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The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 10600

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


PREPARATION was at once made for the proposed removal. Mr. Walker went back to the city, and the new owner of the cottage, Mr. Willet, set carpenters and painters at work to make certain additions which he thought needful to secure the comfort of his tenants, and to put every thing in the most thorough repair. Even against the remonstrance of Mr. Markland, who saw that his generous-minded neighbour was providing for his family a house worth almost double the rent that was to be paid, he carried out all his projected improvements.

"You will embarrass me with a sense of obligation," said Mr. Markland, in seeking to turn him from a certain purpose regarding the cottage.

"Do not say so," answered Mr. Willet; "I am only offering inducements for you to remain with us. If obligation should rest anywhere, it will be on our side. I make these improvements because the house is now my own property, and would be defective, to my mind, without them. Pray, don't let your thoughts dwell on these things."

Thus he strove to dissipate the feeling of obligation that began to rest on the mind of his unfortunate neighbour, while he carried out his purpose. In due time, under the assignment which had been made, Woodbine Lodge and a large part of the elegant and costly furniture contained in the mansion, were sold, and the ownership passed into other hands. With a meagre remnant of their household goods, the family retired to a humbler house. Some pitied, and stood at a distance; some felt a selfish pleasure in their fall; and some, who had courted them in their days of prosperity, were among the foremost to speak evil against them. But there were a few, and they the choicest spirits of the neighbourhood, who only drew nearer to these their friends in misfortune. Among them was Mr. Allison, one of those wise old men whose minds grow not dim with advancing years. He had passed through many trying vicissitudes, had suffered, and come up from the ordeal purer than when the fire laid hold upon the dross of nature.

A wise monitor had he been in Markland's brighter days, and now he drew near as a comforter. There is strength in true words kindly spoken. How often was this proved by Mr. and Mrs. Markland, as their venerable friend unlocked for them treasures of wisdom!

The little parlour at "Lawn Cottage," the name of their new home, soon became the scene of frequent reunions among choice spirits, whose aspirations went higher and deeper than the external and visible. In closing around Mr. Markland, they seemed to shut him out, as it were, from the old world in which he had hoped, and suffered, and struggled so vainly; and to open before his purer vision a world of higher beauty. In this world were riches for the toiler, and honour for the noble-riches and honour far more to be desired than the gems and gold of earth or its empty tributes of praise.

A few months of this new life wrought a wonderful change in Markland. All the better elements of his nature were quickened into activity. Useful daily employment tranquillized his spirits; and not unfrequently he found himself repeating the words of Longfellow-

"Something attempted, something done,

Had earned a night's repose."

So entirely was every thing of earthly fortune wrecked, and so changed were all his relations to the business world, that hope had yet no power to awaken his mind to ambition. For the present, therefore, he was content to receive the reward of daily toil, and to be thankful that he was yet able to supply the real wants of his family. A cheerful tone of feeling gradually succeeded the state of deep depression from which he had suffered. His spirit, which had walked in darkness, began to perceive that light was breaking in through the hitherto impenetrable gloom, and as it fell upon the path he was treading, a flower was seen here and there, while the roughness his imagination had pictured became not visible.

Nearly a year had glided away since the wreck of Markland's fortune, and little or no change in his worldly prospects was visible. He was sitting late, one evening, reading aloud to his wife from a book which the latter had received from Mrs. Willet. The rest of the family had retired. Mrs. Markland was plying her needle busily. Altered circumstances had made hourly industry on her part a necessity; yet had they in no way dimmed the cheerful brightness of her spirits.

"Come, Agnes," said her husband, closing the book, "it is growing late; and you have worked long enough. I'm afraid your health will suffer."

"Just a few minutes longer," replied Mrs. Markland, smiling. "I must finish this apron for Frank. He will want it in the morning." And her hand moved quicker.

"How true is every word you have been reading!" she added, after a few moments. "Manifold indeed are the ways in which a wise Providence dispenses good to the children of men. Mercy is seen in the cloud as well as in the sunshine. Tears to the spirit are like rain to the earth."

"The descent looked frightful," said Markland, after a pause-"but we reached the lower ground uninjured. Invisible hands seemed to bear us up."

"We have found the land far pleasanter than was imagined; and the sky above of a purer crystal."

"Yes-yes. It is even so. And if the fl

owers that spring up at our feet are not so brilliant, they have a sweeter perfume and a diviner beauty."

"In this land," said Mrs. Markland, "we see in the visible things that surround us what was rarely seen before-types of the invisible things they represent."

"Ah, yes, yes! Scales have fallen from my eyes. I have learned a new philosophy. In former times, Mr. Allison's words seemed full of beautiful truths, yet so veiled, that I could not see their genuine brightness. Now they are like sudden gleams of sunlight on a darkened landscape."

"Seekers after happiness, like the rest of the world," said Mrs. Markland, resting her hands upon the table by which she sat, and, gazing earnestly into her husband's face, "we had lost our way, and were moving with swift feet in the wrong direction. Suddenly, our kind Father threw up before us an impassable mountain. Then we seemed shut out from the land of promise forever, and were in despair. But he took his weeping, murmuring children by the hand, and led them gently into another path!"

"Into a narrower way"-Mr. Markland took up the words of his wife-"and sought by few; yet, it has already brought us into a pleasant region."

"To speak in less ideal language," said Mrs. Markland, "we have been taught an all-important lesson. It is this: That there is over each one of us an intimate providential care which ever has regard to our eternal good. And the reason of our many and sad disappointments lies in the fact, that we seek only the gratification of natural life, in which are the very elements of dissatisfaction. All mere natural life is selfish life; and natural ends gained only confirm this selfish life, and produce misery instead of happiness."

"There is no rest," said Markland, "to the striving spirit that only seeks for the good of this world. How clearly have I seen this of late, as well in my own case as in that of others! Neither wealth nor honour have in themselves the elements of happiness; and their increase brings but an increase of trouble."

"If sought from merely selfish ends," remarked his wife. "Yet their possession may increase our happiness, if we regard them as the means by which we may rise into a higher life."

There followed a thoughtful pause. Mrs. Markland resumed her work, and her husband leaned his head back and remained for some minutes in a musing attitude.

"Don't you think," he said at length, "that Fanny is growing more cheerful?"

"Oh, yes. I can see that her state of mind is undergoing a gradual elevation."

"Poor child! What a sad experience, for one so young, has been hers! How her whole character has been, to all seeming, transformed. The light-hearted girl suddenly changed to a thoughtful, suffering woman!"

"She may be a happier woman in the end," said Mrs. Markland.

"Is that possible?"

"Yes. Suffering has given her a higher capacity for enjoyment."

"And for pain, also," said Mr. Markland.

"She is wiser for the first experience," was replied.

"Yes, there is so much in her favour. I wish," added Mr. Markland, "that she would go a little more into company. It is not good for any one to live so secluded a life. Companionship is necessary to the spirit's health."

"She is not without companions, or, at least, a companion."

"Flora Willet?"

"Yes."

"Good, as far as it goes. Flora is an excellent girl, and wise beyond her years."

"Can we ask a better companion for our child than one with pure feelings and true thoughts?"

"No. But I am afraid Flora has not the power to bring her out of herself. She is so sedate."

"She does not lack cheerfulness of spirit, Edward."

"Perpetual cheerfulness is too passive."

"Her laugh, at times, is delicious," said Mrs. Markland, "going to your heart like a strain of music, warming it like a golden sunbeam. Flora's character is by no means a passive one, but rather the reverse."

"She is usually very quiet when I see her," replied Markland.

"This arises from an instinctive deference to those who are older."

"Fanny is strongly attached to her, I think."

"Yes; and the attachment I believe to be mutual."

"Would not Flora, at your suggestion, seek to draw her gradually forth from her seclusion?"

"We have talked together on that subject several times," replied Mrs. Markland, "and are now trying to do the very thing you suggest."

"With any prospect of accomplishing the thing desired?"

"I believe so. There is to be company at Mr. Willet's next week, and we have nearly gained Fanny's consent to be present."

"Have you? I am indeed gratified to learn this."

"Flora has set her heart on gaining Fanny's consent, and will leave no influence untried."

"Still, Fanny's promise to go is withheld?"

"Yes; but I have observed her looking over her drawers, and showing more interest in certain articles therein than she has evinced for a long, long time."

"If she goes, she will require a new dress," said Mr. Markland.

"I think not. Such preparation would be too formal at present. But, we can make that all right."

"Oh! it will give me so much pleasure! Do not leave any influence untried."

"You may be sure that we will not," answered Mrs. Markland; "and, what is more, you have little to fear touching our success."

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