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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 11971

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


THE visit to New York, and interview with Mr. Fenwick, fully assured Mr. Markland, and he entered into a formal agreement to invest the sum of forty thousand dollars in the proposed scheme: ten thousand dollars to be paid down at once, and the balance at short dates. He remained away two days, and then returned to make immediate arrangements for producing the money. The ten thousand dollars were raised by the sale of State six per cent. stocks, a transaction that at once reduced his annual income about six hundred dollars. The sum was transmitted to New York.

"Have you reconsidered that matter?" inquired Markland, a few days after his return, on meeting with Mr. Brainard.

"No, but I hope you have," was answered in a serious tone.

"I have been to New York since I saw you."

"Ah! and seen Mr. Fenwick again?"

"Yes."

"Did you mention the report of Lyon's return?"

"I did."

"How did it strike him?"

"As preposterous, of course."

"He did not credit the story?"

"Not he."

"Well, I hope, for your sake, that all will come out right."

"Never fear."

"By-the-way," said Mr. Brainard, "what do you really know about Fenwick? You appear to have the highest confidence in his judgment. Does this come from a personal knowledge of the man, or are you governed in your estimate by common report?"

"He is a man of the first standing in New York. No name, in money circles, bears a higher reputation."

Brainard slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"The common estimate of a man, in any community, is apt to be very near the truth," said Mr. Markland.

"Generally speaking, this is so," was replied. "But every now and then the public mind is startled by exceptions to the rule-and these exceptions have been rather frequent; of late years. As for Fenwick, he stands fair enough, in a general way. If he were to send me an order for five thousand dollars' worth of goods, I would sell him, were I a merchant, without hesitation. But to embark with him in a scheme of so much magnitude is another thing altogether, and I wonder at myself, now, that I was induced to consider the matter at all. Since my withdrawal, and cooler thought on the subject, I congratulate myself, daily, on the escape I have made."

"Escape! From what!" Mr. Markland looked surprised.

"From loss; it may be, ruin."

"You would hardly call the loss of twenty thousand dollars, ruin."

"Do you expect to get off with an investment of only twenty thousand dollars?" asked Mr. Brainard.

"No; for I have agreed to put in forty thousand."

Brainard shook his head ominously, and looked very grave.

"I knew of no other man in the city with whom I cared to be associated; and so, after you declined, took the whole amount that wats to be raised here, myself."

"A hasty and unwise act, believe me, Mr. Markland," said the other. "How soon do you expect returns from this investment?"

"Not for a year, at least."

"Say not for two years."

"Well-admit it. What then?"

"Your annual income is at once diminished in the sum of about twenty-five hundred dollars, the interest on these forty thousand dollars. So, at the end of two years, you are the loser of five thousand dollars by your operation."

"It would be, if the new business paid nothing. But, when it begins to pay, it will be at the rate of one or two hundred per cent. on the amounts paid in."

"May be so."

"Oh! I am sure of it."

"The whole scheme has a fair front, I will admit," answered Brainard. "But I have seen so many days that rose in sunshine go down in storm, that I have ceased to be over confident. If forty thousand were the whole of your investment, you might, for so large a promised return, be justified in taking the risk."

"Mr. Fenwick thinks nothing further will be required," said Markland.

"But don't you remember the letter, in which he stated, distinctly, that several assessments would, in all probability, be made, pro rata, on each partner?"

"Yes; and I called Mr. Fenwick's attention to that statement; for I did not care to go beyond forty thousand."

"What answer did he make?"

"Later intelligence had exhibited affairs in such a state of progress, that it was now certain no further advance of capital would be required."

"I hope not, for your sake," returned Brainard.

"I am sure not," said Markland, confidently, A third party here interrupted the conversation, and the two men separated.

As might be supposed, this interview did not leave the most agreeable impression on the feelings of Markland. The fact that in selling stocks and other property to the amount of forty thousand dollars, and locking up that large sum in an unproductive investment, he would diminish his yearly income over twenty-five hundred dollars, did not present the most agreeable view of the case. He had not thought of this, distinctly, before. A little sobered in mind, he returned homeward during the afternoon. Ten thousand dollars had gone forward to New York; and in the course of next week he must produce a sum of equal magnitude. To do this, would require the sale of a piece of real estate that had, in five years, been doubled in value, and which promised to be worth still more. He felt a particular reluctance to selling this property; and the necessity for doing so worried his mind considerably. "Better let well enough alone." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." One after another, these trite little sayings would come up in his thoughts, unbidden, as if to add to his mental disquietude.

In spite of his efforts to thrust them aside, and to get back his strong confidence in the new business, Mr. Markland's feelings steadily declined towards a state of unpleasant doubt. Reason as he would on the subject, he could not overcome the depression from which he suffered.

"I am almost sorry that I was tempted to embark in this business," he at length said to himself, the admission being extorted by the pressure on

his feelings. "If I could, with honour and safety, withdraw, I believe I would be tempted to do so. But that is really not to be thought of now. My hands have grasped the plough, and there must be no wavering or looking back. This is all an unworthy weakness."

Mr. Markland had gained the entrance to Woodbine Lodge, but he was in no state of mind to join his family. So he alighted and sent his carriage forward, intending to linger on his way to the house, in order to regain his lost equilibrium. He had been walking alone for only a few minutes, with his eyes upon the ground, when a crackling noise among the underwood caused him to look up, and turn himself in the direction from which the sound came. In doing so, he caught sight of the figure of a man retiring through the trees, and evidently, from his movements, anxious to avoid observation. Mr. Markland stood still and gazed after him until his figure passed from sight. The impression this incident made upon him was unpleasant. The person of the stranger was so much hidden by trees, that he could make out no resemblance whatever.

It was near that part of Mr. Markland's grounds known as the Fountain Grove, where this occurred, and the man, to all appearance, had been there. The impulse for him to turn aside was, therefore, but natural, and he did so. Passing through a style, and ascending by a few steps to the level of the ornamental grounds surrounding the grove and fountain, the first object that he saw was his daughter Fanny, moving hastily in the direction of the summer-house which has been described. She was only a short distance in advance. Mr. Markland quickened his steps, as a vague feeling of uneasiness came over him. The coincidence of the stranger and his daughter's presence produced a most unpleasant impression.

"Fanny!" he called.

That his daughter heard him, he knew by the start she gave. But instead of looking around, she sprang forward, and hastily entered the summer-house. For a moment or two she was hidden from his view, and in that short period she had snatched a letter from the table, and concealed it in her bosom. Not sufficiently schooled in the art of self-control was Fanny to meet her father with a calm face. Her cheeks were flushed, and her chest rose and fell in hurried respiration, as Mr. Markland entered the summer-house, where she had seated herself.

"You are frightened, my child," said he, fixing his eyes with a look of inquiry on her face. "Didn't you see me, as I turned in from the carriage-way?" he added.

"No, sir," was falteringly answered. "I did not know that you had returned from the city until I heard your voice. It came so unexpectedly that I was startled."

Fanny, as she said this, did not meet her father's gaze, but let her eyes rest upon the ground.

"Are you going to remain here?" asked Mr. Markland.

"I came to spend a little while alone in this sweet place, but I will go back to the house if you wish it," she replied.

"Perhaps you had better do so. I saw a strange man between this and the main road, and he seemed as if he desired to avoid observation."

Fanny started, and looked up, with an expression of fear, into her father's face. The origin of that look Mr. Markland did not rightly conjecture. She arose at once, and said-

"Let us go home."

But few words passed between father and daughter on the way, and their brief intercourse was marked by a singular embarrassment on both sides.

How little suspicion of the real truth was in the mind of Mr. Markland! Nothing was farther from his thoughts than the idea that Fanny had just received a letter from Mr. Lyon, and that the man he had seen was the messenger by whom the missive had been conveyed to the summer-house. A minute earlier, and that letter would have come into his hands. How instantly would a knowledge of its contents have affected all the purposes that were now leading him on with almost the blindness of infatuation. The man he was trusting so implicitly would have instantly stood revealed as a scheming, unprincipled adventurer. In such estimation, at least, he must have been held by Mr. Markland, and his future actions would have been governed by that estimate.

The answer to Fanny's earnest, almost peremptory demand, to be released from the injunction not to tell her parents of Mr. Lyon's return, was in her possession, and the instant she could get away to her own room, she tore the letter open. The reader already knows its contents. The effect upon her was paralyzing. He had said that she was in freedom to speak, but the consequences portrayed were too fearful to contemplate. In freedom? No! Instead of loosing the cords with which he had bound her spirit, he had only drawn them more tightly. She was in freedom to speak, but the very first word she uttered would sound the knell of her young heart's fondest hopes. How, then, could she speak that word? Lyon had not miscalculated the effect of his letter on the inexperienced, fond young girl, around whose innocent heart he had woven a spell of enchantment. Most adroitly had he seemed to leave her free to act from her own desires, while he had made that action next to impossible.

How rapidly, sometimes, does the young mind gain premature strength when subjected to strong trial. Little beyond an artless child was Fanny Markland when she first met the fascinating young stranger; and now she was fast growing into a deep-feeling, strong-thinking woman. Hitherto she had leaned with tender confidence on her parents, and walked the paths lovingly where they led the way. Now she was moving, with unaided footsteps, along a new and rugged road, that led she knew not whither; for clouds and darkness were in the forward distance. At every step, she found a new strength and a new power of endurance growing up in her young spirit. Thought, too, was becoming clearer and stronger. The mature woman had suddenly taken the place of the shrinking girl.

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