Part 5 out of 6
"If you desire it, gentlemen," replied the young man; "though it is
hardly probable that I will find him there at this hour. If you wait
a little while longer, he will no doubt be in."
The door opened, and two more of the parties interested in this
bursting bubble arrived.
"Where is Fenwick?" was eagerly asked.
"Not to be found," answered one, abruptly, and with a broader
meaning in his tones than any words had yet expressed.
"He hasn't disappeared, also!"
Fearful eyes looked into blank faces at this exclamation.
"Gentlemen," said the clerk, with considerable firmness of manner,
"language like this must not be used here. It impeaches the
character of a man whose life has thus far been above reproach.
Whatever is said here, remember, is said in his ears, and he will
soon be among you to make his own response."
The manner in which this was uttered repressed, for a time, further
remarks reflecting on the integrity of the agent. But, after the
lapse of nearly an hour, his continued absence was again referred
to, and in more decided language than before.
"Will you do us one favour?" said Mr. Markland, on whose mind
suspense was sitting like a nightmare. He spoke to the clerk, who,
by this time, was himself growing restless.
"Any thing you desire, if it is in my power," was answered.
"Will you go down to the post-office, and inquire if Mr. Fenwick has
received his letters this morning?"
"Certainly, I will." And the clerk went on the errand without a
"Mr. Fenwick received his letters over two hours ago," said the
young man, on his return. He looked disappointed and perplexed.
"And you know nothing of him?" was said.
"Nothing, gentlemen, I do assure you. His absence is to me
"Where's Fenwick?" was now asked, in an imperative voice, by a new
"Not been seen this morning," replied Markland.
"Another act in this tragedy! Gone, I suppose, to join his
accomplice on the Pacific coast, and share his plunder," said the
"You are using very strong language, sir!" suggested one.
"Not stronger than the case justifies. For my own assurance, I sent
out a secret agent, and I have my first letter from him this
morning. He arrived just in time to see our splendid schemes
dissolve in smoke. Lyon is a swindler, Fenwick an accomplice, and we
a parcel of easy fools. The published intelligence we have to-day is
no darker than the truth. The bubble burst by the unexpected seizure
of our lands, implements, and improvements, by the--Government. It
contained nothing but air! Fenwick and Lyon had just played one of
their reserved cards--it had something to do with the flooding of a
shaft, which would delay results, and require more capital--when the
impatient grantors of the land foreclosed every thing. From the hour
this catastrophe became certain, Lyon was no more seen. He was fully
prepared for the emergency."
In confirmation of this, letters giving the minutest particulars
were shown, thus corroborating the worst, and extinguishing the
feeblest rays of hope.
All was too true. The brilliant bubble had indeed burst, and not the
shadow of a substance remained. When satisfied of this beyond all
doubt, Markland, on whose mind suffering had produced a temporary
stupor, sought his room at the hotel, and remained there for several
days, so hopeless, weak, and undecided, that he seemed almost on the
verge of mental imbecility. How could he return home and communicate
the dreadful intelligence to his family? How could he say to them,
that, for his transgressions, they must go forth from their
"No--no!" he exclaimed, wringing his hands in anguish. "I can never
tell them this! I can never look into their faces! Never! never!"
The moment had come, and the tempter was at his ear. There was,
first, the remote suggestion of self-banishment in some distant
land, where the rebuking presence of his injured family could never
haunt him. But he felt that a life in this world, apart from them,
would be worse than death.
"I am mocked! I am cursed!" he exclaimed, bitterly.
The tempter was stealthily doing his work.
"Oh! what a vain struggle is this life! What a fitful fever! Would
that it were over, and I at rest!"
The tempter was leading his thoughts at will.
"How can I meet my wronged family? How can I look my friends in the
face? I shall be to the world only a thing of pity or reproach. Can
I bear this? No--no--I cannot--I cannot!"
Magnified by the tempter, the consequence looked appalling. He felt
that he had not strength to meet it--that all of manhood would be
crushed out of him.
"What then?" He spoke the words almost aloud, and held his breath,
as if for answer.
"A moment, and all will be over!"
It was the voice of the tempter.
Markland buried his face in his hands, and sat for a long time as
motionless as if sleep had obscured his senses; and all that time a
fearful debate was going on in his mind. At last he rose up, changed
in feeling as well as in aspect. His resolution was taken, and a
deep, almost leaden, calmness pervaded his spirit. He had resolved
With a strange coolness, the self-doomed man now proceeded to select
the agent of death. He procured a work on poisons, and studied the
effects of different substances, choosing, finally, that which did
the fatal work most quickly and with the slightest pain. This
substance was then procured. But he could not turn forever from
those nearest and dearest, without a parting word.
The day had run almost to a close in these fearful struggles and
fatal preparations; and the twilight was falling, when, exhausted
and in tears, the wretched man folded, with trembling hands, a
letter he had penned to his wife. This done, he threw himself, weak
as a child, upon the bed, and, ere conscious that sleep was stealing
upon him, fell off into slumber.
Sleep! It is the great restorer. For a brief season the order of
life is changed, and the involuntary powers of the mind bear rule in
place of the voluntary. The actual, with all its pains and
pleasures, is for the time annihilated. The pressure of thought and
the fever of emotion are both removed, and the over-taxed spirit is
at rest. Into his most loving guardianship the great Creator of man,
who gave him reason and volition, and the freedom to guide himself,
takes his creature, and, while the image of death is upon him,
gathers about him the Everlasting Arms. He suspends, for a time, the
diseased voluntary life, that he may, through the involuntary,
restore a degree of health, and put the creature he has formed for
happiness in a new condition of mental and moral freedom.
Blessed sleep! Who has not felt and acknowledged thy sweet
influences? Who has not wondered at thy power in the tranquil
waking, after a night that closed around the spirit in what seemed
the darkness of coming despair?
Markland slept; and in his sleep, guided by angels, there came to
him the spirits of his wife and children, clothed in the beauty of
innocence. How lovingly they gathered around him! how sweet were
their words in his ears! how exquisite the thrill awakened by each
tender kiss! Now he was with them in their luxurious home; and now
they were wandering, in charmed intercourse, amid its beautiful
surroundings. Change after change went on; new scenes and new
characters appeared, and yet the life seemed orderly and natural.
Suddenly there came a warning of danger. The sky grew fearfully
dark; fierce lightning burned through the air, and the giant tempest
swept down upon the earth with resistless fury. Next a flood was
upon them. And now he was seized with the instinct of
self-preservation, and in a moment had deserted his helpless family,
and was fleeing, alone to a place of safety. From thence he saw wife
and children borne off by the rush of waters, their white, imploring
faces turned to him, and their hands stretched out for succour. Then
all his love returned; self was forgotten; he would have died to
save them. But it was too late! Even while he looked, they were
engulfed and lost.
From such a dream Markland was awakened into conscious life. The
shadowy twilight had been succeeded by darkness. He started up,
confused and affrighted. Some moments passed before his bewildered
thoughts were able to comprehend his real position; and when he did
so, he fell back, with a groan, horror-stricken, upon the bed. The
white faces and imploring hands of his wife and children were still
vividly before him.
"Poor, weak, coward heart!" he at last murmured to himself. "An evil
spirit was thy counsellor. I knew not that so mean and base a
purpose could find admittance there. What! Beggar and disgrace my
wife and children, and then, like a, skulking coward, leave them to
bear the evil I had not the courage to face! Edward Markland! Can
this, indeed, be true of thee?"
And the excited man sprang from the bed. A feeble light came in
through the window-panes above the door, and made things dimly
visible. He moved about, for a time, with an uncertain air, and then
rung for a light. The first object that met his eyes, when the
servant brought in a lamp, was a small, unopened package, lying on
the table. He knew its contents. What a strong shudder ran through
his frame! Seizing it the instant the attendant left the room, he
flung it through the open window. Then, sinking on his knees, he
thanked God fervently for a timely deliverance.
The fierce struggle with pride was now over. Weak, humbled, and
softened in feeling almost to tears, Markland sat alone, through the
remainder of that evening, with his thoughts reaching forward into
the future, and seeking to discover the paths in which his feet must
walk. For himself he cared not now. Ah! if the cherished ones could
be saved from the consequences of his folly! If he alone were
destined to move in rough and thorny ways! But there was for them no
escape. The paths in which he moved they must move. The cup he had
made bitter for himself would be bitter for them also.
Wretched man! Into what a great deep of misery had he plunged
IT was near the close of the fifth day since Mr. Markland left his
home to commence a long journey southward; and yet, no word had come
back from him. He had promised to write from Baltimore, and from
other points on his route, and sufficient time had elapsed for at
least two letters to arrive. A servant, who had been sent to the
city post-office, had returned without bringing any word from the
absent one; and Mrs. Markland, with Fanny by her side, was sitting
near a window sad and silent.
Just one year has passed since their introduction to the reader. But
what a change one year has wrought! The heart's bright sunshine
rested then on every object. Woodbine Lodge was then a paradise.
Now, there is scarcely a ray of this warm sunshine. Yet there had
been no bereavement--no affliction; nothing that we refer to a
mysterious Providence. No,--but the tempter was admitted. He came
with specious words and deceiving pretences. He vailed the present
good, and magnified the worth of things possessing no power to
satisfy the heart. Too surely has he suceeded in the accomplishment
of his evil work.
At the time of the reader's introduction to Woodbine Lodge, a bright
day was going down in beauty; and there was not a pulse in nature
that did not beat in unison with the hearts of its happy denizens. A
summer day was again drawing to its close, but sobbing itself away
in tears. And they were in tears also, whose spirits, but a single
year gone by, reflected only the light and beauty of nature.
By the window sat the mother and daughter, with oppressed hearts,
looking out upon the leaden sky and the misty gusts that swept
across the gloomy landscape. Sad and silent, we have said, they
were. Now and then they gazed into each other's faces, and the lips
quivered as if words were on them. But each spirit held back the
fear by which it was burdened--and the eyes turned wearily again
from the open window.
At last, Fanny's heavy heart could bear in silence the pressure no
longer. Hiding her face in her mother's lap, she sobbed out
violently. Repressing her own struggling emotions, Mrs. Markland
spoke soothing, hopeful words; and even while she sought to
strengthen her daughter's heart, her own took courage.
"My dear child," she said, in a voice made even by depressing its
tone, "do you not remember that beautiful thought expressed by Mrs.
Willet yesterday? 'Death,' said she, 'signifies life; for in every
death there is resurrection into a higher and purer life. This is as
true,' she remarked, 'of our affections, which are but activities of
the life, as of the natural life itself.'"
The sobs of the unhappy girl died away. Her mother continued, in a
low, earnest voice, speaking to her own heart as well as to that of
her child, for it, too, needed strength and comfort.
"How often have we been told, in our Sabbath instructions, that
natural affections cannot be taken to heaven; that they must die, in
order that spiritual affections may be born."
Fanny raised herself up, and said, with slight warmth of manner--
"Is not my love for you a natural affection for my natural mother?
And must that die before I can enter heaven?"
"May it not be changed into a love of what is good in your mother,
instead of remaining only a love of her person?"
"Dear mother!" almost sobbed again the unhappy child,--clasping
eagerly the neck of her parent,--"it is such a love now! Oh! if I
were as good, and patient, and self-denying as you are!"
"All our natural affections," resumed Mrs. Markland, after a few
moments were given to self-control, "have simple regard to
ourselves; and their indulgence never brings the promised happiness.
This is why a wise and good Creator permits our natural desires to
be so often thwarted. In this there is mercy, and not unkindness;
for the fruition of these desires would often be most exquisite
"Hark!" exclaimed Fanny, starting up at this moment, and leaning
close to the window. The sound that had fallen upon her ear had also
reached the ears of the mother.
"Oh! it's father!" fell almost wildly from the daughter's lips, and
she sprang out into the hall, and forth to meet him in the drenching
rain. Mrs. Markland could not rise, but sat, nerveless, until the
husband entered the room.
"Oh, Edward! Edward!" she then exclaimed, rising, and staggering
forward to meet him. "Thank our kind Father in heaven that you are
with us again!" And her head sunk upon his bosom, and she felt his
embracing arms drawn tightly around her. How exquisitely happy she
was for the moment! But she was aroused by the exclamation of
"Oh, father! How pale you look!"
Mrs. Markland raised herself quickly, and gazed into her husband's
face. What a fearful change was there! He was pale and haggard; and
in his bloodshot eyes she read a volume of wretchedness.
"Oh, Edward! what has happened?" she asked, eagerly and tenderly.
"More than I dare tell you!" he replied, in a voice full of despair.
"Perhaps I can divine the worst."
Markland had turned his face partly away, that he might conceal its
expression. But the unexpected tone in which this sentence was
uttered caused him to look back quickly. There was no foreboding
fear in the countenance of his wife. She had spoken firmly--almost
"The worst? Dear Agnes!" he said, with deep anguish in his voice.
"It has not entered into your imagination to conceive the worst!"
"All is lost!" she answered, calmly.
"All," he replied, "but honour, and a heart yet brave enough and
strong enough to battle with the world for the sake of its beloved
Mrs. Markland hid her face on the breast of her husband, and stood,
for some minutes, silent. Fanny approached her father, and laid her
head against him.
"All this does not appal me," said Mrs. Markland, and she looked up
and smiled faintly through tears that could not be repressed.
"Oh, Agnes! Agnes! can you bear the thought of being driven out from
"Its beauty has already faded," was the quiet answer. "If it is ours
no longer, we must seek another home. And home, you know, dear
Edward, is where the heart is, and the loved ones dwell."
But not so calmly could Fanny bear this announcement. She had tried
hard, for her father's sake, to repress her feelings; but now they
gave way into hysterical weeping. Far beyond his words her thoughts
leaped, and already bitter self-reproaches had begun. Had she at
once informed him of Mr. Lyon's return, singular interview, and
injunction of secrecy, all these appalling consequences might have
been saved. In an instant this flashed upon her mind, and the
conviction overwhelmed her.
"My poor child," said Mr. Markland, sadly, yet with great
tenderness,--"would to heaven I could save you from the evil that
lies before us! But I am powerless in the hands of a stern
"Oh, father!" sobbed the weeping girl, "if I could bear this change
alone, I would be happy."
"Let us all bear it cheerfully together," said Mrs. Markland, in a
quiet voice, and with restored calmness of spirit. "Heaven, as Mrs.
Willet says, with so much truth, is not without, but within us. The
elements of happiness lie not in external, but in internal things. I
do not think, Edward, even with all we had of good in possession,
you have been happy for the past year. The unsatisfied spirit turned
itself away from all that was beautiful in nature--from all it had
sought for as the means of contentment, and sighed for new
possessions. And these would also have lost their charms, had you
gained them, and your restless heart still sighed after an ideal
good. It may be--nay, it must be--in mercy, that our heavenly Father
permitted this natural evil to fall upon us. The night that
approaches will prove, I doubt not, the winter night in which much
bread will grow."
"Comforter!" He spoke the word with emotion.
"And should I not be?" was the almost cheerful answer. "Those who
cannot help should at least speak words of comfort."
"Words! They are more than words that you have spoken. They have in
them a substance and a life. But, Fanny, dear child!" he said,
turning to his still grieving daughter--"your tears distress me.
They pain more deeply than rebuking sentences. My folly"--
"Father! exclaimed Fanny--"it is I--not you--that must bear
reproach. A word might have saved all. Weak, erring child that I
was!, Oh! that fatal secret which almost crushed my heart with its
burden! Why did I not listen to the voice of conscience and duty?"
"Let the dead past rest," said Mr. Markland. "Your error was light,
in comparison with mine. Had I guarded the approaches to the
pleasant land, where innocence and peace had their dwelling-place,
the subtle tempter could never have entered. To mourn over the past
but weakens the spirit."
But of all that passed between these principal members of a family
upon whom misfortune had come like a flood, we cannot make a record.
The father's return soon became known to the rest, and the
children's gladness fell, like a sunny vail, over the sterner
features of the scene.
THE disaster was complete. Not a single dollar of all Markland had
cast so blindly into the whirling vortex ever came back to him.
Fenwick disappeared from New York, leaving behind conclusive
evidence of a dark complicity with the specious Englishman, whose
integrity had melted away, like snow in the sunshine, beneath the
fire of a strong temptation. Honourably connected at home, shrewd,
intelligent, and enterprising, he had been chosen as the executive
agent of a company prepared to make large investments in a scheme
that promised large results. He was deputed to bring the business
before a few capitalists on this side of the Atlantic, and with what
success has been seen. His recreancy to the trust reposed in him was
the ruin of many.
How shall we describe the scenes that followed, too quickly, the
announcement by Mr. Markland that Woodbine Lodge was no longer to
remain in his possession? No member of the family could meet the
stern necessity without pain. The calmest of all the troubled
household was Mrs. Markland. Fanny, whom the event had awakened from
a partial stupor, gradually declined into her former state. She
moved about more like an automaton than a living figure; entering
into all the duties and activities appertaining to the approaching
change, yet seeming entirely indifferent to all external things. She
was living and suffering in the inner world, more than in the outer.
With the crushing out of a wild, absorbing love, had died all
interest in life. She was in the external world, but, so far as any
interest in passing events was concerned, not of it. Sad, young
heart. A most cruel experience was thine!
When the disastrous intelligence was made known to Aunt Grace, that
rather peculiar and excitable personage did not fail to say that it
was nothing more than she had expected; that she had seen the storm
coming, long and long ago, and had long and long ago lifted, without
avail, a voice of warning. As for Mr. Lyon, he received a double
share of execration--ending with the oft-repeated remark, that she
had felt his shadow when he first came among them, and that she knew
he must be a bad man. The ebullition subsided, in due time, and then
the really good-hearted spinster gave her whole thought and active
energy to the new work that was before them.
After the fierce conflict endured by Mr. Markland, ending wellnigh
fatally, a calmness of spirit succeeded. With him, the worst was
over; and now, he bowed himself, almost humbly, amid the ruins of
his shattered fortunes, and, with a heavy heart, began to
reconstruct a home, into which his beloved ones might find shelter.
Any time within the preceding five or six years, an intimation on
his part that he wished to enter business again would have opened
the most advantageous connections. It was different now. There had
been a season of overtrading. Large balances in England and France
were draining the Atlantic cities of specie, and short crops made it
impossible for western and southern merchants to meet their heavy
payments at the east. Money ruled high, in consequence; weak houses
were giving way, and a general uneasiness was beginning to prevail.
But, even if these causes had not operated against the prospects of
Mr. Markland, his changed circumstances would have been a sufficient
bar to an advantageous business connection. He was no longer a
capitalist; and the fact that he had recklessly invested his money
in what was now pronounced one of the wildest schemes, was looked
upon as conclusive evidence against his discretion and sound
judgment. The trite saying, that the world judges of men by success
or failure, was fully illustrated in his case. Once, he was referred
to as the shrewdest of business men; now, he was held up to
ambitious young tradesmen as a warning wreck, stranded amid the
How painfully was Mr. Markland reminded, at almost every turn, of
the changed relations he bore to the world! He had not doubted his
ability to form a good business connection with some house of
standing, or with some young capitalist, ready to place money
against his experience and trade. But in this he was doomed to
disappointment. His friends spoke discouragingly; and everywhere he
met but a cold response to his views. Meantime, one creditor of the
Company, in New York, who held a matured piece of paper on which Mr.
Markland's name was inscribed, commenced a suit against him. To
prevent this creditor getting all that remained of his wasted
estate, an assignment for the benefit of all was made, and
preparations at once commenced for removing from Woodbine Lodge.
A few days after this arrangement, Mr. Willet, whose family had
gathered closer around their neighbours the moment the fact of their
misfortune was known, came over to see Mr. Markland and have some
talk with him about his future prospects. A brief conversation which
had taken place on the day previous opened the way for him to do so
without seeming to intrude. The impossibility of getting into
business at the present time was admitted, on both sides, fully. Mr.
Willet then said--
"If the place of salesman in a large jobbing-house would meet your
views, I believe I can manage it for you."
"I am in no situation," replied Mr. Markland, "to make my own terms
with the world. Standing at the foot of the ladder, I must accept
the first means of ascent that offers."
"You will, then, take the place?"
"Yes, if the offer is made."
"The salary is not as large as I could wish," said Mr. Willet.
"Twelve hundred dollars."
"Get it for me, Mr. Willet, and I will be deeply grateful. That sum
will save my children from immediate want."
"I wish it were more, for your sake," replied the kind neighbour.
"But I trust it will be the beginning of better things. You will, at
least, gain a footing on the first round of the ladder."
"But the advantage is only in prospect," said Mr. Markland. "The
place is not yet mine."
"You have the refusal," was the pleased answer. "I had you in my
mind when I heard of the vacancy, and mentioned your name. The
principal of the firm said, without a word of hesitation, that if
you were available, you would just suit him."
"I shall not soon forget your real kindness," responded Markland,
grasping the hand of Mr. Willet. "You have proved, indeed, though an
acquaintance of recent date, a true friend. Ah, sir! my heart had
begun to despond. So many cold looks, changed tones, and
discouraging words! I was not prepared for them. When a man is no
longer able to stand alone, how few there are to reach out an arm to
give him support!"
"It is the way of the world," replied Mr. Willet; "and if we give it
credit for more virtue than it possesses, a sad disappointment
awaits us. But there are higher and better principles of action than
such as govern the world. They bring a higher and better reward."
"May the better reward be yours," said Mr. Markland, fervently. His
heart was touched by this real but unobtrusive kindness.
"When do you purpose leaving here?" next inquired Mr. Willet.
"As early as I can make arrangements for removing my family," was
"Where do you think of going?"
"Into the city."
"Would you not prefer remaining in this pleasant neighbourhood? I do
not see how my mother and sisters are going to give you all up. Mrs.
Markland has already won her way into all their affections, and they
have mourned over your misfortunes as deeply, I believe, as if they
had been our own. Pardon the freedom of speech which is only a warm
heart-utterance, when I say that there is a beauty in the character
of Mrs. Markland that has charmed us all; and we cannot think of
losing her society. Walker told me to-day that his wife was
dissatisfied with a country life, and that he was going to sell his
pleasant cottage. I offered him his price, and the title-deeds will
be executed to-morrow. Will you do me the favour to become my
tenant? The rent is two hundred and fifty dollars."
Mr. Willet spoke very earnestly. It was some moments before there
was any reply. Then Mr. Markland raised his eyes from the floor, and
said, in a low voice, that slightly trembled--
"I saw a house advertised for rent in the city, to-day, which I
thought would suit us. It was small, and the rent three hundred
dollars. On learning the owner's name, I found that he was an old
business friend, with whom I had been quite intimate, and so called
upon him. His reception of me was not over cordial. When I mentioned
my errand, he hesitated in his replies, and finally hinted something
about security for the rent. I left him without a word. To have
replied without an exposure of unmanly weakness would have been
impossible. Keenly, since my misfortunes, have I felt the change in
my relations to the world; but nothing has wounded me so sharply as
this! Mr. Willet, your generous interest in my welfare touches my
heart! Let me talk with my family on the subject. I doubt not that
we will accept your offer thankfully."
"OUR Father in heaven never leaves us in a pathless desert," said
Mrs. Markland, light breaking through her tear-filled eye. Her
husband had just related the conversation held with Mr. Willet.
"When the sun goes down, stars appear."
"A little while ago, the desert seemed pathless, and no star
glittered in the sky," was answered.
"Yet the path was there, Edward; you had not looked close enough to
your feet," replied his wife.
"It was so narrow that it would have escaped my vision," he said,
"If it were not the safest way for you and for all of us, it would
not be the only one now permitted our feet to tread."
"Safest it may be for me; but your feet could walk, securely, a
pathway strewn with flowers. Ah me! the thought that my folly--"
"Edward," Mrs. Markland interrupted him in a quick, earnest voice,
"if you love me, spare me in this. When I laid my hand in yours on
that happy day, which was but the beginning of happier ones, I began
a new life. All thought, all affection, all joy in the present and
hope in the future, were thenceforth to be mingled with your
thought, affection, joy, and hope. Our lives became one. It was
yours to mark out our way through the world; mine to walk by your
side. The path, thus far, has been a flowery one, thanks to your
love and care! But no life-path winds always amid soft and fragrant
meadows. There are desert places on the road, and steep acclivities;
and there are dark, devious valleys, as well as sunny hill-tops.
Pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land, we must pass through the
Valley and the Shadow of Death, and be imprisoned for a time in
Doubting Castle, before the Delectable Mountains are gained. Oh,
Edward, murmur not, but thank God for the path he has shown us, and
for the clear light that falls so warmly upon it. These friends,
whom he has given us in this our darkest hour, are the truest
friends we have yet known. Is it not a sweet compensation for all we
lose, to be near them still, and to have the good a kind Father
dispenses come to us through their hands? Dear husband! in this
night of worldly life, a star of celestial beauty has already
mirrored itself in my heart, and made light one of its hitherto
"Sweet philosopher!" murmured her husband, in a softened voice. "A
spirit like yours would illuminate a dungeon."
"If it can make the air bright around my husband, its happiness will
be complete," was softly answered.
"But these reverses are hard to bear," said Mr. Markland, soberly.
"Harder in anticipation than in reality. They may become to us
"Blessings? Oh, Agnes! I am not able to see that. It is no light
thing for a man to have the hard accumulations of his best years
swept from him in a moment, and to find himself, when just passing
the meridian of his life, thrown prostrate to the earth."
"There may be richer treasures lying just beneath the surface where
he has fallen, than in all the land of Ophir toward which he was
pressing in eager haste," said Mrs. Markland.
"It may be so." Markland spoke doubtingly.
"It must be so!" was emphatically rejoined. "Ah, Edward, have I not
often warned you against looking far away into the future, instead
of stooping to gather the pearls of happiness that a good Providence
has scattered so profusely around us? They are around us still."
"And you may be richer far than imagination has yet pictured. Look
not far away into the shadowy uncertainties of coming time for the
heart's fruition. The stones from which its temple of happiness is
to be erected, if ever built, lie all along the path your feet are
treading. It has been so with you from the beginning--it is so now."
"If I build not this temple, it will be no fault of yours," said
Markland, whose perceptions were becoming clearer.
"Let us build it together," answered his wife. "There will be no
lack of materials."
WHEN the offer of Mr. Walker's cottage was made known in the family,
there was a passive acquiescence in the change on the part of all
but Aunt Grace. Her pride was aroused.
"It's very kind in Mr. Willet," she said--"very kind, but scarcely
delicate under the circumstances."
"Why not delicate?" inquired Mr. Markland.
"Did they think we were going into that little pigeon-box, just
under the shadow of Woodbine Lodge. If we have to come down so low,
it will not be in this neighbourhood. There's too much pride in the
Markland blood for that!"
"We have but little to do with pride now," said Mrs. Markland.
Her husband sighed. The remark of his sister had quickened his
"It is the best we can do!" he remarked, sadly.
"Not by any means," said Grace. "There are other neighbourhoods than
this, and other houses to be obtained. Let us go from here; not
remain the observed of all curious observers--objects of remark and
Her brother arose while she was speaking, and commenced walking the
room in a disturbed manner. The words of Grace had aroused his
"Rather let us do what is best under the circumstances," said Mrs.
Markland, in her quiet way. "People will have their own thoughts,
but these should never turn us from a right course."
"The sight of Woodbine Lodge will rebuke me daily," said Mr.
"You cannot be happy in this neighbourhood." Grace spoke in her
emphatic way. "It is impossible!"
"I fear that it is even so," replied her brother.
"Then," said Mrs. Markland, in a firm voice, "we will go hence. I
place nothing against the happiness of my husband. If the sight of
our old home is to trouble him daily, we will put mountains between,
Markland turned toward his wife. She had never looked more beautiful
in his eye.
"Is self-negation to be all on her part?" The thought, flashing
through his mind, changed the current of his feelings, and gave him
"No, Agnes," he said, "while a faint smile played around his lips,
"we will not put mountains between us and this neighbourhood. Pride
is a poor counsellor, and they who take heed to her words, sow the
seeds of repentance. In reverse of fortune, we stand not alone.
Thousands have walked this rugged road before us; and shall we
falter, and look weakly back?"
"Not so, Edward!" returned his wife, with enthusiasm; "we will
neither falter nor look back. Our good and evil are often made by
contrasts. We shall not find the way rugged, unless we compare it
too closely with other ways our feet have trodden, and sigh vainly
over the past, instead of accepting the good that is awarded us in
the present. Let us first make the 'rough paths of peevish nature
even,' and the way will be smooth to our feet."
"You will never be happy in this neighbourhood, Edward," said his
sister, sharply; for she saw that the pride her words had awakened
was dying out.
"If he is not happy here, change of place will work no difference."
Mrs. Markland spoke earnestly.
"Why not?" was the quick interrogation of Grace.
"Because happiness is rarely, if ever, produced by a change of
external relations. We must have within us the elements of
happiness; and then the heart's sunshine will lie across our
threshold, whether it be of palace or cottage."
"Truer words were never spoken," said Mr. Markland, "and I feel
their better meaning. No, Agnes, we will not go out from this
pleasant neighbourhood, nor from among those we have proved to be
friends. If Woodbine Lodge ever looks upon me rebukingly, I will try
to acknowledge the justice of the rebuke. I will accept Mr. Willet's
kind offer to-morrow. But what have you to say, Fanny?" Mr. Markland
now turned to his daughter, who had not ventured a word on the
subject, though she had listened with apparent interest to the
conference. "Shall we take Mr. Walker's cottage?"
"Your judgment must decide that, father," was answered.
"But have you no choice in the case, Fanny? We can remove into the
city, or go into some other neighbourhood."
"I will be as happy here as anywhere. Do as seems best, father."
A silence, made in a measure oppressive by Fanny's apparent
indifference to all change, followed. Before other words were spoke,
Aunt Grace withdrew in a manner that showed a mind disturbed. The
conference in regard to the cottage was again resumed, and ended in
the cheerful conclusion that it would afford them the pleasantest
home, in their changed circumstances, of any that it was possible
for them to procure.
PREPARATION was at once made for the proposed removal. Mr. Walker
went back to the city, and the new owner of the cottage, Mr. Willet,
set carpenters and painters at work to make certain additions which
he thought needful to secure the comfort of his tenants, and to put
every thing in the most thorough repair. Even against the
remonstrance of Mr. Markland, who saw that his generous-minded
neighbour was providing for his family a house worth almost double
the rent that was to be paid, he carried out all his projected
"You will embarrass me with a sense of obligation," said Mr.
Markland, in seeking to turn him from a certain purpose regarding
"Do not say so," answered Mr. Willet; "I am only offering
inducements for you to remain with us. If obligation should rest
anywhere, it will be on our side. I make these improvements because
the house is now my own property, and would be defective, to my
mind, without them. Pray, don't let your thoughts dwell on these
Thus he strove to dissipate the feeling of obligation that began to
rest on the mind of his unfortunate neighbour, while he carried out
his purpose. In due time, under the assignment which had been made,
Woodbine Lodge and a large part of the elegant and costly furniture
contained in the mansion, were sold, and the ownership passed into
other hands. With a meagre remnant of their household goods, the
family retired to a humbler house. Some pitied, and stood at a
distance; some felt a selfish pleasure in their fall; and some, who
had courted them in their days of prosperity, were among the
foremost to speak evil against them. But there were a few, and they
the choicest spirits of the neighbourhood, who only drew nearer to
these their friends in misfortune. Among them was Mr. Allison, one
of those wise old men whose minds grow not dim with advancing years.
He had passed through many trying vicissitudes, had suffered, and
come up from the ordeal purer than when the fire laid hold upon the
dross of nature.
A wise monitor had he been in Markland's brighter days, and now he
drew near as a comforter. There is strength in true words kindly
spoken. How often was this proved by Mr. and Mrs. Markland, as their
venerable friend unlocked for them treasures of wisdom!
The little parlour at "Lawn Cottage," the name of their new home,
soon became the scene of frequent reunions among choice spirits,
whose aspirations went higher and deeper than the external and
visible. In closing around Mr. Markland, they seemed to shut him
out, as it were, from the old world in which he had hoped, and
suffered, and struggled so vainly; and to open before his purer
vision a world of higher beauty. In this world were riches for the
toiler, and honour for the noble--riches and honour far more to be
desired than the gems and gold of earth or its empty tributes of
A few months of this new life wrought a wonderful change in
Markland. All the better elements of his nature were quickened into
activity. Useful daily employment tranquillized his spirits; and not
unfrequently he found himself repeating the words of Longfellow--
"Something attempted, something done,
Had earned a night's repose."
So entirely was every thing of earthly fortune wrecked, and so
changed were all his relations to the business world, that hope had
yet no power to awaken his mind to ambition. For the present,
therefore, he was content to receive the reward of daily toil, and
to be thankful that he was yet able to supply the real wants of his
family. A cheerful tone of feeling gradually succeeded the state of
deep depression from which he had suffered. His spirit, which had
walked in darkness, began to perceive that light was breaking in
through the hitherto impenetrable gloom, and as it fell upon the
path he was treading, a flower was seen here and there, while the
roughness his imagination had pictured became not visible.
Nearly a year had glided away since the wreck of Markland's fortune,
and little or no change in his worldly prospects was visible. He was
sitting late, one evening, reading aloud to his wife from a book
which the latter had received from Mrs. Willet. The rest of the
family had retired. Mrs. Markland was plying her needle busily.
Altered circumstances had made hourly industry on her part a
necessity; yet had they in no way dimmed the cheerful brightness of
"Come, Agnes," said her husband, closing the book, "it is growing
late; and you have worked long enough. I'm afraid your health will
"Just a few minutes longer," replied Mrs. Markland, smiling. "I must
finish this apron for Frank. He will want it in the morning." And
her hand moved quicker.
"How true is every word you have been reading!" she added, after a
few moments. "Manifold indeed are the ways in which a wise
Providence dispenses good to the children of men. Mercy is seen in
the cloud as well as in the sunshine. Tears to the spirit are like
rain to the earth."
"The descent looked frightful," said Markland, after a pause--"but
we reached the lower ground uninjured. Invisible hands seemed to
bear us up."
"We have found the land far pleasanter than was imagined; and the
sky above of a purer crystal."
"Yes--yes. It is even so. And if the flowers that spring up at our
feet are not so brilliant, they have a sweeter perfume and a diviner
"In this land," said Mrs. Markland, "we see in the visible things
that surround us what was rarely seen before--types of the invisible
things they represent."
"Ah, yes, yes! Scales have fallen from my eyes. I have learned a new
philosophy. In former times, Mr. Allison's words seemed full of
beautiful truths, yet so veiled, that I could not see their genuine
brightness. Now they are like sudden gleams of sunlight on a
"Seekers after happiness, like the rest of the world," said Mrs.
Markland, resting her hands upon the table by which she sat, and,
gazing earnestly into her husband's face, "we had lost our way, and
were moving with swift feet in the wrong direction. Suddenly, our
kind Father threw up before us an impassable mountain. Then we
seemed shut out from the land of promise forever, and were in
despair. But he took his weeping, murmuring children by the hand,
and led them gently into another path!"
"Into a narrower way"--Mr. Markland took up the words of his
wife--"and sought by few; yet, it has already brought us into a
"To speak in less ideal language," said Mrs. Markland, "we have been
taught an all-important lesson. It is this: That there is over each
one of us an intimate providential care which ever has regard to our
eternal good. And the reason of our many and sad disappointments
lies in the fact, that we seek only the gratification of natural
life, in which are the very elements of dissatisfaction. All mere
natural life is selfish life; and natural ends gained only confirm
this selfish life, and produce misery instead of happiness."
"There is no rest," said Markland, "to the striving spirit that only
seeks for the good of this world. How clearly have I seen this of
late, as well in my own case as in that of others! Neither wealth
nor honour have in themselves the elements of happiness; and their
increase brings but an increase of trouble."
"If sought from merely selfish ends," remarked his wife. "Yet their
possession may increase our happiness, if we regard them as the
means by which we may rise into a higher life."
There followed a thoughtful pause. Mrs. Markland resumed her work,
and her husband leaned his head back and remained for some minutes
in a musing attitude.
"Don't you think," he said at length, "that Fanny is growing more
"Oh, yes. I can see that her state of mind is undergoing a gradual
"Poor child! What a sad experience, for one so young, has been hers!
How her whole character has been, to all seeming, transformed. The
light-hearted girl suddenly changed to a thoughtful, suffering
"She may be a happier woman in the end," said Mrs. Markland.
"Is that possible?"
"Yes. Suffering has given her a higher capacity for enjoyment."
"And for pain, also," said Mr. Markland.
"She is wiser for the first experience," was replied.
"Yes, there is so much in her favour. I wish," added Mr. Markland,
"that she would go a little more into company. It is not good for
any one to live so secluded a life. Companionship is necessary to
the spirit's health."
"She is not without companions, or, at least, a companion."
"Good, as far as it goes. Flora is an excellent girl, and wise
beyond her years."
"Can we ask a better companion for our child than one with pure
feelings and true thoughts?"
"No. But I am afraid Flora has not the power to bring her out of
herself. She is so sedate."
"She does not lack cheerfulness of spirit, Edward."
"Perpetual cheerfulness is too passive."
"Her laugh, at times, is delicious," said Mrs. Markland, "going to
your heart like a strain of music, warming it like a golden sunbeam.
Flora's character is by no means a passive one, but rather the
"She is usually very quiet when I see her," replied Markland.
"This arises from an instinctive deference to those who are older."
"Fanny is strongly attached to her, I think."
"Yes; and the attachment I believe to be mutual."
"Would not Flora, at your suggestion, seek to draw her gradually
forth from her seclusion?"
"We have talked together on that subject several times," replied
Mrs. Markland, "and are now trying to do the very thing you
"With any prospect of accomplishing the thing desired?"
"I believe so. There is to be company at Mr. Willet's next week, and
we have nearly gained Fanny's consent to be present."
"Have you? I am indeed gratified to learn this."
"Flora has set her heart on gaining Fanny's consent, and will leave
no influence untried."
"Still, Fanny's promise to go is withheld?"
"Yes; but I have observed her looking over her drawers, and showing
more interest in certain articles therein than she has evinced for a
long, long time."
"If she goes, she will require a new dress," said Mr. Markland.
"I think not. Such preparation would be too formal at present. But,
we can make that all right."
"Oh! it will give me so much pleasure! Do not leave any influence
"You may be sure that we will not," answered Mrs. Markland; "and,
what is more, you have little to fear touching our success."
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
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
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
"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
"Is that all you have to communicate?" said the young girl, seeing
that he hesitated.
"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?"
"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
Fanny made no answer.
"Did he in any way intrude upon you?" Mr. Willet spoke in a quicker
"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
"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
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
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
A FEW weeks prior to the time at which the incidents of the
preceding chapter occurred, a man, with a rough, neglected exterior,
and face almost hidden by an immense beard, landed at New Orleans
from one of the Gulf steamers, and was driven to the St. Charles
Hotel. His manner was restless, yet wary. He gave his name as
Falkner, and repaired at once to the room assigned to him.
"Is there a boarder in the house named Leach?" he made inquiry of
the servant who came up with his baggage.
"There is," was replied.
"Will you ascertain if he is in, and say that I wish to see him?"
"What name, sir?" inquired the servant.
"No matter. Give the number of my room."
The servant departed, and in a few minutes conducted a man to the
apartment of the stranger.
"Ah! you are here!" exclaimed the former, starting forward, and
grasping tightly the hand that was extended to receive him. "When
did you arrive?"
"No matter where from, at present. Enough that I am here." The
servant had retired, and the closed door was locked. "But there is
one thing I don't just like."
"What is that?"
"You penetrated my disguise too easily."
"I expected you, and knew, when inquired for, by whom I was wanted."
"That as far as it goes. But would you have known me if I had passed
you in the street?"
The man named Leach took a long, close survey of the other, and then
"I think not, for you are shockingly disfigured. How did you manage
to get that deep gash across your forehead?"
"It occurred in an affray with one of the natives; I came near
losing my life."
"A narrow escape, I should say."
"It was. But I had the satisfaction of shooting the bloody rascal
through the heart." And a grin of savage pleasure showed the man's
white teeth gleaming below the jetty moustache.--"Well, you see I am
here," he added, "boldly venturing on dangerous ground."
"So I see. And for what? You say that I can serve you again; and I
am in New Orleans to do your bidding."
"You can serve me, David," was answered, with some force of
expression. "In fact, among the large number of men with whom I have
had intercourse, you are the only one who has always been true to
me, and" (with a strongly-uttered oath) "I will never fail you, in
"I hope never to put your friendship to any perilous test," replied
the other, smiling. "But say on."
"I can't give that girl up. Plague on her bewitching face! it has
wrought upon me a kind of enchantment. I see it ever before me as a
thing of beauty. David! she must be mine at any sacrifice!"
"Who? Markland's pretty daughter?"
"Better start some other game," was bluntly answered. "Your former
attempt to run this down came near ruining every thing."
"No danger of that now. The ingots are all safe;" and the man gave a
"My name is Falkner. Don't forget it, if you please!" The speaker
contracted his brows.
"Falkner, then. What I want to say is this: Let well enough alone.
If the ingots are safe, permit them to remain so. Don't be foolhardy
enough to put any one on the scent of them."
"Don't be troubled about that. I have sacrificed too much in gaining
the wealth desired ever to hold it with a careless or relaxing
grasp. And yet its mere possession brings not the repose of mind,
the sense of independence, that were so pleasingly foreshadowed.
Something is yet lacking to make the fruition complete. I want a
companion; and there is only one, in the wide world, who can be to
me what I desire."
"You wish to make her your wife?"
"She is too pure to be happy in any other relation. Yes; I wish to
gain her for my bride."
"A thing more difficult than you imagine."
"The task may be difficult; but, I will not believe, impossible."
"And it is in this matter you desire my service?"
"I am ready. Point the way, and I will go. Digest the plan, and I am
the one to carry it out."
"You must go North."
"Do you know how her father is situated at present?"
"He is a poor clerk in a jobbing-house."
"Indeed! They stripped him of every thing?"
"Yes. Woodbine Lodge vanished from beneath his feet as if it had
been an enchanted island."
"Poor man! I am sorry for him. I never contemplated so sweeping a
disaster in his case. But no one can tell, when the ball leaves his
hand, what sort of a strike will be made. How does he bear it, I
"Don't know. It must have been a terrible fall for him."
"And Fanny? Have you learned nothing in regard to her?"
"Did you keep up a correspondence with the family whose acquaintance
you made in--?"
"The family of Mr. Ellis? No; not any regular correspondence. We
passed a letter or two, when I made a few inquiries about the
Marklands, and particularly mentioned Fanny; but heard no further
"There are no landmarks, then?" said Lyon.
"You must start immediately for the North. I will remain here until
word comes from you. Ascertain, first, if you can, if there is any
one connected with the Company who is yet on the alert in regard to
myself; and write to me all the facts you learn on this head
immediately. If it is not safe to remain in the United States, I
will return to the city of Mexico, and we can correspond from there.
Lose no time in gaining access to Miss Markland, and learn her state
of mind in regard to me. She cannot fail to have taken her father's
misfortunes deeply to heart; and your strongest appeal to her may be
on his behalf. It is in my power to restore him to his former
position, and, for the sake of his daughter, if needful, that will
"I comprehend you; and trust me to accomplish all you desire, if in
human power. Yet I cannot help expressing surprise at the singular
fascination this girl has wrought upon you. I saw her two or three
times, but perceived nothing very remarkable about her. She is
pretty enough; yet, in any company of twenty women, you may pick out
three far handsomer. What is the peculiar charm she carries about
"It is nameless, but all-potent, and can only be explained
psychologically, I suppose. No matter, however. The girl is
necessary to my happiness, and I must secure her."
"By fair means, or foul?" His companion spoke inquiringly.
"I never hesitate about the means to be employed when I attempt the
accomplishment of an object," was replied. "If she cannot be
prevailed upon to come to me willingly, stratagem--even force--must
be used. I know that she loves me; for a woman who once loves, loves
always. Circumstances may have cooled, even hardened, the surface of
her feelings, but her heart beneath is warm toward me still. There
may be many reasons why she would not voluntarily leave her home for
the one I promised her, however magnificent; but, if removed without
her own consent, after the change, she may find in my love the
highest felicity her heart could desire."
"My faith is not strong," said Leach, "and never has been, in the
stability of love. But you have always manifested a weakness in this
direction; and, I suppose, it runs in the blood. Probably, if you
carry the girl off, (not so easy a thing, by-the-way, nor a safe
operation to attempt,) you can make all smooth with her by doing
something handsome for her father."
"No doubt of it. I could restore Woodbine Lodge to his possession,
and settle two or three thousand a year on him beside."
"Such arguments might work wonders," said the accomplice.
A plan of operations was settled during the day, and early on the
next morning the friend of Mr. Lyon started northward.
THE first letter received by Mr. Lyon, gave only a vague account of
"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
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
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 ad-
dressing 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
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
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Be discreet, self-possessed, and wary." Lyon spoke in a warning
"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--
Lyon shook him off, and deliberately pointed his weapon toward the
"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
"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
"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.
FANNY had not hesitated a moment on the question of communicating to
her father the singular occurrence at Mr. Willet's; and Mr. Markland
was prompt not only in writing to two or three of the principal
sufferers by Lyon in New York, but in drawing the attention of the
police to the stranger who had so boldly made propositions to his
daughter. Two men were engaged to watch all his movements, and on no
pretence whatever to lose sight of him. The New York members of the
Company responded instantly to Markland's suggestion, and one of
them came on to confer and act in concert with him. A letter
delivered at the post office to the stranger, it was ascertained,
came by way of New Orleans. A requisition from the governor of New
York to deliver up, as a fugitive from justice, the person of Lee
Lyon, was next obtained. All things were thus brought into readiness
for action, the purpose being to keep two police officers ever on
the track of his accomplice, let him go where he would. Inquiries
were purposely made for this man at the hotel, in order to excite a
suspicion of something wrong, and hasten his flight from the city;
and when he fled at last, the officers, unknown to him, were in the
cars. The telegraph gave intelligence to the police at New Orleans,
and all was in readiness there for the arrival of the party. How
promptly action followed has been seen. On the day after Lyon's
arrest, he was on his way northward, in custody of two officers, who
were already well enough acquainted with his character to be ever on
the alert. Several attempts at escape were made, but they succeeded
in delivering him safely in New York, where he was committed to
On the day, and almost at the very hour, when the iron doors closed
drearily on the criminal, Fanny Markland was alone with Mr. Willet.
At the earnest desire of Flora, she had gone over to spend the
afternoon at Sweetbriar. The brother came out from the city at
dinner-time, and did not return again--the attractions of his fair
guest being more than he could resist. There had been music and
conversation during the afternoon, and all had been done by the
family to render the visit of Fanny as agreeable as possible; but
she did not seem in as good spirits as usual--her eyes were dreamy,
and her voice had in it a shade of sadness.
Toward evening, she walked out with Flora and her brother. The
conversation turned on the beautiful in nature, and Mr. Willet
talked in his earnest way--every sentence full of poetry to the ears
of at least one absorbed listener. In a pause of the conversation,
Flora left them and went back to the house. For a little while the
silence continued, and then Mr. Willet said, in a tone so changed
that its echo in the maiden's heart made every pulse beat quicker,--
"Fanny, there is one question that I have long desired to ask."
She lifted her eyes to his face timidly, and looked steadily at him
for a few moments; then, as they fell to the ground, she replied--
"You can ask no question that it will not give me pleasure to
"But this, I fear, will give you pain," said he.
"Pain, you have taught me, is often a salutary discipline."
"True, and may it be so in the present instance. It is not unknown
to me that Mr. Lyon once held a place in your regard--I will go
farther, and say in your affections."
Fanny started, and moved a step from him; but he continued--
"The question I wish to ask is, does there yet remain in your heart
a single point that gives back a reflection of his image? In plainer
words, is he any thing to you?"
"No, nothing!" was the emphatic, almost indignant, answer.
"It is said," resumed Mr. Willet, "that you once loved him."
"He came to me," replied Fanny, "a young, artless, trusting girl, as
an angel of light. Nay, I was only a child, whose ears were unused
to warmer words than fell from the loving lips of parents. Suddenly,
he opened before me a world of enchantment. My whole being was on
fire with a delicious passion. I believed him true and good, and
loved him, because, in my eyes, he was the embodiment of all human
perfections. But time proved that I had only loved an enchanting
ideal, and my heart rejected him with intense loathing."
"Enough," said Willet; "I feel that it must be so."
The two remained silent for the space of nearly a minute; Mr. Willet
"Forgive me if my question has seemed indelicate, and be assured
that I asked it from no idle curiosity. Let me go a little farther;
and, my dear young lady, retain your calmness of spirit. Look into
your heart, but keep every pulsation under control. Since our first
meeting, I have felt a deep interest in you. What you have suffered
has pained me seriously; but the pain has given way to pleasure, for
out of the fire you have come up pure and strong, Fanny! I have but
one word more--there is a sacred place in my heart, and your image
has long been the inhabitant. Here is my hand--will you lay your own
within it, that I may grasp it as mine for life?"
Willet extended his hand as he spoke. There was only a moment's
hesitation on the part of Fanny, who stood with her head bent so far
down that the expression of her face could not be seen. Raising her
eyes in which joy shone through blinding tears, she extended her
hand, which was seized, grasped tightly for an instant, and then
covered with kisses.
NO sooner was Lyon completely in the power of the men he had wronged
to an extent that left no room for mercy, than he made offers of
compromise. A public trial involved not only public disgrace, but he
had too good reasons to fear conviction and penal retribution. This
was the greatest evil he had to dread, and so he made up his mind to
part with at least a portion of his ill-gotten gains. Interview
after interview was held with the parties representing the Company
for which he had been agent, and a final arrangement made for the
restitution of about two hundred thousand dollars--his release not
to take place until the money, or its value, was in the hands of his
creditors. Nearly three months passed in efforts to consummate this
matter, and at last the sum of one hundred and eighty thousand
dollars was obtained, and the miserable, disgraced man set free. He
went forth into the world again with the bitterness of a
life-disappointment at his heart, and a feeling of almost murderous
hate against the men whose confidence he had betrayed, and who
obtained from him only a partial recompense.
Of the sum restored, there fell to Mr. Markland's share about
twenty-five thousand dollars. Its possession quickened in his heart
the old ambitious spirit, and he began to revolve in his thoughts
the ways and means of recovering, by aid of this remnant of his
fortune, the wealth which a scheming villain had wrested from his
grasp. Mr. Willet, whose marriage with his daughter was on the eve
of taking place, had made to him certain proposals in regard to
business, that promised a sure but not particularly brilliant
return. All the required capital was to be furnished. He had not yet
accepted this offer, but was about doing so, when expectation ended
in certainty, and his proportion of the money recovered from Lyon
was paid into his hands.
A rapid change of feelings and plans was the consequence. On the day
that cheeks covering the whole sum awarded to Mr. Markland were