Part 6 out of 6
received from New York, he returned early in the afternoon from the
city, his mind buoyant with hope in the future. As the cars swept
around a particular curve on approaching the station at which he was
to alight, "Woodbine Lodge" came in full view, and, with a sudden
impulse he exclaimed "It shall be mine again!"
"The man is not all crushed out of me yet!" There was a proud
swelling of the heart as Markland said this. He had stepped from the
cars at the station, and with a firmer step than usual, and a form
more erect, was walking homeward. Lawn Cottage was soon in view,
nestling peacefully amid embowering trees. How many times during the
past year had a thankful spirit given utterance to words of
thankfulness, as, at day's decline, his homeward steps brought in
view this pleasant hiding-place from the world! It was different
now: the spot wore a changed aspect, and, comparatively, looked
small and mean, for his ideas had suddenly been elevated toward
"Woodbine Lodge," and a strong desire for its re-possession had
seized upon him.
But if, to his disturbed vision, beauty had partially faded from the
external of his home, no shadow dimmed the brightness within. The
happy voices of children fell in music on his ears, and small arms
clasping his neck sent electric thrills of gladness to his heart.
And how full of serene joy was the face of his wife, the angel of
his home as she greeted his return, and welcomed him with words that
never disturbed, but always tranquillized!
"There is a better time coming, Agnes," he said in an exultant
voice, when they were alone that evening. He had informed her of the
settlement of his affairs in New York, and reception of the sum
which had been awarded to him in the division of property recovered
from Mr. Lyon.
"A better time, Edward?" said Mrs. Markland. She seemed slightly
startled at his words, and looked half timidly into his face.
"Yes, a better time, love. I have too long been powerless in the
hands of a stern necessity, which has almost crushed the life out of
me; but morning begins to break, the night is passing, and my way in
the world grows clear again."
"_In_ the world, or _through_ the world?" asked Mrs. Markland, in a
voice and with an expression of countenance that left her meaning in
He looked at her for several moments, his face changing until the
light fading left it almost shadowed.
"Edward," said Mrs. Markland, leaning toward him, and speaking
earnestly, but, lovingly, "you look for a better time. How better?
Are we not happy here? Nay, did we ever know more of true happiness
than since we gathered closer together in this pleasant home? Have
we not found a better time in a true appreciation of the ends of
life? Have we not learned to live, in some feeble degree, that inner
and higher life, from the development of which alone comes the
soul's tranquillity? Ah, Edward, do not let go of these truths that
we have learned. Do not let your eyes become so dazzled by the
splendour of the sun of this world as to lose the power to see into
the inner world of your spirit, and behold the brighter sun that can
make all glorious there."
Markland bent his head, and for a little while a feeling of sadness
oppressed him. The hope of worldly elevation, which had sprung up
with so sudden and brilliant a flame, faded slowly away, and in its
partial death the pains of dissolution were felt. The outer,
visible, tangible world had strong attractions for his natural mind;
and its wealth, distinctions, luxuries, and honours, looked
fascinating in the light of his natural affections; yet glimpses had
already been given to him of another world of higher and diviner
beauty. He had listened, entranced, to its melodies, that came as
from afar off; its fragrant airs had awakened his delighted sense;
he had seen, as in a vision, the beauty of its inhabitants, and now
the words of his wife restored all to his remembrance.
"The good time for which all are looking, and toiling, and waiting
so impatiently," said Mrs. Markland, after a pause, "will never come
to any unless in a change of affection."
"The life must be changed."
"Yes, or, in better words, the love. If that be fixed on mere
outward and natural things, life will be only a restless seeking
after the unattainable--for the natural affections only grow by what
they feed upon--desire ever increasing, until the still panting,
unsatisfied heart has made for itself a hell of misery."
"Thanks, angel of my life!" returned Markland, as soon as he had, in
a measure, recovered himself. "Even the painful lessons I have been
taught would fade from my memory, but for thee!"
A FEW weeks later, and "Lawn Cottage" was the scene of an event
which made the hearts of its inmates glad even to tears. That event
was the marriage of Fanny. From the time of her betrothment to Mr.
Willet, a new life seemed born in her spirit and a new beauty
stamped upon her countenance. All around her was diffused the
heart's warm sunshine. As if from a long, bewildering, painful
dream, she had awakened to find the morning breaking in serene
beauty, and loving arms gathered protectingly around her. The
desolating tempest had swept by; and so brilliant was the sunshine,
and so clear the bending azure, that night and storms were both
Old Mr. Allison was one of the few guests, outside of the families,
who were present at the nuptial ceremonies. The bride--in years, if
not in heart-experience, yet too young to enter upon the high duties
to which she had solemnly pledged herself--looked the embodied image
of purity and loveliness.
"Let me congratulate you," said the old man, sitting down beside Mr.
Markland, and grasping his hand, after the beautiful and impressive
ceremony was over and the husband's lips had touched the lips of his
bride and wife. "And mine is no ordinary congratulation, that goes
scarcely deeper than words, for I see in this marriage the beginning
of a true marriage; and in these external bonds, the image of those
truer spiritual bonds which are to unite them in eternal oneness."
"What an escape she made!" responded the father, a shudder running
through his frame, as there arose before him, at that instant, a
clear recollection of the past, and of his own strange, consenting
"The danger was fearful," replied Mr. Allison, who understood the
meaning of the words which had just been uttered. "But it is past
"Yes, thanks to the infinite wisdom that leads us back into right
paths. Oh! what a life of unimagined wretchedness would have fallen
to her lot, if all my plans and hopes had been accomplished! Do you
know, Mr. Allison, that I have compared my insane purposes in the
past to that of those men of old who made their children pass
through the fire to Moloch? I set up an idol--a bloody Moloch--and
was about sacrificing to it my child!"
"There is One who sits above the blinding vapours of human passion,
and sees all ends from the beginning; One who loves us with an
infinite tenderness, and leads us, even through struggling
resistance, back to the right paths, let us stray never so often.
Happy are we, if, when the right paths are gained, we walk therein
with willing feet. Mr. Markland, your experiences have been of a
most painful character; almost crushed out has been the natural life
that held the soaring spirit fettered to the perishing things of
this outer world; but you have felt that a new and better life has
been born within you, and have tasted some of its purer pleasures.
Oh, sir! let not the life of this world extinguish a fire that is
kindled for eternity."
"How wonderfully has the infinite mercy saved me from myself!"
returned Mr. Markland. "Wise, skilful in the ways of the world,
prudent, and far-seeing in my own estimation, yet was I blind,
ignorant, and full of strong self-will. I chose my own way in the
world, dazzled by the false glitter of merely external things. I
launched my bark, freighted with human souls, boldly upon an unknown
sea, and, but for the storms that drove me into a sheltered haven,
would have made a fearful wreck."
"Then sail not forth again," said Mr. Allison, "unless you have
divine truth as your chart, and heaven's own pilot on board your
vessel. It is still freighted with human souls."
"A fearful responsibility is mine." Mr. Markland spoke partly to
"Yes," replied the old man; "for into your keeping immortal spirits
have been committed. It is for them, not for yourself, that you are
to live. Their good, not your own pleasure, is to be sought."
"Ah, if I had comprehended this truth years ago!" Markland sighed as
he uttered the words.
"This is too happy an occasion," said Mr. Allison, in a cheerful
voice, "to be marred by regrets for the past. They should never be
permitted to bear down our spirits with sadness. The bright future
is all before us, and the good time awaiting us if we but look for
it in the right direction."
"And where are we to look for it, Mr. Allison? Which is the right
"Within and heavenward," was answered, with a smile so radiant that
it made the wan face of the old man beautiful. "Like the kingdom of
heaven, this good time comes not by 'observation;' nor with a 'lo,
here!' and a 'lo, there!' It must come within us, in such a change
of our ruling affections, that all things good and true, which are
real and eternal verities, shall be the highest objects of love; for
if we love things that are real and abiding, and obtain as well as
love them, our happiness is complete."
"Thanks for the many lessons of wisdom I have received from your
lips," replied Mr. Markland. "Well would it have been for me if I
had earlier heeded them. But the ground was not hitherto prepared.
Now, after the rank weeds have been removed, the surface broken by
many furrows, and the ground watered with tears, good seed is
falling into its bosom."
"May it bring forth good fruit--some thirty, some sixty, and some an
hundred-fold!" was said, low and fervently, by the aged monitor;
and, in the pause that followed, his ear caught a whispered "Amen."
And the good seed did spring up in this good ground, and good fruit
came in the harvest time. Strongly tempted, indeed, was Mr.
Markland, by his love of the world, and the brilliant rewards it
promised to the successful, to enter a bold combatant in its crowded
arena; but there were wise and loving counsellors around him, and
their words were not unheeded. Instead of aspiring after "Woodbine
Lodge," he was content to purchase "Lawn Cottage," and invest the
remainder of what he had received in property that not only paid him
a fair interest, but was increasing in value. The offer of Mr.
Willet to enter into business was accepted, and in this his gains
were sufficient to give him all needed external comforts, and a
reasonable prospect of moderate accumulation.
How peacefully moved on again the pure stream of Mrs. Markland's
unambitious life! If her way through the world was not so thickly
bordered with brilliant flowers, humbler blossoms lined it, and she
gathered as sweet honey from these as ever from their gayer sisters.
She, too, had grown wiser, and could read the pages of a book whose
leaves she had once turned vainly, searching for truth.
Even Aunt Grace was beginning to feel that there were some things in
the world not dreamed of in her common-sense philosophy. She looked
on thoughtfully, pondering much of what she heard and saw, in her
heart. She had ceased to speak about the annoyance of having
"Woodbine Lodge" "forever staring down," with a kind of triumph,
upon them; though it was hard for her, at all times, to rise above
this weakness. The "Markland blood," as she said, was too strong
within her. What puzzled her most was the cheerful heart of her
brother, and the interest he took in many things once scarcely
noticed. Formerly, when thought went beyond himself, its
circumference was limited by the good of his own family; but now, he
gave some care to the common good, and manifested a neighbourly
regard for others. He was looking in the right direction for "that
good time coming," and the light of a better morning was breaking in
upon his spirit.
As years progressed, the day grew broader, and the light of the
morning became as the light of noonday. And as it was with him and
his, so may it be with us all. In each of our hearts is a
dissatisfied yearning toward the future, and a looking for a
brighter day than any that has yet smiled down upon us. But this
brighter day will never dawn except in the world of our spirits. It
is created by no natural sun of fire, but by the sun of divine love.
In vain, then, do we toil and struggle, and press forward in our
journey through the world, fondly believing that in wealth, honour,
or some more desired external good, the soul's fruition will be
gained. The immortal spirit will ever be satisfied with these
things; and the good time will never come to the erring seeker.