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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Good Time Coming - Chapter XXXIX
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The Good Time Coming - Chapter XXXIX Post by :kurtg3 Category :Long Stories Author :T. S. Arthur Date :April 2011 Read :3294

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The Good Time Coming - Chapter XXXIX

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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