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The Good Time Coming by T.S. Arthur

Part 3 out of 6

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Fanny started at her father's announcement, and partly turned toward
him a face that was now of a pallid hue.

"No; not Mr. Lyon," said Mr. Markland, in answer to his wife's
ejaculation, "but a person so nearly resembling him, that, for a few
moments, even I was deceived."

"How singular! Who was the man?"

"Our new neighbour, Mr. Willet."

"Why, Edward! That is remarkable."

"Yes, it is really so. I had just parted from Mr. Allison, who was
certain of having seen Mr. Lyon in this neighbourhood, on the day
before yesterday, when I met Mr. Willet. I can assure you that I was
startled when my eyes first rested upon him. For a few moments,
pulsation was suspended. A nearer approach corrected my error; and a
brief conversation with our new neighbour, gave me a strong
prepossession in his favour."

Before this sentence was completed, Fanny had arisen and gone
quietly from the room. For a few moments after her departure, the
father's and mother's eyes rested upon the door through which her
graceful form had vanished. Then they looked at each other, sighed,
and were silent.

The moment Fanny was beyond the observation of her parents, wings
seemed added to her feet, and she almost flew to her chamber.

"Bless the child! What's the matter? She looks frightened to death!"
exclaimed Aunt Grace, who met her on the way, and she followed her
quickly. But, when she tried to open the chamber door, she found it
locked within.

"Fanny! Fanny, child!" She rattled at the lock, as she thus called
the name of her niece.

But no sound came from within.

"Fanny! Fanny!"

The sound of feet was on the floor.

"Fanny!"

"What is wanted, aunt?" said a low, husky voice, close to the door
within. It did not seem like the voice of Fanny.

"I wish to see you for a few moments. Let me in."

"Not now, Aunt Grace. I want to be alone," was answered, in the same
altered voice.

"Mercy on us!" sighed Aunt Grace, as she turned, disappointed and
troubled, from the door of her niece's chamber. "What is coming over
the house? and what ails the child? That dreadful Mr. Lyon is at the
bottom of all this. Oh! I wish the ship that brought him over had
sunk in the middle of the ocean. I knew he would bring trouble, the
moment my eyes rested upon him; and it is here quicker than I
expected."

Fanny, oh entering her room, had fallen, half-fainting, across her
bed. It required a strong effort to arouse herself and sufficiently
command her voice to answer the call of her aunt and refuse to admit
her. As soon as the latter had gone away, she staggered back to her
bed, and again threw herself upon it, powerless, for the time, in
mind as well as body. Never, before, had she concealed anything from
her parents--never acted falsely, or with even a shadow of
duplicity. Into what a fearful temptation had she suddenly fallen;
and what a weight of self-condemnation, mingled with doubt and fear,
pressed upon her heart. At the moment when she was about revealing
all to her father, and thus ending his doubts, her purpose was
checked by the unlooked-for announcement that a person so nearly
resembling Mr. Lyon, as even for a moment to deceive her father, was
in the neighbourhood, checked the words that were rising to her
lips, and sealed them, for the time, in silence. To escape from the
presence of her parents was her next impulse, and she obeyed it.

Fully half an hour passed before calmness was restored to the mind
of Fanny, and she could think with any degree of clearness. From
childhood, up to this period of her life, her mother had been her
wise counsellor, her loving friend, her gentle monitor. She had
leaned upon her in full confidence--had clung to her in weakness, as
the vine to its strong support. And now, when she most needed her
counsel, she shrunk from her, and feared to divulge the secret that
was burning painfully into her heart. And yet, she did not purpose
to keep her secret; for that, her reason and filial love both told
her, was wrong; while all the time a low, sweet, almost sad voice,
seemed murmuring in her ear--"Go to your mother!"

"I must, I will go to her!" she said, at last, firmly. "A daughter's
footsteps must be moving along dangerous ways, if she fears to let
her mother know the paths she is treading. Oh, mother!" and she
clasped her hands almost wildly against her bosom. "My good, wise,
loving mother!--how could I let a stranger come in between us, and
tempt my heart from its truth to you for a moment! Yes, yes, you
must know all, and this very hour."

Acting from this better state of mind, Fanny unlocked her door, and
was passing along one of the passages in the direction of her
mother's room, when she met Aunt Grace.

"Oh! child! child! what is the matter with you?" exclaimed the aunt,
catching hold of her, and looking intently into her pale face.
"Come, now, tell me all about it--that's a dear, good girl."

"Tell you about what, Aunt Grace?" said Fanny, with as much firmness
as she could assume, trying, as she spoke, to disengage herself from
the firm grasp with which she was held.

"About all this matter that troubles you. Why, dear me! you look
just as if you'd come out of a spell of sickness. What is it, dear?
Now do tell your aunty, who loves you just as well as if you were
her own child. Do, love."

And Aunt Grace tried to draw the head of Fanny close to her bosom.
But her niece struggled to be free, answering, as she did so--

"Don't question me now, Aunt Grace, please. Only let me go to
mother. I want to see her."

"She is not in her room," said Miss Markland.

"Are you certain?"

"Oh, yes. I have just come from there."

"Where is she, then?"

"In the library, with your father."

Without a word more, Fanny turned from her aunt, and, gliding back
to her own chamber, entered, and closed the door.

"Oh, dear, dear, dear! What does ail the child?" almost sobbed Aunt
Grace, wringing her hands together, as she stood, with a bewildered
air, gazing upon the door through which the form of her niece had
just passed. "Something is the matter--something dreadful. And it
all comes of Edward's foolish confidence in a stranger, that I could
see, with half an eye, was not a man to be trusted."

For some minutes, Miss Markland remained standing as her niece had
left her, trying to make up her mind to act in some decided way for
the remedy of existing troubles.

"I'll just speak to Edward plainly about this business," she at
length said, with considerable warmth of manner. "Shall I stand,
with sealed lips, and witness such a sacrifice? No--no--no!"

And with nothing clearly settled or arranged in her thoughts, Aunt
Grace started for the library, with the intention of speaking out
plainly to her brother. The opportunity for doing so, however, did
not occur; for, on entering the library, she found it empty.

CHAPTER XV.

MR. MARKLAND was entirely satisfied. All doubt vanished from his
mind. The singular resemblance of their new neighbour to Mr. Lyon
cleared up the whole mystery. It was Mr. Willet who had been
mistaken for the young Englishman.

"If it were not so late," he said, glancing at the sun, as he stood
in the porch, "I would go into the city and see Mr. Brainard. It is
unfortunate that any doubtful questions in regard to Mr. Lyon should
have intruded themselves upon him, and his mind should be disabused
as quickly as possible. It is singular how positive some men are,
right or wrong. Now, Lamar was almost ready to be sworn that he saw
Mr. Lyon in the city day before yesterday, although he was, at the
time, distant from him many hundreds of miles; and, but for my
fortunate meeting with Willet this afternoon, his confident
assertion of his belief would, in all probability; have caused the
most disastrous consequences. From what light causes do most
important events sometimes spring!"

On returning to her own apartment, the thoughts of Fanny began to
flow in another channel. The interest which the young stranger had
awakened in her mind was no fleeting impulse. His image,
daguerreotyped on her heart, no light breath could dim. That he was
good and honourable, she believed; and, therefore, had faith in him.
Yet had his sudden appearance and injunction of silence disturbed
her, as we have seen, very deeply. Her guileless heart shrunk from
concealment, as if it were something evil. How bewildered were all
her perceptions, usually so calm! A sense of relief had been felt,
the instant she saw that her father's mind was no longer in doubt on
the question of Mr. Lyon's return from the South--relief, that he
was deceived in a matter which might involve the most serious
consequences. But this feeling did not very long remain; and she
became the subject of rapidly alternating states.

Fanny remained alone until the summons to tea startled her from a
sad, half-dreaming state of mind.

Not to meet her father and mother at the tea-table would, she saw,
attract toward her a closer attention than if she mingled with the
family at their evening meal; and so she forced herself away from
the congenial seclusion of her own apartment. As she took her place
at the table, she was conscious that the eyes of her father and
mother, as well as those of Aunt Grace, were fixed scrutinizingly
upon her; and she felt the blood growing warmer in her cheeks, and
flushing her whole countenance. An unusual restraint marked the
intercourse of all during their meal. Two or three times Mr.
Markland sought to draw his daughter into a conversation; but she
replied to his remarks in the briefest manner, and evidently wished
to escape all notice.

"I'm really troubled about Fanny," said Mrs. Markland to her
husband, as they sat looking out upon the fading landscape, as the
twilight deepened.

"Where is she? I've not had a glimpse of her since tea."

"In her own room, I suppose, where she now spends the greater part
of her time. She has become reserved, and her eyes grow moist, and
her cheeks flushed, if you speak to her suddenly."

"You must seek her confidence," said Mr. Markland.

"I want that without the apparent seeking," was answered. "She knows
me as her truest friend, and I am waiting until she comes to me in
the most unreserved freedom."

"But will she come?"

"Oh, yes! yes!"--was the confidently-spoken answer. "Soon her heart
will be laid open to me like the pages of a book, so that I can read
all that is written there."

"Mr. Lyon awakened a strong interest in her feelings--that is
clearly evident."

"Too strong; and I cannot but regard his coming to Woodbine Lodge as
a circumstance most likely to shadow all our future."

"I do really believe," said Mr. Markland, affecting a playful mood,
"that you have a latent vein of superstition in your character."

"You may think so, Edward," was the seriously-spoken answer; "but I
am very sure that the concern now oppressing my heart is far more
deeply grounded than your words indicate. Who, beside Mr. Lamar,
told you that he saw, or believed that he saw, Mr. Lyon?"

"Mr. Allison."

"Mr. Allison!"

"Yes."

"Where did he see him?"

"He didn't see him at all," confidently answered Mr. Markland. "He
saw Mr. Willet."

"He believed that the person he saw was Mr. Lyon."

"So did I, until a nearer approach convinced me that I was in error.
If I could be deceived, the fact that Mr. Allison was also deceived
is by no means a remarkable circumstance."

"Was it in this neighbourhood that he saw the person he believed to
be Mr Lyon?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Markland's eyes fell to the ground, and she sat, for a long
time, so entirely abstracted, as almost to lose her consciousness of
external things.

"The dew is rather heavy this evening," said her husband, arousing
her by the words. She arose, and they went together into the
sitting-room, where they found all but Fanny. Soon after, Mr.
Markland went to his library, and gave up his thoughts entirely to
the new business in which he was engaged with Mr. Lyon. How, golden
was the promise that lured him on! He was becoming impatient to
tread with swift feet the path to large wealth and honourable
distinction that was opening before him. A new life had been born in
his mind--it was something akin to ambition. In former times,
business was regarded as the means by which a competency might be
obtained; and he pursued it with this end. Having secured wealth, he
retired from busy life, hoping to find ample enjoyment in the
seclusion of an elegant rural home. But, already, restlessness had
succeeded to inactivity, and now his mind was gathering up its
latent strength for new efforts, in new and broader fields, and
under the spur of a more vigorous impulse.

"Edward!" It was the low voice of his wife, and the soft touch of
her hand, that startled the dreaming enthusiast from visions of
wealth and power that dazzled him with their brilliancy.

"Come, Edward, it is growing late," said his wife.

"How late?" he replied, looking up from the paper he had covered
with various memoranda, and clusters of figures.

"It is past eleven o'clock."

"That cannot be, Agnes. It is only a short time since I left the
table.

"Full three hours. All have retired and are sleeping. Ah, my
husband! I do not like this new direction your thoughts are taking.
To me, there is in it a prophecy of evil to us all."

"A mere superstitious impression, Agnes dear: nothing more, you may
depend upon it. I am in the vigour of manhood. My mind is yet clear,
strong, and suggestive--and my reason, I hope, more closely
discriminating, as every man's should be with each added year of his
life. Shall I let all these powers slumber in disgraceful
inactivity! No, Agnes, it cannot, must not be."

Mr. Markland spoke with a fervid enthusiasm, that silenced his
wife--confusing her thoughts, but in no way inspiring her with
confidence. Hitherto, he had felt desirous of concealing from her
the fact that he was really entering into new business
responsibilities; but now, in his confident anticipations of
success, he divulged a portion of the enlarged range of operations
in which he was to be an active co-worker.

"We have enough, Edward," was the almost mournfully-uttered reply of
Mrs. Markland--"why, then, involve yourself in business cares? Large
transactions like those bring anxious days and wakeful nights. They
are connected with trouble, fatigue, disappointment, and, Edward!
_sometimes ruin_!"

Very impressively were the last words spoken; but Mr. Markland
answered almost lightly--

"None of your imagined drawbacks have any terror for me, Agnes. As
for the ruin, I shall take good care not to invite that by any large
risks or imprudent speculations. There are few dangers for wise and
prudent men, in any business. It is the blind who fall into the
ditch--the reckless who stumble. You may be very certain that your
husband will not shut his eyes in walking along new paths, nor
attempt the navigation of unaccustomed seas without the most
reliable charts."

To this, Mrs. Markland could answer nothing. But his words gave her
no stronger confidence in the successful result of his schemes; for
well assured was she, in her perceptive Christian philosophy, that
man's success in any pursuit was no accidental thing, nor always
dependent on his own prudence; the ends he had in view oftener
determining the result, than any merit or defect in the means
employed. So, the weight of concern which this new direction of her
husband's active purpose had laid upon her heart, was in no way
lightened by his confident assurances.

CHAPTER XVI.

MR. MARKLAND went to the city early on the next morning. Fanny had
not made her appearance when he left. This fact, at any other time,
would have excited his attention, and caused an earnest inquiry as
to the cause of her absence from the morning meal. But now his
thoughts were too intently fixed on other things. He had suddenly
become an aeriel castle-builder, and all his mind was absorbed in
contemplating the magnificent structures that were rising up at the
creative touch of imagination.

Mr. Brainard, upon whom he called immediately upon his arrival in
the city, was not so easily satisfied on the subject of Mr. Lyon's
alleged return to the city. He happened to know Mr. Willet, and,
while he admitted that there was a general resemblance between the
two men, did not consider it sufficiently striking to deceive any
one as to the identity of either.

"But _I_ was deceived," confidently asserted Mr. Markland.

"That is not so remarkable under the circumstances," was answered.
"You had Lyon distinctly in your thought, from being most positively
assured of his recent presence in your neighbourhood, and when a
stranger, bearing some resemblance to him, suddenly came in sight, I
do not wonder that you were on the instant deceived. I might have
been."

"I am sure of it. The likeness between the two men is remarkable."

"But Willet has no hair mole on his cheek; and to that mark, you
will remember, Lamar particularly testified."

"The mark may only have been in his mind, and not on the face of the
person he met. Believing it to be Mr. Lyon, he saw the hair mole, as
well as the other peculiarities of his countenance."

"No such explanations can satisfy me," replied Mr. Brainard. "I have
thought over the matter a great deal since I saw you, and my mind is
pretty well made up to withdraw from this whole business while I am
at liberty to do so, without pecuniary loss or any compromise of
honour."

"And let such a golden opportunity pass?" said Markland, in a voice
husky with disappointment.

"If you will," was calmly answered. "I am a firm believer in the
'bird in the hand' doctrine. There are a great many fine singers in
the bush, but I want to see them safely caged before I neglect the
door that shuts in the bird I possess already."

"But you surely cannot be in earnest about withdrawing from this
business," said Markland.

"Very much in earnest. Since yesterday, I have turned the matter
over in my mind constantly, and viewed it in many lights and from
many positions; and my deliberate convictions are, that it is wisest
for me to have nothing whatever to do with these splendid schemes;
and if you will be governed by an old stager's advice, resolve to
act likewise."

"When my hands are once fairly on the plough," answered Mr.
Markland, "I never look back. Before engaging in any new business, I
thoroughly examine its promise, and carefully weigh all the
probabilities of success or failure. After my decision is made, I
never again review the ground over which I travelled in coming to a
decision, but pass onward with faith and vigour in the
accomplishment of all that I have undertaken. More men are ruined by
vacillation than from any other cause."

"My observation brings me to another conclusion," quietly returned
Mr. Brainard. The earnest enthusiasm of the one, and the immovable
coolness of the other, were finely contrasted.

"And what is that?" inquired Mr. Markland.

"Why, that more men are ruined by a blind perseverance in going the
wrong way, than from any other cause. Were we infallible in
judgment, it might be well enough to govern ourselves in all
important matters on the principle you indicate. But, as we are not,
like wise navigators, we should daily make new observations, and
daily examine our charts. The smallest deviation from a right line
will make an immense error in the course of a long voyage."

"Wise business men are in little danger of making errors," said
Markland, confidently.

"A great many sad mistakes are made daily," returned Mr. Brainard.

"Not by wise men."

"If a man's projects succeed," was rejoined, "we applaud his sound
business judgment; if they fail, we see the cause of failure so
plainly, that we are astonished at his want of forethought in not
seeing it at the beginning. But, sir, there's a divinity that shapes
our ends, rough hew them as we will. Success or failure, I am well
convinced, do not always depend on the man himself."

"Is there no virtue, then, in human prudence?" asked Mr. Markland.

"I am not prepared to say how far we may depend on human prudence,"
replied the other; "but I know this, that if we fail to use it, we
will fail in most of our undertakings. Human prudence must be
exercised in all cases; but, too often, we let our confident hopes
take the place of prudence, as I think you are doing now."

"But surely, Mr. Brainard," said Markland, in an earnest, appealing
way, "you do not intend receding from this business?"

"My mind is fully made up," was answered.

"And so is mine," firmly replied Markland.

"To do what?"

"To take the whole interest myself."

"What?"

"To invest forty thousand dollars, instead of the proposed twenty,
at once."

"You show strong faith, certainly."

"My faith, you may be sure, is well grounded. Mr. Fenwick has
already put in that sum, and he is not the man to go blindly into
any business. Apart from my own clear intuitions, founded on the
most careful investigations, I would almost be willing to take risks
in any schemes that Mr. Fenwick approved, in the substantial way of
investment."

"A very different man am I," said Mr. Brainard. "Twenty years of
sharp experience are sufficient to make me chary of substituting
others' business judgment for my own."

"Ah, well!" returned Markland, his manner showing him to be
disappointed and annoyed. "I cannot but regret your hasty decision
in this matter. So far as it concerns myself, even if I saw cause to
recede, which I do not, I am too far committed, with both Fenwick
and Lyon, to hesitate."

"Every man must decide in such cases for himself," said Brainard. "I
always do. If you are fully assured in every particular, and have
confidence in your men, your way is of course clear."

"It is clear," was confidently answered, "and I shall walk in it
with full assurance of a successful end."

CHAPTER XVII.

IT was some time after her father left for the city, before Fanny
came down from her room. She was pale, and looked as if she had
passed a sleepless night. Her mother's concerned inquiries were
answered evasively, and it was very apparent that she wished to
avoid question and observation.

Aunt Grace again sought, in her obtrusive way, to penetrate the
mystery of Fanny's changed exterior, but was no more successful than
on the preceding evening.

"Don't worry her with so many questions, sister," said Mrs.
Markland, aside, to Aunt Grace; "I will know all in good time."

"Your good time may prove a very bad time," was answered, a little
sharply.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Mrs. Markland, turning her eyes
full upon the face of her companion.

"I mean that in any matter affecting so deeply a girl like Fanny,
the mother's time for knowing all about it is now. Something is
wrong, you may depend upon it."

At the commencement of this conversation, Fanny retired from the
room.

"The child's mind has been disturbed by the unfortunate letter from
Mr. Lyon. The something wrong goes not beyond this."

"Unfortunate! You may well say unfortunate. I don't know what has
come over Edward. He isn't the same man that he was, before that
foreign adventurer darkened our sunny home with his presence.
Unfortunate! It is worse than unfortunate! Edward's sending that
letter at all was more a crime than a mistake. But as to the wrong
in regard to Fanny, I am not so sure that it only consists in a
disturbance of her mind."

There was a look of mystery, blended with anxious concern, in the
countenance of Aunt Grace, that caused Mrs. Markland to say,
quickly--

"Speak out what is in your thoughts, Grace. Have no concealments
with me, especially on a subject like this."

"I may be over-suspicious--I may wrong the dear child--but--"

Aunt Grace looked unusually serious.

"But what?" Mrs. Markland had grown instantly pale at the strange
words of her husband's sister.

"John, the gardener, says that he saw Mr. Lyon on the day after
Edward went to New York."

"Where?"

"Not far from here."

"Deceived, as Edward was. John saw our new neighbour, Mr. Willet."

"Maybe so, and maybe not; and I am strongly inclined to believe in
the maybe not. As for that Lyon, I have no faith in him, and never
had, as you know, from the beginning. And I shouldn't be at all
surprised if he were prowling about here, trying to get stolen
interviews with Fanny."

"Grace! How dare you suggest such a thing?" exclaimed Mrs. Markland,
with an energy and indignation almost new to her character.

Grace was rather startled by so unexpected a response from her
sister-in-law, and for a moment or two looked abashed.

"Better be scared than hurt, you know, Agnes," she replied, coolly,
as soon as she had recovered herself.

"Not if scared by mere phantoms of our own diseased imaginations,"
said Mrs. Markland.

"There is something more solid than a phantom in the present case,
I'm afraid. What do you suppose takes Fanny away so often, all by
herself, to the Fountain Grove?"

"Grace Markland! What can you mean by such a question?" The mother
of Fanny looked frightened.

"I put the question to you for answer," said Grace, coolly. "The
time was, and that time is not very distant, when Fanny could
scarcely be induced to go a hundred yards from the house, except in
company. Now, she wanders away alone, almost daily; and if you
observe the direction she takes, you will find that it is toward
Fountain Grove. And John says that it was near this place that he
met Mr. Lyon."

"Mr. Willet, you mean," said Mrs. Markland, firmly.

"None are so blind as those who will not see," retorted Aunt Grace,
in her impulsive way. "If any harm comes to the child, you and
Edward will have none but yourselves to blame. Forewarned,
forearmed, is a wise saying, by which you seem in no way inclined to
profit."

Even while this conversation was in progress, the subject of it had
taken herself away to the sweet, retired spot where, since her
meeting with Mr. Lyon, she had felt herself drawn daily with an
almost irresistible influence. As she passed through the thick,
encircling grove that surrounded the open space where the beautiful
summer-house stood and the silvery waters sported among the statues,
she was startled by a rustling noise, as of some one passing near.
She stopped suddenly, her heart beating with a rapid motion, and
listened intently. Was she deceived, or did her eyes really get
uncertain glimpses of a form hurriedly retiring through the trees?
For nearly a minute she stood almost as still as one of the marble
figures that surrounded the fountain. Then, with slow, almost
stealthy footsteps, she moved onward, glancing, as she did so, from
side to side, and noting every object in the range of vision with a
sharp scrutiny. On gaining the summer-house, the first object that
met her eyes was a folded letter, lying upon the marble table. To
spring forward and seize it was the work of an instant. It bore her
own name, and in the now familiar hand of Lee Lyon!

A strong agitation seized upon the frame of the young girl, as she
caught up the unexpected letter. It was some moments before her
trembling fingers could break the seal and unfold the missive. Then
her eyes drank in, eagerly, its contents:

"MY EVER DEAR FANNY:--Since our meeting at the fountain, I cannot
say to you all that I would say in any letter under care to your
father, and so I entrust this to a faithful messenger, who will see
that it reaches your hands. I am now far to the South again, in
prosecution of most important business, the safe progress of which
would be interrupted, and the whole large result endangered, were
your father to know of my visit at Woodbine Lodge at a time when he
thought me hundreds of miles distant. So, for his sake, as well as
my own, be discreet for a brief period. I will not long permit this
burden of secrecy to lie upon your dear young heart--oh no! I could
not be so unjust to you. Your truest, best, wisest counsellor is
your mother, and she should know all that is in your heart. Keep
your secret only for a little while, and then I will put you in full
liberty to speak of all that has just occurred. None will approve
your discretion more than your parents, I know, when all the grave
reasons for this concealment are disclosed. Dear Fanny! how
ever-present to me you are. It seems, often, as if you were moving
by my side. In lonely moments, how like far off, sweet music, comes
your voice stealing into my heart. Beloved one!--"

A sudden sound of approaching feet caused Fanny to crumple the
letter, scarcely half read, in her hand, and thrust it into her
bosom. Turning towards the point from whence the noise came, she
perceived the form of her mother, who was only a few paces distant.
Mrs. Markland saw the letter in Fanny's hand, and also saw the hasty
motion of concealment. When she entered the summer-house where her
daughter, who had risen up hurriedly, stood in the attitude of one
suddenly alarmed, she marked with deep concern the agitated play of
her countenance, and the half-guilty aversion of her eyes.

"My dear child!" she said, in a low, serious voice, as she laid a
hand upon her, "what am I to understand by the singular change that
has passed over you, and particularly by the strong disturbance of
this moment? Why are you here alone? And why are you so startled at
your mother's appearance?"

Fanny only bowed her face upon her mother's bosom, and, sobbed
violently.

As the wildness of her emotion subsided, Mrs. Markland said:--

"Speak freely to your best friend, my darling child! Hide nothing
from one who loves you better than any human heart can love you."

But Fanny answered not, except by a fresh gush of tears.

"Have you nothing to confide to your mother?" inquired Mrs. Markland
in as calm a voice as she could assume, after waiting long enough
for the heart of her daughter to beat with a more even stroke.

"Nothing," was answered in a voice as calm as that in which the
interrogation was asked.

"Nothing, Fanny? Oh, my child! Do not deceive your mother!"

Fanny drew her slight form up into something of a proud attitude,
and stood for an instant looking at her mother almost defiantly. But
this was only for an instant. For scarcely was the position assumed,
ere she had flung herself forward, again sobbing violently, into her
arms.

But, for all this breaking down of her feelings, Fanny's lips
remained sealed. She was not yet prepared to give up her lover's
secret--and did not do so.

CHAPTER XVIII.

ALL doubt in regard to the presence of Mr. Lyon in the neighborhood,
as affirmed by Mr. Lamar and others, had, as we have seen, passed
from the mind of Markland. He was entirely satisfied that the
individual seen by these men was Mr. Willet. But since the refusal
of Brainard, regarded as one of the shrewdest men in the city, to
enter into a speculation to him so full of promise, he did not feel
altogether easy in mind. He had spoken more from impulse than sound
judgment, when he declared it to be his purpose to risk forty
thousand dollars in the scheme, instead of twenty thousand. A cooler
state left room for doubts. What did he really know of Mr. Lyon, on
whose discretion, as an agent, so much would depend? The question
intruded itself, like an unwelcome guest; and his effort to answer
it to his own satisfaction was in vain. Had he been in possession of
his daughter's secret, all would have been plain before him. Not for
an instant would he have hesitated about keeping faith with a man
who could so deceive him.

"I must see Mr. Fenwick again," he said, in his perplexity, after
leaving the office of Mr. Brainard.

"Forty thousand dollars is a large sum to invest; and I shall have
to sell some of my best property to raise it property yearly
increasing in value. Twenty thousand I could have managed by parting
with stocks. What folly in Brainard! I'm sadly out with him. Yes, I
must see Mr. Fenwick immediately."

In the next train that left for New York, Mr. Markland was a
passenger. A hurried note, received by his family that evening,
announced the fact of his journey, and threw a deeper shadow on the
heart of his troubled wife.

Vainly had Mrs. Markland striven to gain the unreserved confidence
of Fanny. The daughter's lips were sealed. Pressing importunity
plainly wrought something akin to estrangement; and so, with tears
in her eyes and anguish in her heart, the mother turned from her
pale-faced child, and left her alone. An hour after being surprised
by her mother at the Fountain Grove, Fanny glided into her own room,
and turned the key. The letter of Mr. Lyon was still in her bosom,
and now, with eager hands, she drew it forth, and read to the end--

--"Beloved one! How often have I blessed the kind Providence that
led me into your presence. How strange are these things! For years I
have moved amid a blaze of beauty, and coldly turned away from a
thousand glittering attractions. But, when my eyes first saw you,
there was a pause in my heart's pulsations. I felt that my soul's
companion was discovered to me; that, henceforth, my life and yours
were to blend. Ah, dear one! wonder not that, from a hasty impulse,
I decided to return and see your father. I fear, now, that the cause
most strongly influencing me was the desire to look upon your face
and feel the thrilling touch of your hand once more. Perhaps it is
well he was absent, for I am not so sure that his cooler judgment
would have seen sufficient cause for the act. All is going on now
just as he, and I, and all concerned, could wish; and not for the
world would I have him know, _at present_, our secret. Stolen
waters, they say, are sweet. I know not. But that brief, stolen
interview at the fountain, was full of sweetness to me. You looked
the very Naiad of the place--pure, spiritual, the embodiment of all
things lovely. Forgive this warmth of feeling. I would not wound the
instinctive delicacy of a heart like yours. Only believe me sincere.
Will you not write to me? Direct your letters, under cover, to D. C.
L., Baltimore P. O., and they will be immediately forwarded. I will
write you weekly. The same hand that conveys this, will see that my
letters reach you. Farewell, beloved one!

LEE LYON."

Five times did Fanny attempt to answer this, and as often were her
letters destroyed by her own hands. Her sixth, if not more to her
own satisfaction, she sealed, and subscribed as directed. It read
thus:

"MR. LEE LYON:--MY DEAR SIR--Your unexpected visit, and equally
unexpected letter, have bewildered and distressed me. You enjoin a
continued silence in regard to your return from the South. Oh, sir!
remove that injunction as quickly as possible; for every hour that
it remains, increases my unhappiness. You have separated between me
and my good mother,--you are holding me back from throwing myself on
her bosom, and letting her see every thought of my soul. I cannot
very long endure the present. Why not at once write to my father,
and explain all to him? He must know that you came back, and the
sooner, it seems to me, will be the better. If I do not betray the
fact, waking, I shall surely do it in my sleep; for I think of it
all the time. Mother surprised me while reading your letter. I am
afraid she saw it in my hand. She importuned me to give her my full
confidence; and to refuse was one of the hardest trials of my life.
I feel that I am changing under this new, painful experience. The
ordeal is too fiery. If it continues much longer, I shall cease to
be what I was when you were here; and you will find me, on your
return, so changed as to be no longer worthy of your love. Oh, sir!
pity the child you have awakened from a peaceful, happy dream, into
a real life of mingled pain and joy. From the cup you have placed to
my lips, I drink with an eager thirst. The draught is delicious to
the taste, but it intoxicates--nay, maddens me!

"Write back to me at once, dear Mr. Lyon! I shall count the minutes
as hours, until your letter comes. Let the first words be--'Tell all
to your mother.' If you cannot write this, we must be as strangers,
for I will not bind myself to a man who would make me untrue to my
parents. You say that you love me. Love seeks another's happiness.
If you really love me, seek my happiness.

FANNY."

Many times did Fanny read over this letter before resolving to send
it. Far, very far, was it from satisfying her. She feared that it
was too cold--too repellant--too imperative. But it gave the true
alternative. She was not yet ready to abandon father and mother for
one who had thrown a spell over her heart almost as strong as the
enchantment of a sorcerer; and she wished him distinctly to
understand this.

Mr. Lyon was in a southern city when this letter came into his
hands. He was sitting at a table covered with various documents, to
the contents of which he had been giving a long and earnest
attention, when a servant brought in a number of letters from the
post-office. He selected from the package one post-marked Baltimore,
and broke the seal in a hurried and rather nervous manner. As he
opened it, an enclosure fell upon the table. It was superscribed
with his name, in the delicate hand of a woman. This was Fanny's
letter.

A careful observer would have seen more of selfish triumph in the
gleam that shot across his face, than true love's warm delight. The
glow faded into a look of anxiety as he commenced unfolding the
letter, which he read with compressed lips. A long breath, as if a
state of suspense were relieved, followed the perusal. Then he sat,
for some moments, very still, and lost in thought.

"We'll see about that," he murmured at length, laying the letter of
Fanny aside, and taking up sundry other letters which had come by
the same mail. For more than an hour these engrossed his attention.
Two of them, one from Mr. Markland, were answered during the time.

"Now, sweetheart," he said, almost lightly, as he took Fanny's
letter from the table. Every word was read over again, his brows
gradually contracting as he proceeded.

"There is some spirit about the girl; more than I had thought. My
going back was a foolish blunder. But the best will have to be made
of it. Not a whisper must come to Mr. Markland. That is a settled
point. But how is the girl to be managed?"

Lyon mused for a long time.

"Dear child!" He now spoke with a tender expression. "I have laid
too heavy a weight on your young heart, and I wish it were in my
power to remove it; but it is not."

He took a pen, as he said this, and commenced writing an answer to
Fanny's letter:--

"DEAREST ONE:--Tell all to your mother; but, in doing so, let it be
clearly in your mind that an eternal separation between us must
follow as a consequence. I do not say this as a threat--ah, no! Nor
are you to understand that I will be offended. No--no--no--nothing
of this. I only speak of what must come as the sure result. The
moment your father learns that I was at Woodbine Lodge, and had an
interview with his daughter, at a time when he thought me far
distant, our business and personal relations must cease. He will
misjudge me from evidence to his mind powerfully conclusive; and I
shall be unable to disabuse him of error, because appearances are
against me. But I put you in entire freedom. Go to your
mother-confide to her every thing; and, if it be possible, get back
the peace of which my coming unhappily robbed you. Think not of any
consequences to me--fatal though they should prove. The wide world
is before me still.

"And now, dear Fanny! If our ways in life must part, let us hold
each other at least in kind remembrance. It will ever grieve me to
think that our meeting occasioned a ripple to disturb the tranquil
surface of your feelings. I could not help loving you--and for that
I am not responsible. Alas! that, in loving, I should bring pain to
the heart of the beloved one.

"But why say more? Why trouble your spirit by revealing the
disturbance of mine? Heaven bless you and keep you, Fanny; and may
your sky be ever bathed in sunshine! I leave my destiny in your
hands, and pray for strength to bear the worst.

Adieu.
L. L."

There was a flitting smile on the lips of the young Englishman, as
he folded and sealed this letter, and a look of assurance on his
face, that little accorded with the words he had just written. Again
he took up his pen and wrote--

"MY DEAR D. C. L.:--Faithful as ever you have proved in this affair,
which is growing rather too complicated, and beginning to involve
too many interests. Miss Markland is fretting sadly under the
injunction of secresy, and says that I must release her from the
obligation not to mention my hasty return from the South. And so I
have written to her, that she may divulge the fact to her mother.
You start, and I hear you say--'Is the man mad?' No, not mad, my
friend; or, if mad, with a method in his madness. Fanny will not
tell her mother. Trust me for that. The consequences I have clearly
set forth--probable ruin to my prospects, and an eternal separation
between us. Do you think she will choose this alternative? Not she.
'Imprudent man! To risk so much for a pretty face!' I hear you
exclaim. Not all for a pretty face, my grave friend. The alliance,
if it can be made, is a good one. Markland, as far as I can learn,
is as rich as a Jew; he has a bold, suggestive mind, a large share
of enthusiasm, and is, take him all in all, just the man we want
actively interested in our scheme. Brainard, he writes me, has
backed out. I don't like that; and I like still less the reason
assigned for his doing so. 'A foolish report that you were seen in
the city some days after your departure for the South, has disturbed
his confidence, and he positively refuses to be a partner in the
arrangement.' That looks bad; doesn't it? Markland seems not to have
the slightest suspicion, and says that he will take the whole forty
thousand interest himself, if necessary. He was going, immediately,
to New York, to consult with Mr. Fenwick. A good move. Fenwick
understands himself thoroughly, and will manage our gentleman.

"Get the enclosed safely into the hands of Fanny, and with as little
delay as possible. I am growing rather nervous about the matter. Be
very discreet. The slightest error might ruin all. If possible,
manage to come in contact with Brainard, and hear how he talks of
me, and of our enterprise. You will know how to neutralize any
gratuitous assertions he may feel inclined to make. Also get, by
some means, access to Mr. Markland. I want your close observation in
this quarter. Write me, promptly and fully, and, for the present,
direct to me here. I shall proceed no farther for the present.

As ever, yours,
L. L."

CHAPTER XIX.

THE visit to New York, and interview with Mr. Fenwick, fully assured
Mr. Markland, and he entered into a formal agreement to invest the
sum of forty thousand dollars in the proposed scheme: ten thousand
dollars to be paid down at once, and the balance at short dates. He
remained away two days, and then returned to make immediate
arrangements for producing the money. The ten thousand dollars were
raised by the sale of State six per cent. stocks, a transaction that
at once reduced his annual income about six hundred dollars. The sum
was transmitted to New York.

"Have you reconsidered that matter?" inquired Markland, a few days
after his return, on meeting with Mr. Brainard.

"No, but I hope you have," was answered in a serious tone.

"I have been to New York since I saw you."

"Ah! and seen Mr. Fenwick again?"

"Yes."

"Did you mention the report of Lyon's return?"

"I did."

"How did it strike him?"

"As preposterous, of course."

"He did not credit the story?"

"Not he."

"Well, I hope, for your sake, that all will come out right."

"Never fear."

"By-the-way," said Mr. Brainard, "what do you really know about
Fenwick? You appear to have the highest confidence in his judgment.
Does this come from a personal knowledge of the man, or are you
governed in your estimate by common report?"

"He is a man of the first standing in New York. No name, in money
circles, bears a higher reputation."

Brainard slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"The common estimate of a man, in any community, is apt to be very
near the truth," said Mr. Markland.

"Generally speaking, this is so," was replied. "But every now and
then the public mind is startled by exceptions to the rule--and
these exceptions have been rather frequent; of late years. As for
Fenwick, he stands fair enough, in a general way. If he were to send
me an order for five thousand dollars' worth of goods, I would sell
him, were I a merchant, without hesitation. But to embark with him
in a scheme of so much magnitude is another thing altogether, and I
wonder at myself, now, that I was induced to consider the matter at
all. Since my withdrawal, and cooler thought on the subject, I
congratulate myself, daily, on the escape I have made."

"Escape! From what!" Mr. Markland looked surprised.

"From loss; it may be, ruin."

"You would hardly call the loss of twenty thousand dollars, ruin."

"Do you expect to get off with an investment of only twenty thousand
dollars?" asked Mr. Brainard.

"No; for I have agreed to put in forty thousand."

Brainard shook his head ominously, and looked very grave.

"I knew of no other man in the city with whom I cared to be
associated; and so, after you declined, took the whole amount that
wats to be raised here, myself."

"A hasty and unwise act, believe me, Mr. Markland," said the other.
"How soon do you expect returns from this investment?"

"Not for a year, at least."

"Say not for two years."

"Well--admit it. What then?"

"Your annual income is at once diminished in the sum of about
twenty-five hundred dollars, the interest on these forty thousand
dollars. So, at the end of two years, you are the loser of five
thousand dollars by your operation."

"It would be, if the new business paid nothing. But, when it begins
to pay, it will be at the rate of one or two hundred per cent. on
the amounts paid in."

"May be so."

"Oh! I am sure of it."

"The whole scheme has a fair front, I will admit," answered
Brainard. "But I have seen so many days that rose in sunshine go
down in storm, that I have ceased to be over confident. If forty
thousand were the whole of your investment, you might, for so large
a promised return, be justified in taking the risk."

"Mr. Fenwick thinks nothing further will be required," said
Markland.

"But don't you remember the letter, in which he stated, distinctly,
that several assessments would, in all probability, be made, pro
rata, on each partner?"

"Yes; and I called Mr. Fenwick's attention to that statement; for I
did not care to go beyond forty thousand."

"What answer did he make?"

"Later intelligence had exhibited affairs in such a state of
progress, that it was now certain no further advance of capital
would be required."

"I hope not, for your sake," returned Brainard.

"I am sure not," said Markland, confidently, A third party here
interrupted the conversation, and the two men separated.

As might be supposed, this interview did not leave the most
agreeable impression on the feelings of Markland. The fact that in
selling stocks and other property to the amount of forty thousand
dollars, and locking up that large sum in an unproductive
investment, he would diminish his yearly income over twenty-five
hundred dollars, did not present the most agreeable view of the
case. He had not thought of this, distinctly, before. A little
sobered in mind, he returned homeward during the afternoon. Ten
thousand dollars had gone forward to New York; and in the course of
next week he must produce a sum of equal magnitude. To do this,
would require the sale of a piece of real estate that had, in five
years, been doubled in value, and which promised to be worth still
more. He felt a particular reluctance to selling this property; and
the necessity for doing so worried his mind considerably. "Better
let well enough alone." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush." One after another, these trite little sayings would come up
in his thoughts, unbidden, as if to add to his mental disquietude.

In spite of his efforts to thrust them aside, and to get back his
strong confidence in the new business, Mr. Markland's feelings
steadily declined towards a state of unpleasant doubt. Reason as he
would on the subject, he could not overcome the depression from
which he suffered.

"I am almost sorry that I was tempted to embark in this business,"
he at length said to himself, the admission being extorted by the
pressure on his feelings. "If I could, with honour and safety,
withdraw, I believe I would be tempted to do so. But that is really
not to be thought of now. My hands have grasped the plough, and
there must be no wavering or looking back. This is all an unworthy
weakness."

Mr. Markland had gained the entrance to Woodbine Lodge, but be was
in no state of mind to join his family. So he alighted and sent his
carriage forward, intending to linger on his way to the house, in
order to regain his lost equilibrium. He had been walking alone for
only a few minutes, with his eyes upon the ground, when a crackling
noise among the underwood caused him to look up, and turn himself in
the direction from which the sound came. In doing so, he caught
sight of the figure of a man retiring through the trees, and
evidently, from his movements, anxious to avoid observation. Mr.
Markland stood still and gazed after him until his figure passed
from sight. The impression this incident made upon him was
unpleasant. The person of the stranger was so much hidden by trees,
that he could make out no resemblance whatever.

It was near that part of Mr. Markland's grounds known as the
Fountain Grove, where this occurred, and the man, to all appearance,
had been there. The impulse for him to turn aside was, therefore,
but natural, and he did so. Passing through a style, and ascending
by a few steps to the level of the ornamental grounds surrounding
the grove and fountain, the first object that he saw was his
daughter Fanny, moving hastily in the direction of the summer-house
which has been described. She was only a short distance in advance.
Mr. Markland quickened his steps, as a vague feeling of uneasiness
came over him. The coincidence of the stranger and his daughter's
presence produced a most unpleasant impression.

"Fanny!" he called.

That his daughter heard him, he knew by the start she gave. But
instead of looking around, she sprang forward, and hastily entered
the summer-house. For a moment or two she was hidden from his view,
and in that short period she had snatched a letter from the table,
and concealed it in her bosom. Not sufficiently schooled in the art
of self-control was Fanny to meet her father with a calm face. Her
cheeks were flushed, and her chest rose and fell in hurried
respiration, as Mr. Markland entered the summer-house, where she had
seated herself.

"You are frightened, my child," said he, fixing his eyes with a look
of inquiry on her face. "Didn't you see me, as I turned in from the
carriage-way?" he added.

"No, sir," was falteringly answered. "I did not know that you had
returned from the city until I heard your voice. It came so
unexpectedly that I was startled."

Fanny, as she said this, did not meet her father's gaze, but let her
eyes rest upon the ground.

"Are you going to remain here?" asked Mr. Markland.

"I came to spend a little while alone in this sweet place, but I
will go back to the house if you wish it," she replied.

"Perhaps you had better do so. I saw a strange man between this and
the main road, and he seemed as if he desired to avoid observation."

Fanny started, and looked up, with an expression of fear, into her
father's face. The origin of that look Mr. Markland did not rightly
conjecture. She arose at once, and said--

"Let us go home."

But few words passed between father and daughter on the way, and
their brief intercourse was marked by a singular embarrassment on
both sides.

How little suspicion of the real truth was in the mind of Mr.
Markland! Nothing was farther from his thoughts than the idea that
Fanny had just received a letter from Mr. Lyon, and that the man he
had seen was the messenger by whom the missive had been conveyed to
the summer-house. A minute earlier, and that letter would have come
into his hands. How instantly would a knowledge of its contents have
affected all the purposes that were now leading him on with almost
the blindness of infatuation. The man he was trusting so implicitly
would have instantly stood revealed as a scheming, unprincipled
adventurer. In such estimation, at least, he must have been held by
Mr. Markland, and his future actions would have been governed by
that estimate.

The answer to Fanny's earnest, almost peremptory demand, to be
released from the injunction not to tell her parents of Mr. Lyon's
return, was in her possession, and the instant she could get away to
her own room, she tore the letter open. The reader already knows its
contents. The effect upon her was paralizing. He had said that she
was in freedom to speak, but the consequences portrayed were too
fearful to contemplate. In freedom? No! Instead of loosing the cords
with which he had bound her spirit, he had only drawn them more
tightly. She was in freedom to speak, but the very first word she
uttered would sound the knell of her young heart's fondest hopes.
How, then, could she speak that word? Lyon had not miscalculated the
effect of his letter on the inexperienced, fond young girl, around
whose innocent heart he had woven a spell of enchantment. Most
adroitly had he seemed to leave her free to act from her own
desires, while he had made that action next to impossible.

How rapidly, sometimes, does the young mind gain premature strength
when subjected to strong trial. Little beyond an artless child was
Fanny Markland when she first met the fascinating young stranger;
and now she was fast growing into a deep-feeling, strong-thinking
woman. Hitherto she had leaned with tender confidence on her
parents, and walked the paths lovingly where they led the way. Now
she was moving, with unaided footsteps, along a new and rugged road,
that led she knew not whither; for clouds and darkness were in the
forward distance. At every step, she found a new strength and a new
power of endurance growing up in her young spirit. Thought, too, was
becoming clearer and stronger. The mature woman had suddenly taken
the place of the shrinking girl.

CHAPTER XX.

HALF the night, following the receipt of Mr. Lyon's letter, was
spent in writing an answer. Imploringly she besought him to release
her, truly, from the obligation to secrecy with which he had bound
her. Most touchingly did she picture her state of mind, and the
change wrought by it upon her mother. "I cannot bear this much
longer," she said. "I am too weak for the burden you have laid upon
me. It must be taken away soon, or I will sink under the weight. Oh,
sir! if, as you say, you love me, prove that love by restoring me to
my parents. Now, though present with them in body, I am removed from
them in spirit. My mother's voice has a strange sound in my ears;
and when she gazes sadly into my face I can hardly believe that it
is my mother who is looking upon me. If she touches me, I start as
if guilty of a crime. Oh, sir! to die would be easy for me now. What
a sweet relief utter forgetfulness would be."

When Fanny awoke on the next morning, she found her mother standing
beside her bed, and gazing down upon her face with a tender, anxious
look. Sleep had cleared the daughter's thoughts and tranquilized her
feelings. As her mother bent over and kissed her, she threw her arms
around her neck and clung to her tightly.

"My dear child!" said Mrs. Markland, in a loving voice.

"Dear, dear mother!" was answered, with a gush of feeling.

"Something is troubling you, Fanny. You are greatly changed. Will
you not open your heart to me?"

"Oh, mother!" She sobbed out the words.

"Am I not your truest friend?" said Mrs. Markland, speaking calmly,
but very tenderly.

Fanny did not reply.

"Have I ever proved myself unworthy of your confidence?" She spoke
as if from wounded feeling.

"Oh, no, no, dearest mother!" exclaimed Fanny. "How can you ask me
such a question?"

"You have withdrawn your confidence," was almost coldly said.

"Oh, mother!" And Fanny drew her arms more tightly about her
mother's neck, kissing her cheek passionately as she did so.

A little while Mrs. Markland waited, until her daughter's mind grew
calmer; then she said--

"You are concealing from me something that troubles you. Whatever
doubles you is of sufficient importance to be intrusted to your
mother. I am older, have had more experience than you, and am your
best friend. Not to confide in me is unjust to yourself, for, in my
counsels, more than in those of your own heart, is there safety."

Mrs. Markland paused, and waited for some time, but there was no
response from Fanny. She then said--

"You have received a letter from Mr. Lyon."

Fanny started as if a sudden blow had aroused her.

"And concealed the fact from your mother."

No answer; only bitter weeping.

"May I see that letter?" asked the mother, after a short pause. For
nearly a minute she waited for a reply. But there was not a word
from Fanny, who now lay as still as death. Slowly Mrs. Markland
disengaged her arm from her daughter's neck, and raised herself
erect. For the space of two or three minutes she sat on the bedside.
All this time there was not the slightest movement on the part of
Fanny. Then she arose and moved slowly across the room. Her hand was
on the door, and the sound of the latch broke the silence of the
room. At this instant the unhappy girl started up, and cried, in
tones of anguish--

"Oh, my mother! my mother! come back!"

Mrs. Markland returned slowly, and with the air of one who
hesitated. Fanny leaned forward against her, and wept freely.

"It is not yet too late, my child, to get back the peace of mind
which this concealment has destroyed. Mr. Lyon has written to you?"

"Yes, mother."

"May I see his letter?"

There was no answer.

"Still not willing to trust your best friend," said Mrs. Markland.

"_Can_ I trust you?" said Fanny, raising herself up suddenly, and
gazing steadily into her mother's face. Mrs. Markland was startled
as well by the words of her daughter as by the strange expression of
her countenance.

"Trust me? What do you mean by such words?" she answered.

"If I tell you a secret, will you, at least for a little while, keep
it in your own heart."

"Keep it from whom?"

"From father."

"You frighten me, my child! What have you to do with a secret that
must be kept from your father!"

"I did not desire its custody."

"If it concerns your own or your father's welfare, so much the more
is it imperative on you to speak to him freely. No true friend could
lay upon you such an obligation, and the quicker you throw it off
the better. What is the nature of this secret?"

"I cannot speak unless you promise me."

"Promise what?"

"To conceal from father what I tell you."

"I can make no such promise, Fanny."

"Then I am bound hand and foot," said the poor girl, in a distressed
voice.

A long silence followed. Then the mother used argument and
persuasion to induce Fanny to unbosom herself. But the effort was
fruitless.

"If you promise to keep my secret for a single week, I will speak,"
said the unhappy girl, at length.

"I promise," was reluctantly answered.

"You know," answered Fanny, "it was rumored that Mr. Lyon had
returned from the South while father was in New York." She did not
look up at her mother as she said this.

"Yes." Mrs. Markland spoke eagerly.

"It is true that he was here."

"And you saw him?"

"Yes. I was sitting alone in the summer-house, over at the Fountain
Grove, on the day after father went to New York, when I was
frightened at seeing Mr. Lyon. He inquired anxiously if father were
at home, and was much troubled when I told him he had gone to New
York. He said that he had written to him to transact certain
business; and that after writing he had seen reason to change his
views, and fearing that a letter might not reach him in time, had
hurried back in order to have a personal interview, but arrived too
late. Father had already left for New York. This being so, he
started back for the South at once, after binding me to a brief
secrecy. He said that the fact of his return, if it became known to
father, might be misunderstood by him, and the consequence of such a
misapprehension would be serious injury to important interests. So
far I have kept this secret, mother, and it has been to me a painful
burden. You have promised to keep it for a single week."

"And this is all?" said Mrs. Markland, looking anxiously into her
daughter's face.

"No, not all." Fanny spoke firmly. "I have since received two
letters from him."

"May I see them?"

Fanny hesitated for some moments, and then going to a drawer, took
two letters therefrom, and handed one of them to her mother. Mrs.
Markland read it eagerly.

"You answered this?" she said.

"Yes."

"What did you say?"

"I cannot repeat my words. I was half beside myself, and only begged
him to let me speak to you freely."

"And his reply?" said Mrs. Markland.

"Read it;" and Fanny gave her the second letter.

"Have you answered this?" inquired Mrs. Markland, after reading it
over twice.

Fanny moved across the room again, and taking from the same drawer
another letter, folded and sealed, broke the seal, and gave it to
her mother.

"My poor, bewildered, unhappy child!" said Mrs. Markland, in a voice
unsteady from deep emotion; and she gathered her arms tightly around
her. "How little did I dream of the trials through which you were
passing. But, now that I know all, let me be your counsellor, your
supporter. You will be guided by me?"

"And you will not break your promise?" said Fanny.

"What promise?"

"To keep this from father a single week, or, until I can write to
Mr. Lyon, and give him the chance of making the communication
himself. This seems to me but just to him, as some interests,
unknown to us, are at stake."

"Believe me, my daughter, it will be wisest to let your father know
this at once."

"A week can make but little difference," urged Fanny.

"Consequences to your father, of the utmost importance, may be at
stake. He is, I fear, involving himself with this man."

"Mr. Lyon is true and honourable," said Fanny. "He committed an
error, that is all. Let him at least have the privilege of making
his own explanations. I will add to my letter that only for a week
longer can I keep his secret, and, to make an immediate revelation
imperative on him, will say that you know all, and will reveal all
at the end of that time, if he does not."

No considerations that Mrs. Markland could urge had any effect to
change the purpose of Fanny in this matter.

"I must hold you to your promise," was the brief, final answer to
every argument set forth by her mother.

How far she might hold that promise sacred was a subject of long and
grave debate in the mind of Mrs. Markland. But we will not here
anticipate her decision.

CHAPTER XXI.

OVER ten days had elapsed since Mr. Lyon answered the letter of
Fanny Markland, and he was still awaiting a reply.

"This is a risky sort of business," so his friend had written him.
"I succeeded in getting your letter into the young lady's hands, but
not without danger of discovery. For whole hours I loitered in the
grounds of Mr. Markland, and was going to leave for the city without
accomplishing my errand, when I saw Fanny coming in the direction of
the summer-house. After the letter was deposited in the place agreed
upon, and I was making my way off, I almost stumbled over her
father, who had just returned from the city. He saw me, though, of
course, he did not know me, nor suspect my errand. But my evident
desire to avoid observation must have excited some vague suspicions
in his mind; for, on reaching a point from which I could observe
without being observed, I saw that he was gazing intently in the
direction I had taken. Then he stepped aside from the road, and
walked towards the grove. But Fanny was a little in advance of him,
and secured the letter. I waited to see him join her, and then
hurried off.

"I tell you again, Lee, this is a risky business. Two days have
passed, and yet there is no answer. I've seen Markland in the city
once since that time. He looked unusually sober, I thought. Perhaps
it was only imagination. You can think so if you please. Take my
advice, and make no further advances in this direction. There is too
much danger of discovery. Markland has paid over ten thousand
dollars to Fenwick, and is to produce as much more this week. He
goes in, you know, for forty thousand. The balance ought to be had
from him as soon as possible. Write to Fenwick to get it without
delay. That is my advice. If you get his treasure, you will have his
heart. Nothing like a money interest to hold a man.

"What I fear is, that the girl has told him all. You were crazy to
say that she could do so if it pleased her. Well, well! We shall
soon see where this wind will drift us. You shall hear from me the
moment I know any thing certain."

Lyon was much disturbed by this letter. He at once wrote to Mr.
Fenwick, suggesting the propriety of getting the whole of Mr.
Markland's investment as early as possible.

"I hear," he said, "that he is somewhat inclined to vacillate. That,
after making up his mind to do a thing, and even after initiative
steps are taken, he is apt to pause, look back, and reconsider.
This, of course, will not suit us. The best way to manage him will
be to get his money in our boat, and then we are sure of him. He is
very wealthy, and can be of great use in the prosecution of our
schemes."

Two or three days more elapsed, and Lyon was getting nervously
anxious, when a letter from Fanny reached him. It was brief, but of
serious import.

"I have revealed all to my mother," it began, "and my heart feels
lighter. She promises to keep our secret one week, and no longer.
Then all will be revealed to father. I gained this much time in
order that you might have an opportunity to write and tell him every
thing yourself. This, it seems to me, will be the best way. No time
is to be lost. The week will expire quite as soon as your letter can
reach him. So pray, Mr. Lyon, write at once. I shall scarcely sleep
until all is over."

With an angry imprecation, Lyon dashed this letter on the floor.
"Mad girl!" he said; "did I not warn her fully of the consequences?
Write to her father? What shall I write? Tell him that I have
deceived him! That when he thought me far away I was sitting beside
his daughter, and tempting her to act towards him with concealment,
if not duplicity! Madness! folly!"

"I was a fool," he communed with himself in a calmer mood, "to put
so much in jeopardy for a woman! Nay, a girl--a mere child. But what
is to be done? Three days only intervene between this time and the
period at which our secret will be made known; so, whatever is to be
done must be determined quickly. Shall I treat the matter with
Markland seriously, or lightly? Not seriously, for that will surely
cause him to do the same. Lightly, of course; for the manner in
which I speak of it will have its influence. But first, I must
manage to get him off to New York, and in the hands of Fenwick. The
larger his actual investment in this business, the more easily the
matter will be settled."

So he drew a sheet of paper before him, and wrote:

"MY DEAR MR. MARKLAND:--I have had so much important correspondence
with Mr. Fenwick, our managing agent in New York, consequent on
letters from London and Liverpool by last steamer, that I have been
unable to proceed further than this point, but shall leave
to-morrow. Mr. Fenwick has some very important information to
communicate, and if he has not found time to write you, I would
advise your going on to New York immediately. At best, hurried
business letters give but imperfect notions of things. An hour's
interview with Mr. Fenwick will enable you to comprehend the present
state of affairs more perfectly than the perusal of a volume of
letters. Some new aspects have presented themselves that I
particularly wish you to consider. Mr. Fenwick has great confidence
in your judgment, and would, I know, like to confer with you.

"Do not fail to bring me to the remembrance of Mrs. Markland and
Fanny.

Ever yours,

LEE LYON."

"This for to-day's mail," said he, is he folded the letter. "If it
does the work it is designed to accomplish, time, at least, will be
gained. Now for the harder task."

Three times he tried to address Mr. Markland again, and as often
tore up his letter. A fourth trial brought something nearer the
mark.

"I'm afraid," he wrote, "a certain hasty act of mine, of which I
ought before to have advised you, may slightly disturb your
feelings. Yet don't let it have that effect, for there is no
occasion whatever. Soon after leaving for the South, I wrote you to
go to New York. The next mail brought me letters that rendered such
a visit unnecessary, and fearing a communication by mail might not
reach you promptly, I returned rapidly, and hastened to Woodbine
Lodge to see you. Approaching your dwelling, I met Fanny, and
learned from her that you had left for New York. Foolishly, as I now
see it, I desired your daughter to keep the fact a secret for a
short period, fearing lest you might not clearly comprehend my
reason for returning. I wished to explain the matter myself. This
trifling affair, it seems, has made Fanny very unhappy. I am really
sorry. But it is over now, and I trust her spirits will rise again.
You understand me fully, and can easily see why I might naturally
fall into this trifling error.

"I wrote you yesterday, and hope you acted upon my suggestion. I
proceed South in an hour. Every thing looks bright."

CHAPTER XXII.

"IT must be done this evening, Fanny," said Mrs. Markland, firmly.
"The week has expired."

"Wait until to-morrow, dear mother," was urged in a manner that was
almost imploring.

"My promise was for one week. Even against my own clear convictions
of right, have I kept it. This evening, your father must know all."

Fanny buried her face, in her hands and wept violently. The trial
and conflict of that week were, to Mrs. Markland, the severest,
perhaps, of her whole life. Never before had her mind been in so
confused a state; never had the way of duty seemed so difficult to
find. A promise she felt to be a sacred thing; and this feeling had
constrained her, even in the face of most powerful considerations,
to remain true to her word. But now, she no longer doubted or
hesitated; and she was counting the hours that must elapse before
her husband's return from the city, eager to unburden her heart to
him.

"There is hardly time," said Fanny, "for a letter to arrive from Mr.
Lyon."

"I cannot help it, my child. Any further delay on my part would be
criminal. Evil, past all remedy, may have already been done."

"I only asked for time, that Mr. Lyon might have an opportunity to
write to father, and explain every thing himself."

"Probably your father has heard from him to-day. If so, well; but,
if not, I shall certainly bring the matter to his knowledge."

There was something so decisive about Mrs. Markland, that Fanny
ceased all further attempts to influence her, and passively awaited
the issue.

The sun had only a few degrees to make ere passing from sight behind
the western mountains. It was the usual time for Mr. Markland's
return from the city, and most anxiously was his appearing looked
for. But the sun went down, and the twilight threw its veil over
wood and valley, and still his coming was delayed. He had gone in by
railroad, and not by private conveyance as usual. The latest train
had swept shrieking past, full half an hour, when Mrs. Markland
turned sadly from the portico, in which she had for a long time been
stationed, saying to Grace, who had been watching by her side--

"This is very strange! What can keep Edward? Can it be possible that
he has remained in the city all night? I'm very much troubled. He
may be sick."

"More likely," answered Grace, in a fault-finding way, "he's gone
_trapseing_ off to New York again, after that Englishman's business.
I wish he would mind his own affairs."

"He would not have done this without sending us word," replied Mrs.
Markland.

"Oh! I'm not so sure of that. I'm prepared for any thing."

"But it's not like Edward. You know that he is particularly
considerate about such things."

"He used to be. But Edward Markland of last year is not the Edward
Markland of to-day, as you know right well," returned the
sister-in-law.

"I wish you wouldn't speak in that way about Edward any more, Grace.
It is very unpleasant to me."

"The more so, because it is the truth," replied Grace Markland.
"Edward, I'll warrant you, is now sweeping off towards New York. See
if I'm not right."

"No, there he is now!" exclaimed Mrs. Markland, stepping back from
the door she was about to enter, as the sound of approaching feet
arrested her ear.

The two women looked eagerly through the dusky air. A man's form was
visible. It came nearer.

"Edward!" was just passing joyfully from the lips of Mrs. Markland,
when the word was suppressed.

"Good-evening, ladies," said a strange voice, as a man whom neither
of them recognised paused within a few steps of where they stood.

"Mr. Willet is my name," he added.

"Oh! Mr. Willet, our new neighbour," said Mrs. Markland, with a
forced composure of manner. "Walk in, if you please. We were on the
lookout for Mr. Markland. He has not yet arrived from the city, and
we are beginning to feel anxious about him."

"I am here to relieve that anxiety," replied the visitor in a
cheerful voice, as he stepped on the portico. "Mr. Markland has made
me the bearer of a message to his family."

"Where is he? What has detained him in the city?" inquired Mrs.
Markland, in tones expressing her grief and disappointment.

"He has gone to New York," replied Mr. Willet.

"To New York!"

"Yes. He desired me to say to you, that letters received by the
afternoon's mail brought information that made his presence in New
York of importance. He had no time, before the cars started, to
write, and I, therefore, bring you his verbal message."

It had been the intention of Mr. Willet to accept any courteous
invitation extended by the family to pass a part of the evening with
them; but, seeing how troubled Mrs. Markland was at the absence of
her husband, he thought it better to decline entering the house, and
wait for a better opportunity to make their more intimate
acquaintance. So he bade her a good evening, after answering what
further inquiries she wished to make, and returned to his own home.

Aunt Grace was unusually excited by the information received through
their neighbour, and fretted and talked in her excited way for some
time; but nothing that she said elicited any reply from Mrs.
Markland, who seemed half stupefied, and sat through the evening in
a state of deep abstraction, answering only in brief sentences any
remarks addressed to her. It seemed to her as if her feet had
wandered somehow into the mazes of a labyrinth, from which at each
effort to get free she was only the more inextricably involved. Her
perceptions had lost their clearness, and, still worse, her
confidence in them was diminishing. Heretofore she had reposed all
trust in her husband's rational intelligence; and her woman's nature
had leaned upon him and clung to him as the vine to the oak. As his
judgment determined, her intuitions had approved. Alas for her that
this was no longer! Hitherto she had walked by his side with a clear
light upon their path. She was ready to walk on still, and to walk
bravely so far as herself was concerned, even though her straining
eyes could not penetrate the cloudy veil that made all before her
darkness and mystery.

Fanny, who had looked forward with a vague fear to her father's
return on that evening, felt relieved on hearing that he had gone to
New York, for that would give sufficient time for him to receive a
letter from Mr. Lyon.

Thus it was with the family of Mr. Markland on this particular
occasion. A crisis, looked for with trembling anxiety, seemed just
at, hand; and yet it was still deferred--leaving, at least in one
bosom, a heart-sickness that made life itself almost a burden.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE close of the next day did not bring Mr. Markland, but only a
hurried letter, saying that important business would probably keep
him in New York a day or two longer. A postscript to the letter read
thus:

"Mr. Elbridge will send you a deed of some warehouse property that I
have sold. Sign and return it by the bearer."

If Mr. Markland had only said where a letter would reach him in New
York, his wife would have lost no time in writing fully on the
subject of Mr. Lyon's conduct toward Fanny. But, as there was great
uncertainty about this, she felt that she could only await his
return. And now she blamed herself deeply for having kept her word
to Fanny. It was one of those cases, she saw, in which more evil was
likely to flow from keeping a blind, almost extorted promise, than
from breaking it.

"I ought to have seen my duty clearer," she said, in
self-condemnation. "What blindness has possessed me!" And so she
fretted herself, and admitted into her once calm, trusting spirit, a
flood of self-reproaches and disquietude.

Fanny, now that the so anxiously dreaded period had gone by, and
there was hope that her father would learn all from Mr. Lyon before
he returned home, relapsed into a more passive state of mind. She
had suffered much beyond her natural powers of endurance, in the
last few days. A kind of reaction now followed, and she experienced
a feeling of indifference as to results and consequences, that was a
necessary relief to the over-strained condition of mind which had
for some time existed.

On the day following, another letter was received from Mr. Markland.

"You must not expect me until the last of this week," he said.
"Business matters of great importance will keep me here until that
time. I have a letter from Mr. Lyon which I do not much like. It
seems that he was at Woodbine Lodge, and saw Fanny, while I was away
in New York. I have talked with a Mr. Fenwick here, a gentleman who
knows all about him and his business, and he assures me that the
reasons which Mr. Lyon gave for returning as he did from the South
are valid. What troubles me most is that Fanny should have concealed
it from both you and her father. We will talk this matter over fully
on my return. If I had known it earlier, it might have led to an
entire change of plans for the future. But it is too late now.

"I wrote you yesterday that I wished you to sign a deed which Mr.
Elbridge would send out. He will send two more, which I would also
like you to sign. I am making some investments here of great
prospective value."

Mrs. Markland read this letter over and over again, and sat and
thought about its contents until her mind grew so bewildered that it
seemed as if reason were about to depart. If it was suggested that
she ought not to sign the deeds that were to be presented for her
signature, the suggestion was not for a single moment entertained;
but rather flung aside with something of indignation.

A day or two after Mr. Willet called with the message from Mr.
Markland, he went over again to Woodbine Lodge. It was late in the
afternoon, and Fanny was sitting in the portico that looked from the
western front of the dwelling, with her thoughts so far away from
the actual things around her that she did not notice the approach of
any one, until Mr. Willet, whom she had never met, was only a few
yards distant; then she looked up, and as her eyes rested upon him,
she started to her feet and struck her hands together, uttering an
involuntary exclamation of surprise. The name of Mr. Lyon was half
uttered, when she saw her mistake, and made a strong effort to
compose her suddenly disturbed manner.

"Mrs. Markland is at home, I presume," said the visitor, in a
respectful manner, as he paused a few paces distant from Fanny, and
observed, with some surprise, the agitation his appearance had
occasioned.

"She is. Will you walk in, sir?" The voice of Fanny trembled, though
she strove hard to speak calmly and with apparent self-possession.

"My name is Mr. Willet."

"Oh! our new neighbour." And Fanny forced a smile, while she
extended her hand, as she added:

"Walk in, sir. My mother will be gratified to see you."

"Has your father returned from New York?" inquired Mr. Willet, as he
stood looking down upon the face of Miss Markland, with a feeling of
admiration for its beauty and innocence.

"Not yet. Mother does not look for him until the last of this week."

"He did not expect to be gone over a single day, when he left?"

"No, sir. But business has detained him. Will you not walk in, Mr.
Willet?" The earnestness with which he was looking into her face was
disconcerting Fanny. So she stepped toward the door, and led the way
into the house.

"Mr. Willet," said Fanny, introducing her visitor, as they entered
the sitting-room.

Mrs. Markland extended her hand and gave their new neighbour a
cordial reception. Aunt Grace bowed formally, and fixed her keen
eyes upon him with searching glances. While the former was thinking
how best to entertain their visitor, the latter was scrutinizing his
every look, tone, word, and movement. At first, the impression made
upon her was not altogether favourable; but gradually, as she noted
every particular of his conversation, as well as the various changes
of his voice and countenance, her feelings toward him underwent a
change; and when he at length addressed a few words to her, she
replied, with unusual blandness of manner.

"How are your mother and sisters?" inquired Mrs. Markland, soon
after Mr. Willet came in. "I have not yet called over to see them,
but shall do so to-morrow."

"They are well, and will be exceedingly gratified to receive a visit
from you," replied Mr. Willet.

"How are they pleased with the country?"

"That question they would find it difficult yet to answer. There is
much pleasant novelty, and much real enjoyment of nature's varied
beauties. A sense of freedom and a quietude of spirit, born of the
stillness that, to people just from the noisy town, seems brooding
over all things. Some of the wants, created by our too artificial
mode of living in cities, are occasionally felt; but, on the whole,
we are gainers, so far, by our experiment."

"Your sisters, I am sure, must enjoy the beauty with which you are
surrounded. There is not a lovelier place than the one you have
selected in the whole neighbourhood."

"Always excepting Woodbine Lodge," returned the visitor, with a
courteous bow. "Yes," he added, "Sweetbrier is a charming spot, and
its beauty grows upon you daily. My sister Flora, just about your
own age," and Mr. Willet turned toward Fanny, "is particularly
desirous to make your acquaintance. You must call over with your
mother. I am sure you will like each other. Flora, if a brother may
venture to herald a sister's praise, is a dear, good girl. She has
heard a friend speak of you, and bears already, toward you, a
feeling of warmer tone than mere friendship."

Mr. Willet fixed his eyes so earnestly on the countenance of Fanny,
that she partly averted her face to conceal the warm flush that came
to her cheeks.

"I shall be happy to make her acquaintance," she replied. "Our
circle of friends cannot be so large here as in the city; but we may
find compensation in closer attachments."

"I will say to my mother and sisters, that they may expect to see
you to-morrow," And Mr. Willet looked from face to face.

"Yes; we will ride over to-morrow," said Mrs. Markland.

"And you, also, Miss Markland." The courteous manner in which this
was said quite won the heart of Aunt Grace, and she replied that she
would give herself that pleasure.

Mr. Willet sat for an hour, during which time he conversed in the
most agreeable and intelligent manner; and, on retiring, left behind
him a very favourable impression.

"I like that man," said Aunt Grace, with an emphasis that caused
Mrs. Markland to look toward her and smile.

"That's a little remarkable. You are not very apt to like men at
first sight."

"I like him, for he's a true man and a gentleman," returned Aunt
Grace. "And true men, I think, are scarce articles."

"Ever hasty in your conclusions, whether favourable or
unfavourable," said Mrs. Markland.

"And rarely in error. You may add that," replied the sister-in-law,
confidently. "When Mr. Lyon darkened our doors,"--Fanny was passing
from the room, and Aunt Grace spoke in a guarded voice--"I said he
would leave a shadow behind him, and so he has. Was my judgment
hasty, so far as he was concerned? I think you will hardly say so.
But, my word for it, the presence of Mr. Willet will ever bring a
gleam of sunshine. I am glad he has come into our neighbourhood. If
his mother and sisters are like him, they are a company of choice
spirits."

CHAPTER XXIV.

TO the opinion of her sister-in-law, Mrs. Markland made no dissent.
She was, also, favourably impressed with Mr. Willet, and looked
forward with pleasure to making the acquaintance of his mother and
sisters.

On the following morning the carriage was ordered, and about eleven
o'clock Mrs. Markland, Aunt Grace, and Fanny, were driven over to
"Sweetbrier," the fanciful name which Mr. Ashton, the former owner,
had given to the beautiful seat, now the property of Mr. Willet.

The day was cloudless, the air cool and transparent, the sky of the
deepest cerulean. These mirrored themselves in the spirits of our
little party. Mrs. Markland looked calm and cheerful; Fanny's
thoughts were drawn out of herself, and her heart responded to the
visible beauty around her. Even Aunt Grace talked of the sky, the
trees, and the flowers, and saw a new charm in every thing.

"I presume we shall not meet Mr. Willet," she remarked, as the

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