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   Chapter 39 No.39

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 9886

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


THE efforts of Flora Willet were successful; and Fanny Markland made one of the company that assembled at her brother's house. Through an almost unconquerable reluctance to come forth into the eye of the world, so to speak, she had broken; and, as one after another of the guests entered the parlours, she could hardly repress an impulse to steal away and hide herself from the crowd of human faces thickly closing around her. Undesired, she found herself an object of attention; and, in some cases, of clearly-expressed sympathy, that was doubly unpleasant.

The evening was drawing to a close, and Fanny had left the company and was standing alone in one of the porticos, when a young man, whose eyes she had several times observed earnestly fixed upon her, passed near, walked a few paces beyond, and then turning, came up and said, in a low voice-"Pardon this slight breach of etiquette, Miss Markland. I failed to get a formal introduction. But, as I have a few words to say that must be said, I am forced to a seeming rudeness."

Both the manner and words of the stranger so startled Fanny, that her heart began to throb wildly and her limbs to tremble. Seeing her clasp the pillar by which she stood, he said, as he offered an arm-

"Walk with me, for a few minutes at the other end of the portico. We will be less observed, and freer from interruption."

But Fanny only shrunk closer to the pillar.

"If you have any thing to say to me, let it be said here," she replied. Her trembling voice betrayed her agitation.

"What I have to say, concerns you deeply," returned the young man, "and you ought to hear it in a calmer mood. Let us remove a little farther from observation, and be less in danger of interruption."

"Speak, or retire!" said Fanny, with assumed firmness, waving her hand as she spoke.

But the stranger only bent nearer.

"I have a word for you from Mr. Lyon," said he, in a low, distinct whisper.

It was some moments before Fanny made answer. There was a wild strife in her spirit. But the tempest was of brief duration. Scarcely a perceptible tremor was in her voice, as she answered,

"It need not be spoken."

"Say not so, Miss Markland. If, in any thing, you have misapprehended him-"

"Go, sir!" And Fanny drew herself up to her full height, and pointed away with her finger.

"Mr. Lyon has ever loved you with the most passionate devotion," said the stranger. "In some degree he is responsible for the misfortune of your father; and now, at the first opportunity for doing so, he is ready to tender a recompense. Partly for this purpose, and partly to bear to you the declaration of Mr. Lyon's unwavering regard, am I here."

"He has wronged, deeply wronged my father," replied Fanny, something of the imperious tone and manner with which she had last spoken abating. "If prepared to make restitution in any degree, the way can easily be opened."

"Circumstances," was answered, "conspired to place him in a false position, and make him the instrument of wrong to those for whom he would at any time have sacrificed largely instead of becoming the minister of evil."

"What does he propose?" asked Fanny.

"To restore your father to his old position. Woodbine Lodge can be purchased from the present owner. It may become your home again."

"It is well," said Fanny. "Let justice be done."

She was now entirely self-possessed, bore herself firmly erect, and spoke without apparent emotion. Standing with her back to the window, through which light came, her own face was in shadow, while that of her companion was clearly seen.

"Justice will be done," replied the young man, slightly embarrassed by the replies of Fanny, the exact meaning of which he did not clearly perceive.

"Is that all you have to communicate?" said the young girl, seeing that he hesitated.

"Not all."

"Say on, then."

"There are conditions."

"Ah! Name them."

"Mr. Lyon still loves you with an undying tenderness."

Fanny waved her hand quickly, as if rejecting the affirmation, and slightly averted her head, but did not speak.

"His letters ceased because he was in no state to write; not because there was any change in his feelings toward you. After the terrible disaster to the Company, for which he has been too sweepingly blamed, he could not write."

"Where is he now?" inquired the maiden.

"I am not yet permitted to answer such a question."

There came a pause.

"What shall I say to him from you?"

"Nothing!" was the firm reply.

"Nothing? Think again, Miss Markland."

"Yes; say to him, that the mirror which once reflected his image in my heart, is shattered forever."

"Think of your father," urged the stranger.

"Go, sir!" And Fanny again waved her hand for him to leave her. "Your words are an offence to me."

A form intercepted at this moment the light which came through one of the doors opening upon the portico, and Fanny stepped

forward a pace or two.

"Ah! Miss Markland, I've been looking for you."

It was Mr. Willet. The stranger moved away as the other approached, yet remained near enough to observe them. Fanny made no response.

"There is a bit of moonlight scenery that is very beautiful," said Mr. Willet. "Come with me to the other side of the house."

And he offered his arm, through which Fanny drew hers without hesitation. They stepped from the piazza, and passed in among the fragrant shrubbery, following one of the garden walks, until they were in view of the scene to which Mr. Willet referred. A heavy bank of clouds had fallen in the east, and the moon was just struggling through the upper, broken edges, along which her gleaming silver lay in fringes, broad belts, and fleecy masses, giving to the dark vapours below a deeper blackness. Above all this, the sky was intensely blue, and the stars shone down with a sharp, diamond-like lustre. Beneath the bank of clouds, yet far enough in the foreground of this picture to partly emerge from obscurity, stood, on an eminence, a white marble building, with columns of porticos, like a Grecian temple. Projected against the dark background were its classic outlines, looking more like a vision of the days of Pericles than a modern verity.

"Only once before have I seen it thus," said Mr. Willet, after his companion had gazed for some time upon the scene without speaking, "and ever since, it has been a picture in my memory."

"How singularly beautiful!" Fanny spoke with only a moderate degree of enthusiasm, and with something absent in her manner. Mr. Willet turned to look into her face, but it lay too deeply in shadow. For a short time they stood gazing at the clouds, the sky, and the snowy temple. Then Mr. Willet passed on, with the maiden, threading the bordered garden walks, and lingering among the trees, until they came to one of the pleasant summer-houses, all the time seeking to awaken some interest in her mind. She had answered all his remarks so briefly and in so absent a manner, that he was beginning to despair, when she said, almost abruptly-

"Did you see the person who was with me on the portico, when you came out just now?"

"Yes."

"Do you know him?"

"He's a stranger to me," said Mr. Willet; "and I do not even remember his name. Mr. Ellis introduced him."

"And you invited him to your house?"

"No, Miss Markland. We invited Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, and they brought him as their friend."

"Ah!" There was something of relief in her tone.

"But what of him?" said Mr. Willet. "Why do you inquire about him so earnestly?"

Fanny made no answer.

"Did he in any way intrude upon you?" Mr. Willet spoke in a quicker voice.

"I have no complaint to make against him," replied Fanny. "And yet I ought to know who he is, and where he is from."

"You shall know all you desire," said her companion. "I will obtain from Mr. Ellis full information in regard to him."

"You will do me a very great favour."

The rustling of a branch at this moment caused both of them to turn in the direction from which the sound came. The form of a man was, for an instant, distinctly seen, close to the summer-house. But it vanished, ere more than the dim outline was perceived.

"Who can that be, hovering about in so stealthy a manner?" Mr. Willet spoke with rising indignation, starting to his feet as he uttered the words.

"Probably the very person about whom we were conversing," said Fanny.

"This is an outrage! Come, Miss Markland, let us return to the house, and I will at once make inquiry of Mr. Ellis about this stranger."

Fanny again took the proffered arm of Mr. Willet, and the two went silently back, and joined the company from which they had a little while before retired. The latter at once made inquiry of Mr. Ellis respecting the stranger who had been introduced to him. The answers were far from being satisfactory.

"He is a young man whose acquaintance I made about a year ago. He was then a frequent visitor in my family, and we found him an intelligent, agreeable companion. For several months he has been spending his time at the South. A few weeks ago, he returned and renewed his friendly relations. On learning that we were to be among your guests on this occasion, he expressed so earnest a desire to be present, that we took the liberty sometimes assumed among friends, and brought him along. If we have, in the least, trespassed on our privileges as your guests, we do most deeply regret the circumstance."

And this was all Mr. Willet could learn, at the time, in reference to the stranger, who, on being sought for, was nowhere to be found. He had heard enough of the conversation that passed between Mr. Willet and Fanny, as he listened to them while they sat in the summer-house, to satisfy him that if he remained longer at "Sweetbrier," he would become an object of the host's too careful observation.

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