought something akin to estrangement; and so, with tears in her eyes and anguish in her heart, the mother turned from her pale-faced child, and left her alone. An hour after being surprised by her mother at the Fountain Grove, Fanny glided into her own room, and turned the key. The letter of Mr. Lyon was still in her bosom, and now, with eager hands, she drew it forth, and read to the end-

-"Beloved one! How often have I blessed the kind Providence that led me into your presence. How strange are these things! For years I have moved amid a blaze of beauty, and coldly turned away from a thousand glittering attractions. But, when my eyes first saw you, there was a pause in my heart's pulsations. I felt that my soul's companion was discovered to me; that, henceforth, my life and yours were to blend. Ah, dear one! wonder not that, from a hasty impulse, I decided to return and see your father. I fear, now, that the cause most strongly influencing me was the desire to look upon your face and feel the thrilling touch of your hand once more. Perhaps it is well he was absent, for I am not so sure that his cooler judgment would have seen sufficient cause for the act. All is going on now just as he, and I, and all concerned, could wish; and not for the world would I have him know, at present, our secret. Stolen waters, they say, are sweet. I know not. But that brief, stolen interview at the fountain, was full of sweetness to me. You looked the very Naiad of the place-pure, spiritual, the embodiment of all things lovely. Forgive this warmth of feeling. I would not wound the instinctive delicacy of a heart like yours. Only believe me sincere. Will you not write to me? Direct your letters, under cover, to D. C. L., Baltimore P. O., and they will be immediately forwarded. I will write you weekly. The same hand that conveys this, will see that my letters reach you. Farewell, beloved one!

LEE LYON."

Five times did Fanny attempt to answer this, and as often were her letters destroyed by her own hands. Her sixth, if not more to her own satisfaction, she sealed, and subscribed as directed. It read thus:

"MR. LEE LYON:-MY DEAR SIR-Your unexpected visit, and equally unexpected letter, have bewildered and distressed me. You enjoin a continued silence in regard to your return from the South. Oh, sir! remove that injunction as quickly as possible; for every hour that it remains, increases my unhappiness. You have separated between me and my good mother,-you are holding me back from throwing myself on her bosom, and letting her see every thought of my soul. I cannot very long endure the present. Why not at once write to my father, and explain all to him? He must know that you came back, and the sooner, it seems to me, will be the better. If I do not betray the fact, waking, I shall surely do it in my sleep; for I think of it all the time. Mother surprised me while reading your letter. I am afraid she saw it in my hand. She importuned me to give her my full confidence; and to refuse was one of the hardest trials of my life. I feel that I am changing under this new, painful experience. The ordeal is too fiery. If it continues much longer, I shall cease to be what I was when you were here; and you will find me, on your return, so changed as to be no longer worthy of your love. Oh, sir! pity the child you have awakened from a peaceful, happy dream, into a real life of mingled pain and joy. From the cup you have placed to my lips, I drink with an eager thirst. The draught is delicious to the taste, but it intoxicates-nay, maddens me!

"Write back to me at once, dear Mr. Lyon! I shall count the minutes as hours, until your letter comes. Let the first words be-'Tell all to your mother.' If you cannot write this, we must be as strangers, for I will not bind myself to a man who would make me untrue to my parents. You say that you love me. Love seeks another's happiness. If you really love me, seek my happiness.

FANNY."

Many times did Fanny read over this letter before resolving to send it. Far, very far, was it from satisfying her. She feared that it was too cold-too repellant-too imperative. But it gave the true alternative. She was not yet ready to abandon father and mother for one who had thrown a spell over her heart almost as strong as the

enchantment of a sorcerer; and she wished him distinctly to understand this.

Mr. Lyon was in a southern city when this letter came into his hands. He was sitting at a table covered with various documents, to the contents of which he had been giving a long and earnest attention, when a servant brought in a number of letters from the post-office. He selected from the package one post-marked Baltimore, and broke the seal in a hurried and rather nervous manner. As he opened it, an enclosure fell upon the table. It was superscribed with his name, in the delicate hand of a woman. This was Fanny's letter.

A careful observer would have seen more of selfish triumph in the gleam that shot across his face, than true love's warm delight. The glow faded into a look of anxiety as he commenced unfolding the letter, which he read with compressed lips. A long breath, as if a state of suspense were relieved, followed the perusal. Then he sat, for some moments, very still, and lost in thought.

"We'll see about that," he murmured at length, laying the letter of Fanny aside, and taking up sundry other letters which had come by the same mail. For more than an hour these engrossed his attention. Two of them, one from Mr. Markland, were answered during the time.

"Now, sweetheart," he said, almost lightly, as he took Fanny's letter from the table. Every word was read over again, his brows gradually contracting as he proceeded.

"There is some spirit about the girl; more than I had thought. My going back was a foolish blunder. But the best will have to be made of it. Not a whisper must come to Mr. Markland. That is a settled point. But how is the girl to be managed?"

Lyon mused for a long time.

"Dear child!" He now spoke with a tender expression. "I have laid too heavy a weight on your young heart, and I wish it were in my power to remove it; but it is not."

He took a pen, as he said this, and commenced writing an answer to Fanny's letter:-

"DEAREST ONE:-Tell all to your mother; but, in doing so, let it be clearly in your mind that an eternal separation between us must follow as a consequence. I do not say this as a threat-ah, no! Nor are you to understand that I will be offended. No-no-no-nothing of this. I only speak of what must come as the sure result. The moment your father learns that I was at Woodbine Lodge, and had an interview with his daughter, at a time when he thought me far distant, our business and personal relations must cease. He will misjudge me from evidence to his mind powerfully conclusive; and I shall be unable to disabuse him of error, because appearances are against me. But I put you in entire freedom. Go to your mother-confide to her every thing; and, if it be possible, get back the peace of which my coming unhappily robbed you. Think not of any consequences to me-fatal though they should prove. The wide world is before me still.

"And now, dear Fanny! If our ways in life must part, let us hold each other at least in kind remembrance. It will ever grieve me to think that our meeting occasioned a ripple to disturb the tranquil surface of your feelings. I could not help loving you-and for that I am not responsible. Alas! that, in loving, I should bring pain to the heart of the beloved one.

"But why say more? Why trouble your spirit by revealing the disturbance of mine? Heaven bless you and keep you, Fanny; and may your sky be ever bathed in sunshine! I leave my destiny in your hands, and pray for strength to bear the worst.

Adieu.

L. L."

There was a flitting smile on the lips of the young Englishman, as he folded and sealed this letter, and a look of assurance on his face, that little accorded with the words he had just written. Again he took up his pen and wrote-

"MY DEAR D. C. L.:-Faithful as ever you have proved in this affair, which is growing rather too complicated, and beginning to involve too many interests. Miss Markland is fretting sadly under the injunction of secrecy, and says that I must release her from the obligation not to mention my hasty return from the South. And so I have written to her, that she may divulge the fact to her mother. You start, and I hear you say-'Is the man mad?' No, not mad, my friend; or, if mad, with a method in his madness. Fanny will not tell her mother. Trust me for that. The consequences I have clearly set forth-probable ruin to my prospects, and an eternal separation between us. Do you think she will choose this alternative? Not she. 'Imprudent man! To risk so much for a pretty face!' I hear you exclaim. Not all for a pretty face, my grave friend. The alliance, if it can be made, is a good one. Markland, as far as I can learn, is as rich as a Jew; he has a bold, suggestive mind, a large share of enthusiasm, and is, take him all in all, just the man we want actively interested in our scheme. Brainard, he writes me, has backed out. I don't like that; and I like still less the reason assigned for his doing so. 'A foolish report that you were seen in the city some days after your departure for the South, has disturbed his confidence, and he positively refuses to be a partner in the arrangement.' That looks bad; doesn't it? Markland seems not to have the slightest suspicion, and says that he will take the whole forty thousand interest himself, if necessary. He was going, immediately, to New York, to consult with Mr. Fenwick. A good move. Fenwick understands himself thoroughly, and will manage our gentleman.

"Get the enclosed safely into the hands of Fanny, and with as little delay as possible. I am growing rather nervous about the matter. Be very discreet. The slightest error might ruin all. If possible, manage to come in contact with Brainard, and hear how he talks of me, and of our enterprise. You will know how to neutralize any gratuitous assertions he may feel inclined to make. Also get, by some means, access to Mr. Markland. I want your close observation in this quarter. Write me, promptly and fully, and, for the present, direct to me here. I shall proceed no farther for the present.

As ever, yours,

L. L."

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