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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Good Time Coming - Chapter III
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The Good Time Coming - Chapter III Post by :cclittle Category :Long Stories Author :T. S. Arthur Date :April 2011 Read :2387

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The Good Time Coming - Chapter III

"WALKING here yet, Edward?" said Mrs. Markland, as she joined her
husband in the spacious portico, after her return from the sick
woman's cottage; and drawing her arm within his, she moved along by
his side. He did not respond to her remark, and she continued:--

"Italy never saw a sunset sky more brilliant. Painter never threw on
canvas colours so full of a living beauty. Deep purple and lucent
azure,--crimson and burnished gold! And that far-off island-cloud--

'A Delos in the airy ocean--'

seems it not a floating elysium for happy souls?"

"All lovely as Nature herself," answered Mr. Markland, abstractedly,
as his eyes sought the western horizon, and for the first time since
the sun went down, he noticed the golden glories of the occident.

"Ah! Edward! Edward!" said Mrs. Markland, chidingly, "You are not
only in the world, but of the world."

"Of the earth, earthy, did you mean to say, my gentle monitor?"
returned the husband, leaning towards his wife.

"Oh, no, no! I did not mean grovelling or sordid; and you know I did
not." She spoke quickly and with mock resentment.

"Am I very worldly-minded?"

"I did not use the term."

"You said I was not only in the world, but of it."

"Well, and so you are; at least in a degree. It is the habit of the
world to close its eyes to the real it possesses, and aspire after
an ideal good."

"And do you find that defect in me, Agnes?"

"Where was thought just now, that your eyes were not able to bring
intelligence to your mind of this glorious sunset?"

"Thought would soon become a jaded beast of burden, Agnes, if always
full laden with the present, and the actually existent. Happily,
like Pegasus, it has broad and strong pinions--can rise free from
the prisoner's cell and the rich man's dainty palace. Free! free!
How the heart swells, elated and with a sense of power, at this
noble word--Freedom! It has a trumpet-tone."

"Softly, softly, my good husband," said Mrs. Markland. "This is all
enthusiasm."

"And but for enthusiasm, where would the world be now, my sweet
philosopher?"

"I am no philosopher, and have but little enthusiasm. So we are not
on equal ground for an argument. I I don't know where the world
would be under the circumstances you allege, and so won't pretend to
say. But I'll tell you what I do know."

"I am all attention."

"That if people would gather up each day the blessings that are
scattered like unseen pearls about their feet, the world would be
rich in contentment."

"I don't know about that, Agnes; I've been studying for the last
half hour over this very proposition."

"Indeed! and what is the conclusion at which you have arrived?"

"Why, that discontent with the present, is a law of our being,
impressed by the Creator, that we may ever aspire after the more
perfect."

"I am far from believing, Edward," said his wife, "that a
discontented present is any preparation for a happy future. Rather,
in the wooing of sweet Content to-day, are we making a home for her
in our hearts, where she may dwell for all time to come--yea,
forever and forever."

"Beautifully said, Agnes; but is that man living whose heart asks
not something more than it possesses--who does not look to a coming
time with vague anticipations of a higher good than he has yet
received?"

"It may be all so, Edward--doubtless is so--but what then? Is the
higher good we pine for of this world? Nay, my husband. We should
not call a spirit of discontent with our mere natural surroundings a
law of the Creator, established as a spur to advancement; for this
disquietude is but the effect of a deeper cause. It is not change of
place, but change of state that we need. Not a going from one point
in space to another, but a progression of the spirit in the way of
life eternal."

"You said just now, Agnes, that you were no philosopher." Mr.
Markland's voice had lost much of its firmness. "But what would I
not give to possess some of your philosophy. Doubtless your words
are true; for there must be a growth and progression of the spirit
as well as of the body; for all physical laws have their origin in
the world of mind, and bear thereto exact relations. Yet, for all
this, when there is a deep dissatisfaction with what exists around
us, should we not seek for change? Will not a removal from one
locality to another, and an entire change of pursuits, give the mind
a new basis in natural things, and thus furnish ground upon which it
may stand and move forward?"

"Perhaps, if the ground given us to stand upon were rightly tilled,
it would yield a richer harvest than any we shall ever find, though
we roam the world over; and it may be, that the narrow path to
heaven lies just across our own fields. It is in the actual and the
present that we are to seek a true development of our spiritual
life. 'Work while it is to-day,' is the Divine injunction."

"But if we can find no work, Agnes?"

"If the heart be willing and the hands ready," was the earnestly
spoken answer, "work enough will be found to do."

"I have a willing heart, Agnes,--I have ready hands--but the heart
is wearied of its own fruitless desires, and the hands hang down in
idleness. What shall I do? The work in which I have found so much
delight for years, is completed; and now the restless mind springs
away from this lovely Eden, and pines for new fields in which to
display its powers. Here I fondly hoped to spend the remainder of my
life--contented--happy. The idea was a dreamy illusion. Daily is
this seen in clear light. I reprove myself; I chide the folly, as I
call it; but, all in vain. Beauty for me, has faded from the
landscape, and the air is no longer balmy with odours. The birds
sing for my ears no more; I hear not, as of old, the wind spirits
whispering to each other in the tree tops. Dear Agnes!--wife of my
heart--what does it mean?"

An answer was on the lip of Mrs. Markland, but words so unlooked
for, swelled, suddenly, the wave of emotion in her heart, and she
could not speak. A few moments her hand trembled on the arm of her
husband. Then it was softly removed, and without a word, she passed
into the house, and going to her own room, shut the door, and sat
down in the darkness to commune with her spirit. And first, there
came a gush of tears. These were for herself. A shadow had suddenly
fallen upon the lovely home where she had hoped to spend all the
days of her life--a shadow from a storm-boding cloud. Even from the
beginning of their wedded life, she had marked in her husband a
defect of character, which, gaining strength, had led to his giving
up business, and their retirement to the country. That defect was
the common one, appertaining to all, a looking away from the present
into the future for the means of enjoyment. In all the years of his
earnest devotion to business, Mr. Markland had kept his eye steadily
fixed upon the object now so completely attained; and much of
present enjoyment had been lost in the eager looking forward for
this coveted time. And now, that more than all his fondest
anticipations were realized, only for a brief period did he hold to
his lips the cup full of anticipated delight. Already his hand felt
the impulse that moved him to pour its crystal waters upon the
ground.

Mrs. Markland's clear appreciation of her husband's character was
but a prophecy of the future. She saw that Woodbine Lodge--now grown
into her affections, and where she hoped to live and die--even if it
did not pass from their possession--bartered for some glittering
toy--could not remain their permanent home. For this flowed her
first tears; and these, as we have said, were for herself. But her
mind soon regained its serenity; and from herself, her thoughts
turned to her husband. She was unselfish enough not only to be able
to realize something of his state of mind, but to sympathize with
him, and pity his inability to find contentment in the actual. This
state of mind she regarded as a disease, and love prompted all
self-denial for his sake.

"I can be happy any, where, if only my husband and children are
left. My husband, so generous, so noble-minded--my children, so
innocent, so loving."

Instantly the fountain of tears were closed. These unselfish words,
spoken in her own heart, checked the briny current. Not for an
instant did Mrs. Markland seek to deceive herself or hearken to the
suggestion that it was but a passing state in the partner of her
life. She knew too well the origin of his disquietude to hope for
its removal. In a little while, she descended and joined her family
in the sitting-room, where the soft astral diffused its pleasant
light, and greeted her sober-minded husband with loving smiles and
cheerful words. And he was deceived. Not for an instant imagined he,
after looking upon her face, that she had passed through a painful,
though brief conflict, and was now possessed of a brave heart for
any change that might come. But he had not thought of leaving
Woodbine Lodge. Far distant was this from his imagination. True--but
Agnes looked with a quick intuition from cause to effect. The
elements of happiness no longer existed here for her husband; or, if
they did exist, he had not the skill to find them, and the end would
be a searching elsewhere for the desired possession.

"You did not answer my question, Agnes," said Mr. Markland, after
the children had retired for the evening, and they were again alone.

"What question?" inquired Mrs. Markland; and, as she lifted her
eyes, he saw that they were dim with tears.

"What troubles you, dear?" he asked, tenderly.

Mrs. Markland forced a smile, as she replied, "Why should I be
troubled? Have I not every good gift the heart can desire?"

"And yet, Agnes, your eyes are full of tears."

"Are they?" A light shone through their watery vail. "Only an April
shadow, Edward, that is quickly lost in April sunshine. But your
question is not so easily answered."

"I ought to be perfectly happy here; nothing seems wanting. Yet my
spirit is like a aged bird that flutters against its prison-bars."

"Oh, no, Edward; not so bad as that," replied Mrs. Markland. "You
speak in hyperbole. This lovely place, which everywhere shows the
impress of your hand, is not a prison. Call it rather, a paradise."

"A paradise I sought to make it. But I am content no longer to be an
idle lingerer among its pleasant groves; for I have ceased to feel
the inspiration of its loveliness."

Mrs. Markland made no answer. After a silence of some minutes, her
husband said, with a slight hesitation in his voice, as if uncertain
as to the effect of his words--

"I have for some time felt a strong desire to visit Europe."

The colour receded from Mrs. Markland's face; and there was a look
in her eyes that her husband did not quite understand, as they
rested steadily in his.

"I have the means and the leisure," he added, "and the tour would
not only be one of pleasure, but profit."

"True," said his wife, and, then her, face was bent down so low that
he could not see, its expression for the shadows by which it was
partially concealed.

"We would both enjoy the trip exceedingly."

"Both! You did not think of taking me?"

"Why, Aggy, dear!--as if I could dream for a moment of any pleasure
in which you had not a share!"

So earnestly and tenderly was this said, that Mrs. Markland felt a
thrill of joy tremble over her heart-strings. And yet, for all, she
could not keep back the overflowing tears, but hid her face, to
conceal them, on her husband's bosom.

Her true feelings Mr. Markland did not read: and often, as he mused
on what appeared singular in her manner that evening, he was puzzled
to comprehend its meaning. Nor had his vision ever penetrated deep
enough to see all that was in her heart.

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