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   Chapter 29 No.29

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 8646

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


MR. MARKLAND'S determination to visit the scene of the Company's operations was no suddenly-formed impulse; and the manifest desire that he should not do so, exhibited by Mr. Fenwick, in no way lessened his purpose to get upon the ground as early as possible, and see for himself how matters were progressing. His whole fortune was locked up in this new enterprise, and his compeers were strangers, or acquaintances of a recent date. To have acted with so much blindness was unlike Markland; but it was like him to wish to know all about any business in which he was engaged. This knowledge he had failed to obtain in New York. There his imagination was constantly dazzled, and while he remained there, uncounted, treasure seemed just ready to fall at his feet. The lamp of Aladdin was almost within his grasp. But, on leaving Fenwick and his sanguine associates, a large portion of his enthusiasm died out, and his mind reached forth into the obscurity around him and sought for the old landmarks.

On returning home from this visit to New York, Mr. Markland found his mind oppressed with doubts and questions, that could neither be removed nor answered satisfactorily. His entire fortune, acquired through years of patient labour, was beyond his reach, and might never come back into his possession, however desperately he grasped after it. And "Woodbine Lodge,"-its beauty suddenly restored to eyes from which scales had fallen-held now only by an uncertain tenure, a breath might sweep from his hand.

Suddenly, Markland was awakened, as if from a dream, and realized the actual of his position. It was a fearful waking to him, and caused every nerve in his being to thrill with pain. On the brink of a gulf he found himself standing, and as he gazed down into its fearful obscurity, he shuddered and grew sick. And now, having taken the alarm, his thoughts became active in a new direction, and penetrated beneath surfaces which hitherto had blinded his eyes by their golden lustre. Facts and statements which before had appeared favourable and coherent now presented irreconcilable discrepancies, and he wondered at the mental blindness which had prevented his seeing things in their present aspects.

It was not possible for a man of Mr. Markland's peculiar temperament and business experience to sit down idly, and, with folded hands, await the issue of this great venture. Now that his fears were aroused, he could not stop short of a thorough examination of affairs, and that, too, at the chief point of operations, which lay thousands of miles distant.

Letters from Mr. Lyon awaited his return from New York. They said little of matters about which he now most desired specific information, while they seemed to communicate a great many important facts in regard to the splendid enterprise in which they were engaged. Altogether, they left no satisfactory impression on his mind. One of them, bearing a later date than the rest, disturbed him deeply. It was the first, for some months, in which allusion was made to his daughter. The closing paragraph of this letter ran thus:-

"I have not found time, amid this pressure of business, to write a word to your daughter for some weeks. Say to her that I ever bear her in respectful remembrance, and shall refer to the days spent at Woodbine Lodge as among the brightest of my life."

There had been no formal application for the hand of his daughter up to this time; yet had it not crossed the thought of Markland that any other result would follow; for the relation into which Lyon had voluntarily brought himself left no room for honourable retreat. His letters to Fanny more than bound him to a pledge of his hand. They were only such as one bearing the tenderest affection might write.

Many weeks had elapsed since Fanny received a letter, and she was beginning to droop under the long suspense. None came for her now, and here was the cold, brief reference to one whose heart was throbbing toward him, full of love.

Markland was stung by this evasive reference to his daughter, for its meaning he clearly understood. Not that he had set his heart on an alliance of Fanny with this man, but, having come to look upon such an event as almost certain, and regarding all obstacles in the way as lying on his side of the question, pride was seve

rely shocked by so unexpected a show of indifference. And its exhibition was the more annoying, manifested, as it was, just at the moment when he had become most painfully aware that all his worldly possessions were beyond his control, and might pass from his reach forever.

"Can there be such baseness in the man?" he exclaimed, mentally, with bitterness, as the thought flitted through his mind that Lyon had deliberately inveigled him, and, having been an instrument of his ruin, now turned from him with cold indifference.

"Impossible!" he replied, aloud, to the frightful conjecture. "I will not cherish the thought for a single moment."

But a suggestion like this, once made to a man in his circumstances, is not to be cast out of the mind by a simple act of rejection. It becomes a living thing, and manifests its perpetual presence. Turn his thought from it as he would, back to that point it came, and the oftener this occurred, the more corroborating suggestions arrayed themselves by its side.

Mr. Markland was alone in the library, with Mr. Lyon's hastily read letters before him, and yet pondering, with an unquiet spirit, the varied relations in which he had become placed, when the door was quietly pushed open, and he heard light footsteps crossing the room. Turning, he met the anxious face of his daughter, who, no longer able to bear the suspense that was torturing her, had overcome all shrinking maiden delicacy, and now came to ask if, enclosed in either of his letters, was one for her. She advanced close to where he was sitting, and, as he looked at her with a close observation, he saw that her countenance was almost colourless, her lips rigid, and her heart beating with an oppressed motion, as if half the blood in her body had flowed back upon it.

"Fanny, dear!" said Mr. Markland, grasping her hand tightly. As he did so, she leaned heavily against him, while her eyes ran eagerly over the table.

Two or three times she tried to speak, but was unable to articulate.

"What can I say to you, love?" Her father spoke in a low, sad, tender voice, that to her was prophetic of the worst.

"Is there a letter for me?" she asked, in a husky whisper.

"No, dear."

He felt her whole frame quiver as if shocked.

"You have heard from Mr. Lyon?" She asked this after the lapse of a few moments, raising herself up as she spoke, and assuming a calmness of exterior that was little in accord with the tumult within.

"Yes. I have three letters of different dates."

"And none for me?"

"None."

"Has he not mentioned my name?"

A moment Mr. Markland hesitated, and then answered-

"Yes."

He saw a slight, quick flush mantle her face, that grew instantly pale again.

"Will you read to me what he says?"

"If you wish me to do so." Mr. Markland said this almost mechanically.

"Read it." And as her father took from the table a letter, Fanny grasped his arm tightly, and then stood with the immovable rigidity of a statue. She had already prophesied the worst. The cold, and, to her, cruel words, were like chilling ice-drops on her heart. She listened to the end, and then, with a low cry, fell against her father, happily unconscious of further suffering. To her these brief sentences told the story of unrequited love. How tenderly, how ardently he had written a few months gone by! and now, after a long silence, he makes to her a mere incidental allusion, and asks a "respectful remembrance!" She had heard the knell of all her dearest hopes. Her love had become almost her life, and to trample thus upon it was like extinguishing her life.

"Fanny! Love! Dear Fanny!" But the distressed father called to her in vain, and in vain lifted her nerveless body erect. The oppressed heart was stilled.

A cry of alarm quickly summoned the family, and for a short time a scene of wild terror ensued; for, in the white face of the fainting girl, all saw the image of death. A servant was hurriedly despatched for their physician, and the body removed to one of the chambers.

But motion soon came back, feebly, to the heart; the lungs drew in the vital air, and the circle of life was restored. When the physician arrived, nature had done all for her that could be done. The sickness of her spirit was beyond the reach of any remedy he might prescribe.

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