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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Good Time Coming - Chapter VIII
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The Good Time Coming - Chapter VIII Post by :Scott_Foster Category :Long Stories Author :T. S. Arthur Date :April 2011 Read :3577

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The Good Time Coming - Chapter VIII

WHAT an error had been committed! How painfully was this realized by
Mrs. Markland. How often had she looked forward, with a vague
feeling of anxiety, to the time, yet far distant--she had
believed--when the heart-strings of her daughter would tremble in
musical response to the low-breathed voice of love--and now that
time had come. Alas! that it had come so soon--ere thought and
perception had gained matured strength and wise discrimination. The
voice of the charmer was in her ears, and she was leaning to
hearken.

Fanny did not join the family at the tea-table on that evening; and
on the next morning, when she met her mother, her face was paler
than usual, and her eyes drooped under the earnest gaze that sought
to read her very thoughts. It was plain, from her appearance, that
her sleep had been neither sound nor refreshing.

Mrs. Markland deemed it wisest to make no allusion to what had
occurred on the previous evening. Her views in regard to answering
Mr. Lyon's letter had been clearly expressed, and she had no fear
that her daughter would act in opposition to them. Most anxiously
did she await her husband's return. Thus far in life they had, in
all important events, "seen eye to eye," and she had ever reposed
full confidence in his judgment. If that confidence wavered in any
degree now, it had been disturbed through his seeming entire trust
in Mr. Lyon.

Aunt Grace had her share of curiosity, and she was dying, as they
say, to know what was in Fanny's letter. The non-appearance of her
niece at the tea-table had disappointed her considerably; and it was
as much as she could do to keep from going to her room during the
evening. Sundry times she tried to discover whether Mrs. Markland
had seen the letter or, not, but the efforts were unsuccessful; the
mother choosing for the present not to enter into further
conversation with her on the subject.

All eye and all ear was Aunt Grace on the next morning, when Fanny
made her appearance; but only through the eye was any information
gathered, and that of a most unsatisfactory character. The little
said by Fanny or her mother, was as a remote as possible from the
subject that occupied most nearly their thoughts. Aunt Grace tried
in various ways to lead them in the direction she would have them
go; but it was all in vain that she asked questions touching the
return of her brother, and wondered what could have taken him off to
New York in such a hurry; no one made any satisfactory reply. At
last, feeling a little chafed, and, at the same time, a little
malicious, she said--

"That Mr. Lyon's at the bottom of this business."

The sentence told, as she had expected and intended. Fanny glanced
quickly toward her, and a crimson spot burned on her cheek. But no
word passed her lips. "So much gained," thought Aunt Grace; and then
she said aloud--

"I've no faith in the man myself."

This, she believed, would throw Fanny off of her guard; but she was
mistaken. The colour deepened on the young girl's cheeks, but she
made no response.

"If he doesn't get Edward into trouble before he's done with him,
I'm no prophet," added Aunt Grace, with a dash of vinegar in her
tones.

"Why do you say that?" asked Mrs. Markland, who felt constrained to
speak.

"I've no opinion of the man, and never had from the beginning, as
you are very well aware," answered the sister-in-law.

"Our estimate of character should have a sounder basis than mere
opinion, or, to speak more accurately--prejudice," said Mrs.
Markland.

"I don't know what eyes were given us for, if we are not to see with
them," returned Aunt Grace, dogmatically. "But no wonder so many
stumble and fall, when so few use their eyes. There isn't that man
living who does not bear, stamped upon his face, the symbols of his
character. And plainly enough are these to be seen in the
countenance of Mr. Lyon."

"And how do you read them, Aunt Grace?" inquired Fanny, with a
manner so passionless, that even the sharp-sighted aunt was deceived
in regard to the amount of feeling that lay hidden in her heart.

"How do I read them? I'll tell you. I read them as the index to a
whole volume of scheming selfishness. The man is unsound at the
core." Aunt Grace was tempted by the unruffled exterior of her niece
to speak thus strongly. Her words went deeper than she had expected.
Fanny's face crimsoned instantly to the very temples, and an
indignant light flashed in her soft blue eyes.

"Objects often take their colour from the medium through which we
see them," she said quickly, and in a voice considerably disturbed,
looking, as she spoke, steadily and meaningly at her aunt.

"And so you think the hue is in the medium, and not in the object?"
said Aunt Grace, her tone a little modified.

"In the present instance, I certainly do," answered Fanny, with some
ardour.

"Ah, child! child!" returned her aunt, "this may be quite as true in
your case as in mine. Neither of us may see the object in its true
colour. You will, at least, admit this to be possible."

"Oh, yes."

"And suppose you see it in a false colour?"

"Well?" Fanny seemed a little bewildered.

"Well? And what then?" Aunt Grace gazed steadily upon the
countenance of Fanny, until her eyes drooped to the floor. "To whom
is it of most consequence to see aright?"

Sharp-seeing, but not wise Aunt Grace! In the blindness of thy
anxiety for Fanny, thou art increasing her peril. What need for thee
to assume for the maiden, far too young yet to have the deeper
chords of womanhood awakened in her heart to love's music, that the
evil or good in the stranger's character might be any thing to her?

"You talk very strangely, Grace," said Mrs. Markland, with just
enough of rebuke in her voice to make her sister-in-law conscious
that she was going too far. "Perhaps we had better change the
subject," she added, after the pause of a few moments.

"As you like," coldly returned Aunt Grace, who soon after left the
room, feeling by no means well satisfied with herself or anybody
else. Not a word had been said to her touching the contents of
Fanny's letter, and in that fact was indicated a want of confidence
that considerably annoyed her. She had not, certainly, gone just the
right way about inviting confidence; but this defect in her own
conduct was not seen very clearly.

A constrained reserve marked the intercourse of mother, daughter,
and aunt during the day; and when night came, and the evening circle
was formed as usual, how dimly burned the hearth-fire, and how
sombre were the shadows cast by its flickering blaze! Early they
separated, each with a strange pressure on the feelings, and a deep
disquietude of heart.

Most of the succeeding day Fanny kept apart from the family;
spending a greater portion of the time alone in her room. Once or
twice it crossed the mother's thought, that Fanny might be tempted
to answer the letter of Mr. Lyon, notwithstanding her promise not to
do so for the present. But she repelled the thought instantly, as
unjust to her beautiful, loving, obedient child. Still, Fanny's
seclusion of herself weighed on her mind, and led her several times
to go into her room. Nothing, either in her manner or employment,
gave the least confirmation to the vague fear which had haunted her.

The sun was nearly two hours above the horizon, when Fanny left the
house, and bent her steps towards a pleasant grove of trees that
stood some distance away. In the midst of the grove, which was not
far from the entrance-gate to her father's beautiful grounds, was a
summer-house, in Oriental style, close beside an ornamental
fountain. This was the favourite resort of the maiden, and thither
she now retired, feeling certain of complete seclusion, to lose
herself in the bewildering mazes of love's young dream. Before the
eyes of her mind, one form stood visible, and that a form of manly
grace and beauty,--the very embodiment of all human excellence. The
disparaging words of her aunt had, like friction upon a polished
surface, only made brighter to her vision the form which the other
had sought to blacken. What a new existence seemed opening before
her, with new and higher capacities for enjoyment! The half-closed
bud had suddenly unfolded itself in the summer air, and every
blushing petal thrilled with a more exquisite sense of life.

Every aspect of nature--and all her aspects were beautiful
there--had a new charm for the eyes of Fanny Markland. The silvery
waters cast upward by the fountain fell back in rainbow showers,
ruffling the tiny lake beneath, and filling the air with a low,
dreamy murmur. Never had that lovely creation of art, blending with
nature, looked so like an ideal thing as now--a very growth of
fairy-land. The play of the waters in the air was as the glad
motions of a living form.

Around this fountain was a rosary of white and red roses, encircled
again by arbor-vitae; and there were statues of choice workmanship,
the ideals of modern art, lifting their pure white forms here and
there in chastened loveliness. All this was shut in from observation
by a stately grove of elms. And here it was that the maiden had come
to hide herself from observation, and dream her waking dream of
love. What a world of enchantment was dimly opening before her, as
her eye ran down the Eden-vistas of the future! Along those aisles
of life she saw herself moving, beside a stately one, who leaned
toward her, while she clung to him as a vine to its firm support.
Even while in the mazes of this delicious dream, a heavy footfall
startled her, and she sprang to her feet with a suddenly-stilled
pulsation. In the next instant a manly form filled the door of the
summer-house, and a manly voice exclaimed:

"Miss Markland! Fanny! do I find you here?"

The colour left the maiden's cheeks for an instant. Then they
flushed to deep crimson. But her lips were sealed. Surprise took
away, for a time, the power of speech.

"I turned aside," said the intruder, "as I came up the avenue, to
have a look at this charming spot, so well remembered; but dreamed
not of finding you here."

He had already approached Fanny, and was holding one of her hands
tightly in his, while he gazed upon her face with a look of glowing
admiration.

"Oh, Mr. Lyon! How you have startled me!" said Fanny, as soon as she
could command her voice.

"And how you tremble! There, sit down again, Miss Markland, and calm
yourself. Had I known you were here, I should not have approached so
abruptly. But how have you been since my brief absence? And how is
your good father and mother?"

"Father is in New York," replied Fanny.

"In New York! I feared as much." And a slight shade crossed the face
of Mr. Lyon, who spoke as if off of his guard. "When did he go?"

"Yesterday."

"Ah! Did he receive a letter from me?"

"Yes, sir." Fanny's eyes drooped under the earnest gaze that was
fixed upon her.

"I hoped to have reached here as soon as my letter. This is a little
unfortunate." The aspect of Mr. Lyon became grave.

"When will your father return?" he inquired.

"I do not know."

Again Mr. Lyon looked serious and thoughtful. For some moments he
remained abstracted; and Fanny experienced a slight feeling of
timidity, as she looked upon his shadowed face. Arousing himself, he
said:

"This being the case, I shall at once return South."

"Not until to-morrow," said Fanny.

"This very night," answered Mr. Lyon.

"Then let us go to the Lodge at once," and Fanny made a motion to
rise. "My mother will be gratified to see you, if it is only for a
few moments."

But Mr. Lyon placed a hand upon her arm, and said:

"Stay, Miss Markland--that cannot now be. I must return South
without meeting any other member of your family. Did you receive my
letter?" he added, abruptly, and with a change of tone and manner.

Fanny answered affirmatively; and his quick eye read her heart in
voice and countenance.

"When I wrote, I had no thought of meeting you again so soon. But a
few hours after despatching the letter to your father, enclosing
yours--a letter on business of importance, to me, at least--I
received information that led me to wish an entire change in the
programme of operations about to be adopted, through your father's
agency. Fearing that a second letter might be delayed in the mails,
I deemed it wisest to come on with the greatest speed myself. But I
find that I am a day too late. Your father has acted promptly; and
what he has done must not be undone. Nay, I do not wish him even to
know that any change has been contemplated. Now, Miss Markland," and
his voice softened as he bent toward the girlish form at his side,
"may one so recently a stranger claim your confidence?"

"From my father and my mother I have no concealments," said Fanny.

"And heaven forbid that I should seek to mar that truly wise
confidence," quickly answered Mr. Lyon. "All I ask is, that, for the
present, you mention to no one the fact that I have been here. Our
meeting in this place is purely accidental--providential, I will
rather say. My purpose in coming was, as already explained, to meet
your father. He is away, and on business that at once sets aside all
necessity for seeing him. It will now be much better that he should
not even know of my return from the South--better for me, I mean;
for the interests that might suffer are mine alone. But let me
explain a little, that you may act understandingly. When I went
South, your father very kindly consented to transact certain
business left unfinished by me in New York. Letters received on my
arrival at Savannah, advised me of the state of the business, and I
wrote to your father, in what way to arrange it for me; by the next
mail other letters came, showing me different aspect of affairs and
rendering a change of plan very desirable. It was to explain this
fully to your father, that I came on. But as it is too late, I do
not wish him even to know, for the present, that a change was
contemplated. I fear it might lessen, for a time, his confidence in
my judgment--something I do not fear when he knows me better. Your
since, for the present, my dear Miss Markland, will nothing affect
your father, who has little or no personal interest in the matter,
but may serve me materially. Say, then, that, until you hear from me
again, on the subject, you will keep your own counsel."

"You say that my father has no interest in the business, to which
you refer?" remarked Fanny. Her mind was bewildered.

"None whatever. He is only, out of a generous good-will, trying to
serve the son of an old business friend," replied Mr. Lyon,
confidently. "Say, then, Fanny,"--his voice was insinuating, and
there was something of the serpent's fascination in his eyes--"that
you will, for my sake, remain, for the present, silent on the
subject of this return from the South."

As he spoke, he raised one of her hands to his lips, and kissed it.
Still more bewildered--nay, charmed--Fanny did not make even a faint
struggle to withdraw her hand. In the next moment, his hot lips had
touched her pure forehead--and in the next moment, "Farewell!" rung
hurriedly in her ears. As the retiring form of the young adventurer
stood in the door of the summer-house, there came to her, with a
distinct utterance, these confidently spoken words--"I trust you
without fear."--And "God bless you!" flung toward her with a
heart-impulse, found a deeper place in her soul, from whence, long
afterwards, came back their thrilling echoes. By the time the maiden
had gathered up her scattered thoughts, she was alone.

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ONLY a few minutes had Mrs. Markland been in her room, when the dooropened quietly, and Fanny's light foot-fall was in her ears. She didnot look up; but her heart beat with a quicker motion, and herbreath was half-suspended."Mother!"She lifted her bowed head, and met the soft, clear eyes of herdaughter looking calmly down into her own."Fanny, dear!" she said, in half-surprise, as she placed an armaround her, and drew her closely to her side.An open letter was in Fanny's hand, and she held it toward hermother. There was a warmer hue upon her face, as she said,--"It is from Mr.
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