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   Chapter 34 No.34

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 9117

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

IT was near the close of the fifth day since Mr. Markland left his home to commence a long journey southward; and yet, no word had come back from him. He had promised to write from Baltimore, and from other points on his route, and sufficient time had elapsed for at least two letters to arrive. A servant, who had been sent to the city post-office, had returned without bringing any word from the absent one; and Mrs. Markland, with Fanny by her side, was sitting near a window sad and silent.

Just one year has passed since their introduction to the reader. But what a change one year has wrought! The heart's bright sunshine rested then on every object. Woodbine Lodge was then a paradise. Now, there is scarcely a ray of this warm sunshine. Yet there had been no bereavement-no affliction; nothing that we refer to a mysterious Providence. No,-but the tempter was admitted. He came with specious words and deceiving pretences. He vailed the present good, and magnified the worth of things possessing no power to satisfy the heart. Too surely has he succeeded in the accomplishment of his evil work.

At the time of the reader's introduction to Woodbine Lodge, a bright day was going down in beauty; and there was not a pulse in nature that did not beat in unison with the hearts of its happy denizens. A summer day was again drawing to its close, but sobbing itself away in tears. And they were in tears also, whose spirits, but a single year gone by, reflected only the light and beauty of nature.

By the window sat the mother and daughter, with oppressed hearts, looking out upon the leaden sky and the misty gusts that swept across the gloomy landscape. Sad and silent, we have said, they were. Now and then they gazed into each other's faces, and the lips quivered as if words were on them. But each spirit held back the fear by which it was burdened-and the eyes turned wearily again from the open window.

At last, Fanny's heavy heart could bear in silence the pressure no longer. Hiding her face in her mother's lap, she sobbed out violently. Repressing her own struggling emotions, Mrs. Markland spoke soothing, hopeful words; and even while she sought to strengthen her daughter's heart, her own took courage.

"My dear child," she said, in a voice made even by depressing its tone, "do you not remember that beautiful thought expressed by Mrs. Willet yesterday? 'Death,' said she, 'signifies life; for in every death there is resurrection into a higher and purer life. This is as true,' she remarked, 'of our affections, which are but activities of the life, as of the natural life itself.'"

The sobs of the unhappy girl died away. Her mother continued, in a low, earnest voice, speaking to her own heart as well as to that of her child, for it, too, needed strength and comfort.

"How often have we been told, in our Sabbath instructions, that natural affections cannot be taken to heaven; that they must die, in order that spiritual affections may be born."

Fanny raised herself up, and said, with slight warmth of manner-

"Is not my love for you a natural affection for my natural mother? And must that die before I can enter heaven?"

"May it not be changed into a love of what is good in your mother, instead of remaining only a love of her person?"

"Dear mother!" almost sobbed again the unhappy child,-clasping eagerly the neck of her parent,-"it is such a love now! Oh! if I were as good, and patient, and self-denying as you are!"

"All our natural affections," resumed Mrs. Markland, after a few moments were given to self-control, "have simple regard to ourselves; and their indulgence never brings the promised happiness. This is why a wise and good Creator permits our natural desires to be so often thwarted. In this there is mercy, and not unkindness; for the fruition of these desires would often be most exquisite misery."

"Hark!" exclaimed Fanny, starting up at this moment, and leaning close to the window. The sound that had fallen upon her ear had also reached the ears of the mother.

"Oh! it's father!" fell almost wildly from the daughter's lips, and she sprang out into the hall, and forth to meet him in the drenching rain. Mrs. Markland could not rise, but sat, nerveless, until the husband entered the room.

"Oh, Edward! Edward!" she then exclaimed, rising, and staggering forward to meet him. "Thank our kind Father in heaven that you are with us again!" And her head sunk upon his bosom, and she felt his embracing arms drawn tightly around her. How exquisitely happy she was

for the moment! But she was aroused by the exclamation of Fanny:-

"Oh, father! How pale you look!"

Mrs. Markland raised herself quickly, and gazed into her husband's face. What a fearful change was there! He was pale and haggard; and in his bloodshot eyes she read a volume of wretchedness.

"Oh, Edward! what has happened?" she asked, eagerly and tenderly.

"More than I dare tell you!" he replied, in a voice full of despair.

"Perhaps I can divine the worst."

Markland had turned his face partly away, that he might conceal its expression. But the unexpected tone in which this sentence was uttered caused him to look back quickly. There was no foreboding fear in the countenance of his wife. She had spoken firmly-almost cheerfully.

"The worst? Dear Agnes!" he said, with deep anguish in his voice. "It has not entered into your imagination to conceive the worst!"

"All is lost!" she answered, calmly.

"All," he replied, "but honour, and a heart yet brave enough and strong enough to battle with the world for the sake of its beloved ones."

Mrs. Markland hid her face on the breast of her husband, and stood, for some minutes, silent. Fanny approached her father, and laid her head against him.

"All this does not appal me," said Mrs. Markland, and she looked up and smiled faintly through tears that could not be repressed.

"Oh, Agnes! Agnes! can you bear the thought of being driven out from this Eden?"

"Its beauty has already faded," was the quiet answer. "If it is ours no longer, we must seek another home. And home, you know, dear Edward, is where the heart is, and the loved ones dwell."

But not so calmly could Fanny bear this announcement. She had tried hard, for her father's sake, to repress her feelings; but now they gave way into hysterical weeping. Far beyond his words her thoughts leaped, and already bitter self-reproaches had begun. Had she at once informed him of Mr. Lyon's return, singular interview, and injunction of secrecy, all these appalling consequences might have been saved. In an instant this flashed upon her mind, and the conviction overwhelmed her.

"My poor child," said Mr. Markland, sadly, yet with great tenderness,-"would to heaven I could save you from the evil that lies before us! But I am powerless in the hands of a stern necessity."

"Oh, father!" sobbed the weeping girl, "if I could bear this change alone, I would be happy."

"Let us all bear it cheerfully together," said Mrs. Markland, in a quiet voice, and with restored calmness of spirit. "Heaven, as Mrs. Willet says, with so much truth, is not without, but within us. The elements of happiness lie not in external, but in internal things. I do not think, Edward, even with all we had of good in possession, you have been happy for the past year. The unsatisfied spirit turned itself away from all that was beautiful in nature-from all it had sought for as the means of contentment, and sighed for new possessions. And these would also have lost their charms, had you gained them, and your restless heart still sighed after an ideal good. It may be-nay, it must be-in mercy, that our heavenly Father permitted this natural evil to fall upon us. The night that approaches will prove, I doubt not, the winter night in which much bread will grow."

"Comforter!" He spoke the word with emotion.

"And should I not be?" was the almost cheerful answer. "Those who cannot help should at least speak words of comfort."

"Words! They are more than words that you have spoken. They have in them a substance and a life. But, Fanny, dear child!" he said, turning to his still grieving daughter-"your tears distress me. They pain more deeply than rebuking sentences. My folly"-

"Father!" exclaimed Fanny-"it is I-not you-that must bear reproach. A word might have saved all. Weak, erring child that I was! Oh! that fatal secret which almost crushed my heart with its burden! Why did I not listen to the voice of conscience and duty?"

"Let the dead past rest," said Mr. Markland. "Your error was light, in comparison with mine. Had I guarded the approaches to the pleasant land, where innocence and peace had their dwelling-place, the subtle tempter could never have entered. To mourn over the past but weakens the spirit."

But of all that passed between these principal members of a family upon whom misfortune had come like a flood, we cannot make a record. The father's return soon became known to the rest, and the children's gladness fell, like a sunny vail, over the sterner features of the scene.

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