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   Chapter 41 No.41

The Good Time Coming By T. S. Arthur Characters: 13173

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


THE first letter received by Mr. Lyon, gave only a vague account of affairs.

"I arrived yesterday," wrote Leach, "and entered upon my work immediately. The acquaintance with Mr. Ellis has been renewed. Last evening I spent with the family, and learned that the Marklands were living in a pleasant little cottage within sight of Woodbine Lodge; but could glean few particulars in regard to them. Fanny has entirely secluded herself. No one seemed to know any thing of her state of mind, though something about a disappointment in love was distantly intimated."

The next letter produced considerable excitement in the mind of Mr. Lyon. His friend wrote:

"There is a person named Willet living in the neighbourhood, who is very intimate in Markland's family. It is said by some that he more than fancies the daughter. As he is rich, and of good reputation and appearance, he may be a dangerous rival."

About a week later, Leach wrote:

"This Willet, of whom I spoke, is the owner of an elegant seat not far from Markland's. He resides with his mother and sisters, who are especial favourites among all the neighbours. Next week they give a large party. In all probability Miss Markland will be there; and I must contrive to be there also. Mr. Ellis and his family have recently made their acquaintance, and have received invitations. Your humble servant will be on the ground, if asking to go under the shadow of their wings will gain the favour. He is not over modest, you know. If Fanny Markland should be there, depend upon it, the golden opportunity will not pass unimproved. She shall hear from you."

Another week of suspense.

"Don't like the aspect of affairs," wrote the friend. "I was at Mr. Willet's, and saw Miss Markland. The whole family were particularly gracious to her. It was her first appearance in any company since her father's failure. She looked pensive, but charming. In truth, my friend, she is a girl worth the winning, and no mistake. I think her lovely. Well, I tried all the evening to get an introduction to her, but failed, being a stranger. Fortunately, at a late hour, I saw her leave one of the elegant parlours alone, and go out upon the portico. This was the opportunity, and I seized it. Boldly addressing her, I mentioned, after a little play of words, your name. Said I had a message from you, and, as guardedly as possible, declared your undying love. But I could not just make her out. She showed great self-possession under the circumstances, and a disposition to throw me off. I don't think her heart beats very warmly toward you. This was the state of affairs when Mr. Willet made his appearance, and I drew myself away. He said a few words to her, when she placed her arm within his, and they walked into the garden alone. I followed at a distance. After admiring a bit of moon-light fancy-work, they strayed into a summer-house, and I got close enough to hear what they were talking about; I found that she was making particular inquiries as to my identity, and that he was unable to give her the information she desired. I did not feel much encouraged by the tone in which she alluded to me. Unfortunately, I rustled a branch in my eagerness to catch every word, and so discovered myself. Beating a hasty retreat, I went back to the house, took my hat, and quietly retired, walking most of the way to the city, a distance of several miles. I have not called upon the family of Mr. Ellis, and am still in doubt whether it will be wise to do so."

This communication almost maddened Lyon. There was evidently a rival in the field, and one who had over him an immense advantage. Impatiently he waited for the next letter. Three days elapsed before it came. Tearing open the envelope, he read-

"I don't think there is much chance for you. This Willet has been a particular friend of the family since their misfortunes. He bought the cottage in which they live, and offered it to them at a moderate rent, when almost every one else turned from them coldly. The two families have ever since maintained a close intimacy; and it is pretty generally thought that a closer relation will, ere long, exist between them. I called upon the Ellis's yesterday. Their reception was far from cordial. I tried to be self-possessed, and as chatty as usual; but it was uphill work, you may depend on it. Once I ventured an illusion to the party at Willets; but it was received with an embarrassed silence. I left early and without the usual invitation to repeat my visits. To-day I met Mr. Ellis in the street, and received from him the cut direct! So, you see, affairs are not progressing very favourably; and the worst is, I am in total ignorance of the real effect of my interview with Miss Markland upon her own mind. She may yet retain the communication I made as her own secret, or have revealed it to her father. His reception of the matter, if aware of what occurred, is a problem unsolved. I can, therefore, only say, keep as cool as possible, and wait as patiently as possible a few days longer, when you shall know the best or the worst."

A mad imprecation fell from the lips of Mr. Lyon, as he threw this letter from him. He was baffled completely. Two more days of wearying suspense went heavily by, and then another letter came to the impatient waiter.

"This place," so Leach wrote, "will soon be too hot to hold me, I'm afraid. If not mistaken in the signs, there's something brewing. Twice, to-day, I've been inquired for at the hotel. To-morrow morning early I shall prudently change my quarters, and drop down to Washington in the early cars. A little change in the external man can be effected there. On the day after, I will return, and, under cover of my disguised exterior, renew operations. But I can't flatter you with any hope of success. It's pretty generally believed that Willet is going to marry Fanny Markland; and the match is too good a one for a poor girl to decline. He is rich, educated, honourable; and, people say, kind and good. And, to speak out my thoughts on the subject, I think she'd be a fool to decline the arrangement, even against your magnificent proposals. Still, I'm heart and hand with you, and ready to venture even upon the old boy's dominions to serve a long-tried friend. There is one significant fact which I heard to-day that makes strong against you. It is said that Mr. Willet is about making a change in his business, and that Markland is to be associated with him in some new arrangements. That looks as if matters were settled between the two families. In my next letter I

hope to communicate something more satisfactory."

On the day after receiving this communication, Lyon, while walking the floor in one of the parlours, saw a man pass in from the street, and go hurriedly along the hall. The form struck him as strangely like that of his friend from whom he was hourly in expectation of another letter. Stepping quickly to the door of the room, he caught a glimpse of the man ascending the staircase. To follow was a natural impulse. Doubt was only of brief continuance.

"David!" he exclaimed, on reaching his own apartment. "In the name of heaven! what does this mean?"

"That you are in danger," was replied, in a tone that made the villain's heart leap.

"What?" The two men retired within the apartment.

"I fear they are on our track," said Leach.

"Who?"

"The law's fierce bloodhounds!"

"No! impossible!" The face of Lyon grew white as ashes, and his limbs shook with a sudden, irrepressible tremor.

"Speak out plainly," he added. "What evidence is there of danger?"

"In my last letter, you will remember, I expressed some fear on this head, and mentioned my purpose to go to Washington and assume a disguise."

"I do, and have felt troubled about it."

"Well, I was off by the early train on the next morning. As good or bad luck would have it, the very man who sat next me in the cars was an individual I had met in the family of Mr. Ellis. He knew me, but played shy for some time. I pretended not to recognise him at first, but turning to him suddenly, after we had been under way for ten minutes or so, I said, as if I had but just become aware of his identity, 'Why, how are you? I did not know that I had an acquaintance by my side.' He returned my warm greeting rather distantly; but there was too much at stake to mind this, and I determined to thaw him out, which I accomplished in due time. I found him a free sort of a man to talk, after he got going, and so I made myself quite familiar, and encouraged him to be outspoken. I knew he had heard something about my adventure at Mr. Willet's, and determined to get from him the stories that were afloat on that subject. All came in good time. But the exaggeration was tremendous. Fanny had concealed nothing from her father, and he nothing from Mr. Willet. I was known as your agent and accomplice, and there was a plan concocting to get possession of my person, and, through me, of yours. 'Take a friend's advice,' said the man to me, as we stepped from the cars at Washington, 'and give-a wide berth in future.' I did take his advice, kept straight on, and am here."

"Confusion!" The pallid face of Lyon had flushed again, and was now dark with congestion.

"When will the next boat leave for Vera Cruz?" inquired Leach.

"Day after to-morrow," was answered.

"We are in peril here every hour."

"But cannot leave earlier. I hope your fears have magnified the danger."

"If there be danger at all, it cannot be magnified. Let them once get you in their hands, and they will demand a fearful retribution."

"I am well aware of that, and do not mean to be left in their power."

"The telegraph has, no doubt, already put the authorities here on the alert. My very arrival may have been noted. It will not do for us to be seen together."

"Ha! I did not think of that!" Lyon was more deeply disturbed. "You had better go from here at once. Where is your baggage?"

"I ordered it to be sent up."

"Let me see after that. At once pass over to the Levee; go on board the first boat that is leaving, whether bound up the river or for Galveston. Only get off from the city, and then make your way to Mexico. You will find me there."

Fear had now seized upon both of the men, and each saw consternation in the other's face.

"I am off at the word," said Leach, as he grasped the hand of his companion.

"Be discreet, self-possessed, and wary." Lyon spoke in a warning voice.

"I will. And you take good heed to the same advice."

The men were yet standing face to face, each grasping the other's hand, when both partly turned their heads to listen. There was a sound of feet at the upper end of the passage, just at the landing, and it came rapidly nearer. A breathless pause marked the deep interest of the listeners. A few moments of suspense, in which Lyon and his companion grew deadly pale, and then the noisy footsteps were silenced at their very door. A smothered sound of voices was followed by a trial of the lock, and then by a decided rapping. But no answer was made to the summons.

Noiselessly, Mr. Lyon drew from a deep side-pocket a loaded revolver; but the hand of his companion was laid quickly upon his arm, and his lips, in dumb show, gave the word-

"Madness!"

Lyon shook him off, and deliberately pointed his weapon toward the door.

"Hallo, there! Are you asleep?"

This loud call came after repeated knocking and rattling. But there was no response, nor the slightest indication of life within the chamber.

"They are here, I am certain." These words were distinctly heard by the anxious inmates.

"Then we must break in the door," was resolutely answered.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, put up that pistol!" hoarsely whispered Leach. "Such resistance will be fatal evidence against us. Better open the door and put a bold face upon it."

"Too late!" was just whispered back, when the door flew open with a crash, and the body of the man who had thrown himself against it with a force greatly beyond the resistance, fell inward upon the floor. At the same instant, Lyon exclaimed, in a quick, savage voice-

"Back, instantly, or you are dead men!"

There was such a will in the words he uttered, that, for a moment, the men, four in number, fell back from the open door, and in that instant Lyon sprung past them, and, ere they could recover themselves, was beyond their reach. His friend made an attempt to follow, but was seized and made prisoner. The time spent in securing him was so much of a diversion in favour of Lyon, who succeeded in getting into the street, ere the alarm extended to the lower part of the house, and passing beyond immediate observation. But escape from the city was impossible. The whole police force was on the alert in half an hour, and in less than an hour he was captured, disguised as a sailor, on board of a vessel ready cleared and making ready to drop down the river. He yielded quietly, and, after being taken before the authorities in the case, was committed for hearing in default of bail. The arrest was on a requisition from the governor of New York.

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