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   Chapter 23 No.23

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 8781

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

THE close of the next day did not bring Mr. Markland, but only a hurried letter, saying that important business would probably keep him in New York a day or two longer. A postscript to the letter read thus:

"Mr. Elbridge will send you a deed of some warehouse property that I have sold. Sign and return it by the bearer."

If Mr. Markland had only said where a letter would reach him in New York, his wife would have lost no time in writing fully on the subject of Mr. Lyon's conduct toward Fanny. But, as there was great uncertainty about this, she felt that she could only await his return. And now she blamed herself deeply for having kept her word to Fanny. It was one of those cases, she saw, in which more evil was likely to flow from keeping a blind, almost extorted promise, than from breaking it.

"I ought to have seen my duty clearer," she said, in self-condemnation. "What blindness has possessed me!" And so she fretted herself, and admitted into her once calm, trusting spirit, a flood of self-reproaches and disquietude.

Fanny, now that the so anxiously dreaded period had gone by, and there was hope that her father would learn all from Mr. Lyon before he returned home, relapsed into a more passive state of mind. She had suffered much beyond her natural powers of endurance, in the last few days. A kind of reaction now followed, and she experienced a feeling of indifference as to results and consequences, that was a necessary relief to the over-strained condition of mind which had for some time existed.

On the day following, another letter was received from Mr. Markland.

"You must not expect me until the last of this week," he said. "Business matters of great importance will keep me here until that time. I have a letter from Mr. Lyon which I do not much like. It seems that he was at Woodbine Lodge, and saw Fanny, while I was away in New York. I have talked with a Mr. Fenwick here, a gentleman who knows all about him and his business, and he assures me that the reasons which Mr. Lyon gave for returning as he did from the South are valid. What troubles me most is that Fanny should have concealed it from both you and her father. We will talk this matter over fully on my return. If I had known it earlier, it might have led to an entire change of plans for the future. But it is too late now.

"I wrote you yesterday that I wished you to sign a deed which Mr. Elbridge would send out. He will send two more, which I would also like you to sign. I am making some investments here of great prospective value."

Mrs. Markland read this letter over and over again, and sat and thought about its contents until her mind grew so bewildered that it seemed as if reason were about to depart. If it was suggested that she ought not to sign the deeds that were to be presented for her signature, the suggestion was not for a single moment entertained; but rather flung aside with something of indignation.

A day or two after Mr. Willet called with the message from Mr. Markland, he went over again to Woodbine Lodge. It was late in the afternoon, and Fanny was sitting in the portico that looked from the western front of the dwelling, with her thoughts so far away from the actual things around her that she did not notice the approach of any one, until Mr. Willet, whom she had never met, was only a few yards distant; then she looked up, and as her eyes rested upon him, she started to her feet and struck her hands together, uttering an involuntary exclamation of surprise. The name of Mr. Lyon was half uttered, when she saw her mistake, and made a strong effort to compose her suddenly disturbed manner.

"Mrs. Markland is at home, I presume," said the visitor, in a respectful manner, as he paused a few paces distant from Fanny, and observed, with some surprise, the agitation his appearance had occasioned.

"She is. Will you walk in, sir?" The voice of Fanny trembled, though she strove hard to speak calmly and with apparent self-possession.

"My name is Mr. Willet."

"Oh! our new neighbour." And Fanny forced a smile, while she extended her hand, as she added:

"Walk in, sir. My mother will be gratified to see you."

"Has your father returned from New York?" inquired Mr. Willet, as he stood looking down upon the face of Miss Markland, with a feeling of admiration for its beauty and innocence.

"Not yet. Mother do

es not look for him until the last of this week."

"He did not expect to be gone over a single day, when he left?"

"No, sir. But business has detained him. Will you not walk in, Mr. Willet?" The earnestness with which he was looking into her face was disconcerting Fanny. So she stepped toward the door, and led the way into the house.

"Mr. Willet," said Fanny, introducing her visitor, as they entered the sitting-room.

Mrs. Markland extended her hand and gave their new neighbour a cordial reception. Aunt Grace bowed formally, and fixed her keen eyes upon him with searching glances. While the former was thinking how best to entertain their visitor, the latter was scrutinizing his every look, tone, word, and movement. At first, the impression made upon her was not altogether favourable; but gradually, as she noted every particular of his conversation, as well as the various changes of his voice and countenance, her feelings toward him underwent a change; and when he at length addressed a few words to her, she replied, with unusual blandness of manner.

"How are your mother and sisters?" inquired Mrs. Markland, soon after Mr. Willet came in. "I have not yet called over to see them, but shall do so to-morrow."

"They are well, and will be exceedingly gratified to receive a visit from you," replied Mr. Willet.

"How are they pleased with the country?"

"That question they would find it difficult yet to answer. There is much pleasant novelty, and much real enjoyment of nature's varied beauties. A sense of freedom and a quietude of spirit, born of the stillness that, to people just from the noisy town, seems brooding over all things. Some of the wants, created by our too artificial mode of living in cities, are occasionally felt; but, on the whole, we are gainers, so far, by our experiment."

"Your sisters, I am sure, must enjoy the beauty with which you are surrounded. There is not a lovelier place than the one you have selected in the whole neighbourhood."

"Always excepting Woodbine Lodge," returned the visitor, with a courteous bow. "Yes," he added, "Sweetbrier is a charming spot, and its beauty grows upon you daily. My sister Flora, just about your own age," and Mr. Willet turned toward Fanny, "is particularly desirous to make your acquaintance. You must call over with your mother. I am sure you will like each other. Flora, if a brother may venture to herald a sister's praise, is a dear, good girl. She has heard a friend speak of you, and bears already, toward you, a feeling of warmer tone than mere friendship."

Mr. Willet fixed his eyes so earnestly on the countenance of Fanny, that she partly averted her face to conceal the warm flush that came to her cheeks.

"I shall be happy to make her acquaintance," she replied. "Our circle of friends cannot be so large here as in the city; but we may find compensation in closer attachments."

"I will say to my mother and sisters, that they may expect to see you to-morrow," And Mr. Willet looked from face to face.

"Yes; we will ride over to-morrow," said Mrs. Markland.

"And you, also, Miss Markland." The courteous manner in which this was said quite won the heart of Aunt Grace, and she replied that she would give herself that pleasure.

Mr. Willet sat for an hour, during which time he conversed in the most agreeable and intelligent manner; and, on retiring, left behind him a very favourable impression.

"I like that man," said Aunt Grace, with an emphasis that caused Mrs. Markland to look toward her and smile.

"That's a little remarkable. You are not very apt to like men at first sight."

"I like him, for he's a true man and a gentleman," returned Aunt Grace. "And true men, I think, are scarce articles."

"Ever hasty in your conclusions, whether favourable or unfavourable," said Mrs. Markland.

"And rarely in error. You may add that," replied the sister-in-law, confidently. "When Mr. Lyon darkened our doors,"-Fanny was passing from the room, and Aunt Grace spoke in a guarded voice-"I said he would leave a shadow behind him, and so he has. Was my judgment hasty, so far as he was concerned? I think you will hardly say so. But, my word for it, the presence of Mr. Willet will ever bring a gleam of sunshine. I am glad he has come into our neighbourhood. If his mother and sisters are like him, they are a company of choice spirits."

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