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   Chapter 22 No.22

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 6599

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


"IT must be done this evening, Fanny," said Mrs. Markland, firmly. "The week has expired."

"Wait until to-morrow, dear mother," was urged in a manner that was almost imploring.

"My promise was for one week. Even against my own clear convictions of right, have I kept it. This evening, your father must know all."

Fanny buried her face, in her hands and wept violently. The trial and conflict of that week were, to Mrs. Markland, the severest, perhaps, of her whole life. Never before had her mind been in so confused a state; never had the way of duty seemed so difficult to find. A promise she felt to be a sacred thing; and this feeling had constrained her, even in the face of most powerful considerations, to remain true to her word. But now, she no longer doubted or hesitated; and she was counting the hours that must elapse before her husband's return from the city, eager to unburden her heart to him.

"There is hardly time," said Fanny, "for a letter to arrive from Mr. Lyon."

"I cannot help it, my child. Any further delay on my part would be criminal. Evil, past all remedy, may have already been done."

"I only asked for time, that Mr. Lyon might have an opportunity to write to father, and explain every thing himself."

"Probably your father has heard from him to-day. If so, well; but, if not, I shall certainly bring the matter to his knowledge."

There was something so decisive about Mrs. Markland, that Fanny ceased all further attempts to influence her, and passively awaited the issue.

The sun had only a few degrees to make ere passing from sight behind the western mountains. It was the usual time for Mr. Markland's return from the city, and most anxiously was his appearing looked for. But the sun went down, and the twilight threw its veil over wood and valley, and still his coming was delayed. He had gone in by railroad, and not by private conveyance as usual. The latest train had swept shrieking past, full half an hour, when Mrs. Markland turned sadly from the portico, in which she had for a long time been stationed, saying to Grace, who had been watching by her side-

"This is very strange! What can keep Edward? Can it be possible that he has remained in the city all night? I'm very much troubled. He may be sick."

"More likely," answered Grace, in a fault-finding way, "he's gone trapseing off to New York again, after that Englishman's business. I wish he would mind his own affairs."

"He would not have done this without sending us word," replied Mrs. Markland.

"Oh! I'm not so sure of that. I'm prepared for any thing."

"But it's not like Edward. You know that he is particularly considerate about such things."

"He used to be. But Edward Markland of last year is not the Edward Markland of to-day, as you know right well," returned the sister-in-law.

"I wish you wouldn't speak in that way about Edward any more, Grace. It is very unpleasant to me."

"The more so, because it is the truth," replied Grace Markland. "Edward, I'll warrant you, is now sweeping off towards New York. See if I'm not right."

"No, there he is now!" exclaimed Mrs. Markland, stepping back from the door she was about to enter, as the sound of approaching feet arrested her ear.

The two women looked eagerly through the dusky air

. A man's form was visible. It came nearer.

"Edward!" was just passing joyfully from the lips of Mrs. Markland, when the word was suppressed.

"Good-evening, ladies," said a strange voice, as a man whom neither of them recognised paused within a few steps of where they stood.

"Mr. Willet is my name," he added.

"Oh! Mr. Willet, our new neighbour," said Mrs. Markland, with a forced composure of manner. "Walk in, if you please. We were on the lookout for Mr. Markland. He has not yet arrived from the city, and we are beginning to feel anxious about him."

"I am here to relieve that anxiety," replied the visitor in a cheerful voice, as he stepped on the portico. "Mr. Markland has made me the bearer of a message to his family."

"Where is he? What has detained him in the city?" inquired Mrs. Markland, in tones expressing her grief and disappointment.

"He has gone to New York," replied Mr. Willet.

"To New York!"

"Yes. He desired me to say to you, that letters received by the afternoon's mail brought information that made his presence in New York of importance. He had no time, before the cars started, to write, and I, therefore, bring you his verbal message."

It had been the intention of Mr. Willet to accept any courteous invitation extended by the family to pass a part of the evening with them; but, seeing how troubled Mrs. Markland was at the absence of her husband, he thought it better to decline entering the house, and wait for a better opportunity to make their more intimate acquaintance. So he bade her a good evening, after answering what further inquiries she wished to make, and returned to his own home.

Aunt Grace was unusually excited by the information received through their neighbour, and fretted and talked in her excited way for some time; but nothing that she said elicited any reply from Mrs. Markland, who seemed half stupefied, and sat through the evening in a state of deep abstraction, answering only in brief sentences any remarks addressed to her. It seemed to her as if her feet had wandered somehow into the mazes of a labyrinth, from which at each effort to get free she was only the more inextricably involved. Her perceptions had lost their clearness, and, still worse, her confidence in them was diminishing. Heretofore she had reposed all trust in her husband's rational intelligence; and her woman's nature had leaned upon him and clung to him as the vine to the oak. As his judgment determined, her intuitions had approved. Alas for her that this was no longer! Hitherto she had walked by his side with a clear light upon their path. She was ready to walk on still, and to walk bravely so far as herself was concerned, even though her straining eyes could not penetrate the cloudy veil that made all before her darkness and mystery.

Fanny, who had looked forward with a vague fear to her father's return on that evening, felt relieved on hearing that he had gone to New York, for that would give sufficient time for him to receive a letter from Mr. Lyon.

Thus it was with the family of Mr. Markland on this particular occasion. A crisis, looked for with trembling anxiety, seemed just at, hand; and yet it was still deferred-leaving, at least in one bosom, a heart-sickness that made life itself almost a burden.

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