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The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 8534

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

"I SHOULD have been contented amid so much beauty, and with even more than my share of earthly blessings." Thus Mr. Markland communed with himself, walking about alone, near the close of the day preceding that on which his appointed journey was to begin. "Am I not acting over again that old folly of the substance and shadow? Verily, I believe it is so. Ah! will we ever be satisfied with any achievement in this life? To-morrow I leave all by which I am here surrounded, and more, a thousand-fold more-my heart's beloved ones; and for what? To seek the fortune I was mad enough to cast from me into a great whirlpool, believing that it would be thrown up at my feet again, with every disk of gold changed into a sparkling diamond. I have waited eagerly on the shore for the returning tide, but yet there is no reflux, and now my last hope rests on the diver's strength and doubtful fortune. I must make the fearful plunge."

A cold shudder ran through the frame of Mr. Markland, as he realized, too distinctly, the image he had conjured up. A feeling of weakness and irresolution succeeded.

"Ah!" he murmured to himself, "if all had not been so blindly cast upon this venture, I might be willing to wait the issue, providing for the worst by a new disposition of affairs, and by new efforts here. But I was too eager, too hopeful, too insanely confident. Every thing is now beyond my reach."

This was the state of his mind when Mr. Allison, whom he had not met in a familiar manner for several weeks, joined him, saying, as he came up with extended hand, and fine face, bright with the generous interest in others that always burned in his heart-

"What is this I hear, Mr. Markland? Is it true that you are going away, to be absent for some months? Mr. Willet was telling me about it this morning."

"It is too true," replied Mr. Markland, assuming a cheerful air, yet betraying much of the troubled feeling that oppressed him. "The calls of business cannot always be disregarded."

"No-but, if I understand aright, you contemplate going a long distance South-somewhere into Central America."

"Such is my destination. Having been induced to invest money in a promising enterprise in that far-off region, it is no more than right to look after my interests there."

"With so much to hold your thoughts and interests here," said Mr. Allison, "I can hardly understand why you should let them wander off so far from home."

"And I can hardly understand it myself," returned Mr. Markland, in a lower tone of voice, as if the admission were made reluctantly. "But so it is. I am but a man, and man is always dissatisfied with his actual, and always looking forward to some good time coming. Ah, sir, this faculty of imagination that we possess is one of the curses entailed by the fall. It is forever leading us off from a true enjoyment of what we have. It has no faith in to-day-no love for the good and beautiful that really exists."

"I can show you a person whose imagination plays no truant pranks like this," replied Mr. Allison. "And this shall be at least one exception to your rule."

"Name that person," was the half-incredulous response.

"Your excellent wife," said Mr. Allison.

For some moments Mr. Markland stood with his eyes cast down; then, lifting them to the face of the old man, he said:

"The reference is true. But, if she be not the only exception, the number who, like her, can find the best reward in the present, are, alas! but few."

"If not found in the present, Mr. Markland, will it ever be found? Think!"

"Never!" There was an utterance of grief in the deep tone that thus responded-for conviction had come like a quick flash upon his heart.

"But who finds it, Mr. Allison?" he said, shortly after, speaking with stern energy. "Who comprehends the present and the actual? who loves it sufficiently? Ah, sir! is the present ever what a fond, cheating imagination prefigured it?"

"And knowing this so well," returned the old man, "was it wise for you to build so largely on the future as you seem to have done?"

"No, it was not wise." The answer came with a bitter emphasis.

"We seek to escape the restlessness of unsatisfied desire," said Mr. Allison, "by giving it more stimulating food, i

nstead of firmly repressing its morbid activities. Think you not that there is something false in the life we are leading here, when we consider how few and brief are the days in which we experience a feeling of rest and satisfaction? And if our life be false-or, in other words, our life-purposes-what hope for us is there in any change of pursuit or any change of scene?"

"None-none," replied Mr. Markland.

"We may look for the good time coming, but look in vain. Its morning will never break over the distant mountain-tops to which our eyes are turned."

"Life is a mockery, a cheating dream!" said Mr. Markland, bitterly.

"Not so, my friend," was the calmly spoken answer.

"Not so. Our life here is the beginning of an immortal life. But, to be a happy life, it must be a true one. All its activities must have an orderly pulsation."

Mr. Markland slowly raised a hand, and, pressing it strongly against his forehead, stood motionless for some moments, his mind deeply abstracted.

"My thoughts flow back, Mr. Allison," he said, at length, speaking in a subdued tone, "to a period many months gone by, and revives a conversation held with you, almost in this very place. What you then said made a strong impression on my mind. I saw, in clear light, how vain were all efforts to secure happiness in this world, if made selfishly, and thus in a direction contrary to true order. The great social man I recognised as no mere idealism, but as a verity. I saw myself a member of this body, and felt deeply the truth then uttered by you, that just in proportion as each member thinks of and works for himself alone will that individual be working in selfish disorder, and, like the member of the human body that takes more than its share of blood, must certainly suffer the pain of inflammation. The truth then presented to my mind was like a flood of light; but I did not love the truth, and shut my eyes to the light that revealed more than I wished to know. Ah, sir! if I could have accepted all you then advanced-if I could have overcome the false principle of self-seeking then so clearly shown to be the curse of life-I would not have involved myself in business that must now separate me for months from my home and family."

"And should you achieve all that was anticipated in the beginning," said Mr. Allison, "I doubt if you will find pleasure enough in the realization to compensate for this hour of pain, to say nothing of what you are destined to suffer during the months of separation that are before you."

"Your doubts are my own," replied Markland, musingly. "But,"-and he spoke in a quicker and lighter tone,-"this is all folly! I must go forward, now, to the end. Why, then, yield to unmanly weakness?"

"True, sir," returned the old man. "No matter how difficult the way in which our feet must walk, the path must be trodden bravely."

"I shall learn some lessons of wisdom by this experience," said Mr. Markland, "that will go with me through life. But, I fear, they will be all too dearly purchased."

"Wisdom," was the answer, "is a thing of priceless value."

"It is sometimes too dearly bought, for all that."

"Never," replied the old man,-"never. Wisdom is the soul's true riches; and there is no worldly possession that compares with it in value. If you acquire wisdom by any experience, no matter how severe it may prove, you are largely the gainer. And here is the compensation in every affliction, in every disappointment, and in every misfortune. We may gather pearls of wisdom from amid the ashes and cinders of our lost hopes, after the fires have consumed them."

Mr. Markland sighed deeply, but did not answer. There was a dark sky above and around him; yet gleams of light skirted a cloud here and there, telling him that the great sun was shining serenely beyond. He felt weak, sad, and almost hopeless, as he parted from Mr. Allison, who promised often to visit his family during his absence; and in his weakness, he lifted his heart involuntarily upward, and asked direction and strength from Him whom he had forgotten in the days when all was light around him, and, in the pride and strength of conscious manhood, he had felt that he possessed all power to effect the purposes of his own will.

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