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The Good Time Coming by T.S. Arthur

Part 4 out of 6

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carriage drove within the elegant grounds of their neighbour.

"He probably goes to the city every day," said Mrs. Markland. "I
believe he is engaged in business."

"Yes; I think I heard Edward say that he was."

"Our visit might be a pleasant one in some respects," observed Mrs.
Markland, "if he were at home. To him, we are not entire strangers."

"I see him in the portico," said Fanny, leaning toward the carriage
window. They were now in sight of the house.

"Yes, there he is," added Aunt Grace, in a pleased tone of voice.

In a few minutes the carriage drew up at the beautiful mansion, in
the portico of which were Mr. Willet and his mother and sisters,
waiting to receive them. The welcome was most cordial, and the
ladies soon felt at home with each other.

Flora, the youngest sister of Mr. Willet, was a lovely girl about
Fanny's age. It did not take them long to know and appreciate each
other. The mind of Flora was naturally stronger than that of Fanny,
partaking slightly of the masculine type; but only sufficient to
give it firmness and self-reliance. Her school education had
progressed farther, and she had read, and thought, and seen more of
the world than Fanny. Yet the world had left no stain upon her
garments, for, in entering it, she had been lovingly guarded. To her
brother she looked up with much of a child's unwavering confidence.
He was a few years her senior, and she could not remember the time
when she had not regarded him as a man whose counsels were full of
wisdom.

"Where have you been for the last hour?" Mr. Willet inquired of the
young maidens, as they entered, arm-in-arm, their light forms gently
inclined to each other.

"Wandering over your beautiful grounds," replied Fanny.

"I hardly thought you would see them as beautiful," said Mr. Willet.

"Do you think that I have no eye for the beautiful?" returned Fanny,
with a smile.

"Not so," quickly answered Mr. Willet. "Woodbine Lodge is so near
perfection that you must see defects in Sweetbrier."

"I never saw half the beauty in nature that has been revealed to my
eyes this morning," said Fanny. "It seemed as if I had come upon
enchanted ground. Ah, sir, your sister has opened a new book for me
to read in--the book of nature."

Mr. Willet glanced, half-inquiringly, toward Flora.

"Fanny speaks with enthusiasm," said the sister.

"What have you been talking about? What new leaf has Flora turned
for you, Miss Markland?"

"A leaf on which there is much written that I already yearn to
understand. All things visible, your sister said to me, are but the
bodying forth in nature of things invisible, yet in harmony with
immutable laws of order."

"Reason will tell you that this is true," remarked Mr. Willet.

"Yes; I see that it must be so. Yet what a world of new ideas it
opens to the mind! The flower I hold in my hand, Flora says, is but
the outbirth, or bodily form, of a spiritual flower. How strange the
thought!"

"Did she not speak truly?" asked Mr. Willet, in a low, earnest
voice.

"What is that?" inquired Mrs. Markland, who was not sure that she
had heard her daughter correctly.

"Flora say that this flower is only the bodily form of a spiritual
flower; and that, without the latter, the former would have no
existence."

Mrs. Markland let her eyes fall to the floor, and mused for some
moments.

"A new thought to me," she at length said, looking up. "Where did
you find it, Flora?"

"I have believed this ever since I could remember any thing,"
replied Flora.

"You have?"

"Yes, ma'am. It was among the first lessons that I learned from my
mother."

"Then you believe that every flower has a spirit," said Mrs.
Markland.

"Every flower has life," was calmly answered.

"True."

"And every different flower a different life. How different, may be
seen when we think of the flower which graces the deadly nightshade,
and of that which comes the fragrant herald of the juicy orange. We
call this life the spiritual flower."

"A spiritual flower! Singular thought!" Mrs. Markland mused for some
time.

"There is a spiritual world," said Mr. Willet, in his gentle, yet
earnest way.

"Oh, yes. We all believe that." Mrs. Markland fixed her eyes on the
face of Mr. Willet with a look of interest.

"What do we mean by a world?"

Mrs. Markland felt a rush of new ideas, though seen but dimly,
crowding into her mind.

"We cannot think of a world," said Mr. Willet, "except as filled
with objects, whether that world be spiritual or natural. The poet,
in singing of the heavenly land, fails not to mention its fields of
'living green,' and 'rivers of delight.' And what are fields without
grass, and flowers, and tender herb? If, then, there be flowers in
the spiritual world, they must be spiritual flowers."

"And that is what Flora meant?" said Mrs. Markland.

"Nothing more," said Flora; "unless I add, that all flowers in the
natural world derive their life from flowers in the spiritual world;
as all other objects in nature have a like correspondent origin."

"This comes to me as an entirely new idea," said Mrs. Markland, in a
thoughtful way. "Yet how beautiful! It seems to bring my feet to the
verge of a new world, and my hand trembles with an impulse to
stretch itself forth and lift the vail."

"Do not repress the impulse," said Mrs. Willet, laying a hand gently
upon one of Mrs. Markland's.

"Ah! But I grope in the dark."

"We see but dimly here, for we live in the outward world, and only
faint yet truthful images of the inner world are revealed to us. No
effort of the mind is so difficult as that of lifting itself above
the natural and the visible into the spiritual and
invisible--invisible, I mean, to the bodily eyes. So bound down by
mere sensual things are all our ideas, that it is impossible, when
the effort is first made, to see any thing clear in spiritual light.
Yet soon, if the effort be made, will the straining vision have
faint glimpses of a world whose rare beauties have never been seen
by natural eyes. There is the natural, and there is the spiritual;
but they are so distinct from each other, that the one by
sublimation, increase, or decrease, never becomes the other. Yet are
they most intimately connected; so intimately that, without the
latter, the former could have no existence. The relation is, in
fact, that of cause and effect."

"I fear this subject is too grave a one for our visitors," said Mr.
Willet, as his mother ceased speaking.

"It may be," remarked the lady, with a gentle smile that softened
her features and gave them a touch of heavenly beauty. "And Mrs.
Markland will forgive its intrusion upon her. We must not expect
that others will always be attracted by themes in which we feel a
special interest."

"You could not interest me more," said Mrs. Markland. "I am
listening with the deepest attention."

"Have you ever thought much of the relation between your soul and
body; or, as I would say, between your spiritual body and your
natural body?" asked Mrs. Willet.

"Often; but with a vagueness that left the mind wearied and
dissatisfied."

"I had a long talk with Mr. Allison on that subject," said Fanny.

"Ah!" Mrs. Willet looked toward Fanny with a brightening face. "And
what did he say?"

"Oh! a great deal--more than I can remember."

"You can recollect something?"

"Oh yes. He said that our spiritual bodies were as perfectly
organized as our material bodies, and that they could see, and hear,
and feel."

"He said truly. That our spirits have vision every one admits, when
he uses the words, on presenting some idea or principle to
another--'Can't you see it?' The architect sees the palace or temple
before he embodies it in marble, and thus makes it visible to
natural eyes. So does the painter see his picture; and the sculptor
his statue in the unhewn stone. You see the form of your absent
father with a distinctness of vision that makes every feature
visible; but not with the eyes of your body."

"No, not with my bodily eyes," said Fanny. "I have thought a great
deal about this since I talked with Mr. Allison; and the more I
think of it, the more clearly do I perceive that we have spiritual
bodies as well as natural bodies."

"And the inevitable conclusion is, that the spiritual body must
live, breathe, and act in a world above or within the natural world,
where all things are adapted to its functions and quality."

"In this world are the spiritual flowers we were speaking about?"
said Mrs. Markland, smiling.

"Yes, ma'am; in this world of _causes_, where originate all
_effects_ seen in the world of nature," answered Mrs. Willet;--"the
world from which flowers as well as men are born."

"I am bewildered," said Mrs. Markland, "by these suggestions. That a
volume of truth lies hidden from common eyes in this direction, I
can well believe. As yet my vision is too feeble to penetrate the
vail."

"If you look steadily in this direction, your eyes will, in time,
get accustomed to the light, and gradually see clearer and clearer,"
said Mrs. Willet.

CHAPTER XXV.

SOME incidents interrupted the conversation at this point, and when
it flowed on again, it was in a slightly varied channel, and
gradually changed from the abstract into matters of more personal
interest.

"What a mystery is life!" exclaimed Mrs. Markland, the words
following an observation that fell from the lips of Mr. Willet.

"Is it a mystery to you?" was asked, with something of surprise in
the questioner's tone.

"There are times," replied Mrs. Markland, "when I can see a harmony,
an order, a beauty in every thing; but my vision does not always
remain clear. Ah! if we could ever be content to do our duty in the
present, and leave results to Him who cares for us with an infinite
love!"

"A love," added Mrs. Willet, "that acts by infinite wisdom. Can we
not trust these fully? Infinite love and infinite wisdom?"

"Yes!--yes!--reason makes unhesitating response. But when dark days
come, how the poor heart sinks! Our faith is strong when the sky is
bright. We can trust the love and wisdom of our Maker when broad
gleams of sunshine lie all along our pathway."

"True; and therefore the dark days come to us as much in mercy as
the bright ones, for they show us that our confidence in Heaven is
not a living faith. 'There grows much bread in the winter night,' is
a proverb full of a beautiful significance. Wheat, or bread, is, in
the outer world of nature, what good is in the, inner world of
spirit. And as well in the winter night of trial and adversity is
bread grown, as in the winter of external nature. The bright wine of
truth we crush from purple clusters in genial autumn; but bread
grows even while the vine slumbers."

"I know," said Mrs. Markland, "that, in the language of another,
'sweet are the uses of adversity.' I know it to be true, that good
gains strength and roots itself deeply in the winter of affliction
and adversity, that it may grow up stronger, and produce a better
harvest in the end. As an abstract truth, how clear this is! But, at
the first chilling blast, how the spirit sinks; and when the sky
grows dull and leaden, how the heart shivers!"

"It is because we rest in mere natural and external things as the
highest good."

"Yes--how often do we hear that remarked! It is the preacher's theme
on each recurring Sabbath," said Mrs. Markland, in an abstracted
way. "How often have words of similar import passed my own lips,
when I spoke as a mentor, and vainly thought my own heart was not
wedded to the world and the good things it offers for our
enjoyment!"

"If we are so wedded," said Mrs. Willet, in her earnest, gentle way,
"is not that a loving Providence which helps us to a knowledge of
the truth, even though the lesson prove a hard one to learn--nay,
even if it be acquired under the rod of a stern master?"

"Oh, yes, yes!" said Mrs. Markland, unhesitatingly.

"It is undoubtedly true," said Mrs. Willet, "that all things of
natural life are arranged, under Providence, with a special view to
the formation and development within us of spiritual life, or the
orderly and true lives of our spirits. We are not born into this
world merely to eat, drink, and enjoy sensual and corporeal
pleasures alone. This is clear to any mind on the slightest
reflection. The pleasures of a refined taste, as that of music and
art, are of a higher and more enduring character than these; and of
science and knowledge, still more enduring. Yet not for these, as
the highest development of our lives, were we born. Taste, science,
knowledge, even intelligence, to which science and knowledge open
the door, leave us still short of our high destiny. The Temple of
Wisdom is yet to be penetrated."

"Science, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom!" said Mrs. Markland,
speaking slowly and thoughtfully. "What a beautiful and orderly
series! First we must learn the dead formulas."

"Yes, the lifeless scientifics, if they may so be called, must first
be grounded in the memory. Arrangement and discrimination follow.
One fact or truth is compared with another, and the mind thus comes
to know, or has knowledge. Mere facts in the mind are lifeless
without thought. Thought broods over dead science in the external
memory, and knowledge is born."

"How clear! How beautiful!" ejaculated Mrs. Markland.

"But knowledge is little more than a collection of materials, well
arranged; intelligence builds the house."

"And wisdom is the inhabitant," said Mrs. Markland, whose quick
perceptions were running in advance.

"Yes--all that preceded was for the sake of the inhabitant. Science
is first; then knowledge, then intelligence--but all is for the sake
of wisdom."

"Wisdom--wisdom." Mrs. Markland mused again.

"What is wisdom?"

"Angelic life," said Mrs. Willet. "One who has thought and written
much on heavenly themes, says, 'Intelligence and wisdom make an
angel.'"

Mrs. Markland sighed, but did not answer. Some flitting thought
seemed momentarily to have shadowed her spirit.

"To be truly wise is to be truly good," said Mrs. Willet. "We think
of angels as the wisest and best of beings, do we not?"

"Oh, yes."

"The highest life, then, toward which we can aspire, is angelic
life. Their life is a life of goodness, bodying itself in wisdom."

"How far below angelic life is the natural life that we are leading
here!" said Mrs. Markland.

"And therefore is it that a new life is prescribed,--a life that
begins in learning heavenly truths first, as mere external formulas
of religion. These are to be elevated into knowledge, intelligence,
and afterward wisdom. And it is because we are so unwilling to lead
this heavenly life that our way in the world is often made rough and
thorny, and our sky dark with cloud and tempest."

Mr. Willet now interrupted the conversation by a remark that turned
the thoughts of all from a subject which he felt to be too grave for
the occasion, and soon succeeded in restoring a brighter hue to the
mind of Mrs. Markland. Soon after, the visitors returned home, all
parties feeling happier for the new acquaintance which had been
formed, and holding in their hearts a cheerful promise of many
pleasant interchanges of thought and feeling.

Many things said by Mr. Willet, and by his mother and sisters, made
a strong impression on the mind of Mrs. Markland and her daughter.
They perceived some things in a new and clearer light that had been
to them vailed in obscurity before.

"Flora is a lovely girl," said Fanny, "and so wise beyond her years.
Many times I found myself looking into her face and wondering not to
see the matron there. We are fortunate in such neighbours."

"Very fortunate, I think," replied her mother. "I regard them as
having minds of a superior order."

"Flora is certainly a superior girl. And she seems to me as good as
she is wise. Her thought appears ever lifting itself upward, and
there is a world of new ideas in her mind. I never heard any one
talk just as she does."

"What struck me in every member of the family," said Mrs. Markland,
"was a profound religious trust; a full confidence in that Infinite
Wisdom which cannot err, nor be unkind. Ah! my daughter, to possess
that were worth more than all this world can offer."

A servant who had been despatched for letters, brought, late in the
day, one for Mrs. Markland from her husband, and one for Fanny from
Mr. Lyon. This was the first communication the latter had sent to
Fanny direct by post. The maiden turned pale as she received the
letter, and saw, by the superscription, from whom it came. Almost
crushing it in her hand, she hurried away, and when alone, broke the
seal, and with unsteady hands unfolded it, yet scarcely daring to
let her eyes rest upon the first words:--

"MY EVER DEAR FANNY."--[How her heart leaped as she read these
words!]--"I write to you direct by post, for there remains no longer
any reason why our correspondence should be a concealed one. I have
also written to your father, and shall await his response with the
deepest anxiety. Let his decision in the matter be what it may, I
shall forever bear your image in my heart as a most sacred
possession. Will you not write immediately? Conceal nothing of the
effect produced on your father's mind. Send your letter as addressed
before, and it will be forwarded to my hands. May heaven bless you,
dear Fanny! In haste, suspense, and deep anxiety.
LEE LYON."

Mrs. Markland's letter from her husband was very brief, and rather
vague as to his purposes:

"I will be home, if possible, this week; but may be kept here, by
important business, over Sunday. If so, I will write again. Every
thing is progressing to my fullest satisfaction. Little danger, I
think, of my dying from _ennui_ in the next twelve months. Head and
hands will both be pretty well occupied for that period, if not
longer. There is too much vitality about me for the life of a drone.
I was growing restless and unhappy from sheer idleness and want of
purpose. How does our dear Fanny seem? I feel no little concern
about her. Mr. Lyon makes no direct proposition for her hand, but it
is evidently his purpose to do so. I wish I knew him better, and
that I had, just now, a freer mind to consider the subject. Weigh it
well in your thoughts, Agnes; and by all means observe Fanny very
closely. Dear child! She is far too young for this experience. Ah,
me! The more I think of this matter, the more I feel troubled.

"But good-by, for a little while. I am writing in haste, and cannot
say half that is in my thoughts."

CHAPTER XXVI.

IT was not until the middle of the succeeding week that Mr. Markland
returned from New York. He had a look of care that did not escape
the observation of his wife. To her inquiries as to the cause of his
prolonged absence, he replied vaguely, yet with reference to some
business of vast magnitude, in which he had become interested. Two
days passed without allusion, on either side, to the subject of
their daughter's relation to Mr. Lyon, and then, to some question of
Mrs. Markland, her husband replied in so absent a way, that she did
not press the matter on his attention. Fanny was reserved and
embarrassed in the presence of her father, and evidently avoided
him.

More than a week went by in this unsatisfactory manner, when, on
returning one day from the city, Mr. Markland showed an unusual
elation of spirits. As soon as there was an opportunity to be alone
with his wife, he said--

"I may have to be absent several weeks."

"Why so?" she asked, quickly, as a shadow fell over her face.

"Business," was briefly answered.

Mrs. Markland sighed, and her eyes fell to the floor.

"I have been a drone in the world's busy hive long enough, Agnes;
and now I must go to work again, and that in right good earnest. The
business that took me to New York is growing daily in importance,
and will require my best thought and effort. The more thoroughly I
comprehend it, the more clearly do I see its vast capabilities. I
have already embarked considerable money in the enterprise, and
shall probably see it to my interest to embark more. To do this,
without becoming an active worker and director, would neither be
wise nor like your husband, who is not a man to trust himself on the
ocean of business without studying well the charts, and, at times,
taking fast hold upon the rudder."

"You might have been so happy here, Edward," said Mrs. Markland,
looking into his face and smiling feebly.

"A happy idler? Impossible!"

"You have been no idler, my husband, since our retirement from the
city. Look around, and say whose intelligence, whose taste, are
visible wherever the eye falls?"

"A poor, vain life, for a man of thought and energy, has been mine,
Agnes, during the last few years. The world has claims on me beyond
that of mere landscape-gardening! In a cultivation of the beautiful
alone no man of vigorous mind can or ought to rest satisfied. There
is a goal beyond, and it is already dimly revealed, in the far
distance, to my straining vision."

"I greatly fear, Edward," replied his wife, speaking in her gentle,
yet impressive way, "that when the goal you now appear so eager to
reach, is gained, you will see still another beyond."

"It may be so, Agnes," was answered, in a slightly depressed voice;
"yet the impulse to bear onward to the goal now in view is not the
less ardent for the suggestion. I can no more pause than the
avalanche once in motion. I must onward in the race I have entered."

"To gain what, Edward?"

"I shall gain large wealth."

"Have we not all things here that heart can desire, my husband?"

"No, Agnes," was replied with emphasis.

"What is lacking?"

"Contentment."

"Edward!" There came a quick flush to the brow of Mrs. Markland.

"I cannot help the fact, Agnes," said Mr. Markland. "For months I
have suffered from a growing dissatisfaction with the fruitless life
I am leading."

"And yet with what a fond desire we looked forward to the time when
we could call a spot like this our own! The world had for us no more
tempting offer."

"While struggling up from the valley, we cannot know how wide the
landscape will spread beneath our enchanted vision. We fix our eyes
on the point to be gained. That reached, we are, for a time, content
with our elevation. But just enough of valley and mountain,
stretching far off in the dim distance, is revealed, to quicken our
desire for a more extended vision, and soon, with renewed strength,
we lift our gaze upward, and the word 'excelsior!' comes almost
unbidden to our lips. There is a higher and a highest place to be
gained, and I feel, Agnes, that there will be no rest for my feet
until I reach the highest."

"Pray heaven your too eager feet stumble not!" almost sobbed Mrs.
Markland, with something of a prophetic impulse.

The tone and manner of his wife, more than her words, disturbed Mr.
Markland.

"Why should the fact of my re-entering business so trouble you?" he
asked. "An active, useful life is man's truest life, and the only
one in which he can hope for contentment."

Mrs. Markland did not answer, but partly turned her face away to
conceal its expression.

"Are you not a little superstitious?" inquired her husband.

"I believe not," was answered with forced calmness. "But I may be
very selfish."

"Selfish, Agnes! Why do you say that?"

"I cannot bear the thought of giving you up to the busy world
again," she answered, tenderly, leaning her head against him. "Nor
will it be done without struggle and pain on my part. When we looked
forward to the life we have been leading for the last few years, I
felt that I could ask of the world nothing of external good beyond;
I have yet asked nothing. Here I have found my earthly paradise. But
if banishment must come, I will try to go forth patiently, even
though I cannot shut the fountain of tears. There is another Eden."

Mr. Markland was about replying, when his sister entered the room,
and he remained silent.

CHAPTER XXVII.

THE conversation was resumed after they were again alone.

"Grace frets herself continually about Fanny," said Mrs. Markland,
as her sister-in-law, after remaining for a short time, arose and
left the room.

"She is always troubling herself about something," answered Mr.
Markland, impatiently.

"Like many others, she generally looks at the shadowed side. But
Fanny is so changed, that not to feel concern on her account would
show a strange indifference."

Mr. Markland sighed involuntarily, but made no answer. He, too, felt
troubled whenever his thoughts turned to his daughter. Yet had he
become so absorbed in the new business that demanded his attention,
and in the brilliant results which dazzled him, that to think, to
any satisfactory conclusion, on the subject of Fanny's relation to
Mr. Lyon, had been impossible; and this was the reason why he rather
avoided than sought a conference with his wife. She now pressed the
matter on his attention so closely, that he could not waive its
consideration.

"Mr. Lyon's purposes are not to be mistaken," said Mrs. Markland.

"In what respect?" was evasively inquired.

"In respect to Fanny."

"I think not," was the brief response.

"Has he written you formally on the subject?"

"No."

"His conduct, then, to speak in the mildest terms, is very
singular."

"His relation to Fanny has been an exceedingly embarrassing one,"
said Mr. Markland. "There has been no opportunity for him to speak
out freely."

"That disability no longer exists."

"True, and I shall expect from him an early and significant
communication."

"Let us look this matter directly in the face, Edward," said Mrs.
Markland, in a sober voice. "Suppose he ask for the hand of our
daughter."

"A thing not at all unlikely to happen," answered her husband.

"What then?"

"I fear you are prejudiced against Mr. Lyon," said Markland, a
little coldly.

"I love my child!" was the simple, touching answer.

"Well?"

"I am a woman," she further said, "and know the wants of a woman's
heart. I am a wife, and have been too tenderly loved and cared for,
not to desire a like happy condition for my child." And she leaned
against her husband, and gazed into his face with a countenance full
of thankful love.

"Mr. Lyon is a man of honour," said Mr. Markland. "Has he a tender,
loving heart? Can he appreciate a woman?"

"If Fanny loves him--"

"Oh, Edward! Edward!" returned his wife, interrupting him. "She is
only a child, and yet incapable of genuine love. The bewildering
passion this man has inspired in her heart is born of impulse, and
the fires that feed it are consuming her. As for me--and I speak the
words thoughtfully and sadly--I would rather stretch forth my hand
to drop flowers on her coffin than deck her for such a bridal."

"Why do you speak so strongly, Agnes? You know nothing against Mr.
Lyon. He may be all you could desire in the husband of your child."

"A mother's instincts, believe me, Edward, are rarely at fault
here."

Mr. Markland was oppressed by the subject, and could not readily
frame an answer that he felt would be satisfactory to his wife.
After a pause, he said:

"There will be time enough to form a correct judgment."

"But let us look the matter in the face now, Edward," urged his
wife. "Suppose, as I just suggested, he ask for the hand of our
daughter,--a thing, as you admit, likely to happen. What answer
shall we make? Are you prepared to give a decisive reply?"

"Not on the instant. I should wish time for consideration."

"How long?"

"You press the subject very closely, Agnes."

"I cannot help doing so. It is the one that involves most of good or
evil in the time to come. All others are, for the present, dwarfed
by it into insignificance. A human soul has been committed to our
care, capable of the highest enjoyments or the deepest misery. An
error on our part may prove fatal to that soul. Think of this,
Edward! What are wealth, honour, eminence, in comparison with the
destiny of a single human soul? If you should achieve the brilliant
results that now dazzle your eyes, and in pursuit of which you are
venturing so much, would there be any thing in all you gained to
compensate for the destruction of our daughter's happiness?"

"But why connect things that have no relation, Agnes? What has the
enterprise I am now prosecuting to do with this matter of our
daughter?"

"Much, every way. Does it not so absorb your mind that you cannot
think clearly on any other subject? And does not your business
connection with Mr. Lyon bias your feelings unduly in his favour?"

Mr. Markland shook his head.

"But think more earnestly, Edward. Review what this man has done.
Was it honourable for him so to abuse our hospitality as to draw our
child into a secret correspondence? Surely something must warp your
mind in his favour, or you would feel a quick indignation against
him. He cannot be a true man, and this conviction every thing in
regard to him confirms. Believe me, Edward, it was a dark day in the
calendar of our lives when the home circle at Woodbine Lodge opened
to receive him."

"I trust to see the day," answered Mr. Markland, "when you will look
back to this hour and smile at the vague fears that haunted your
imagination."

"Fears? They have already embodied themselves in realities," was the
emphatic answer. "The evil is upon us, Edward. We have failed to
guard the door of our castle, and the enemy has come in. Ah, my
husband! if you could see with my eyes, there would stand before you
a frightful apparition."

"And what shape would it assume?" asked Mr. Markland, affecting to
treat lightly the fears of his wife.

"That of a beautiful girl, with white, sunken cheeks, and hollow,
weeping eyes."

An instant paleness overspread the face of Mr. Markland.

"Look there!" said Mrs. Markland, suddenly, drawing the attention of
her husband to a picture on the wall. The eyes of Mr. Markland fell
instantly on a portrait of Fanny. It was one of those wonders of art
that transform dead colours into seeming life, and, while giving to
every lineament a faultless reproduction, heightens the charm of
each. How sweetly smiled down upon Mr. Markland the beautiful lips!
How tender were the loving eyes, that fixed themselves upon him and
held him almost spell-bound!

"Dear child!" he murmured, in a softened voice, and his eyes grew so
dim that the picture faded before him.

"As given to us!" said Mrs. Markland, almost solemnly.

A dead silence followed.

"But are we faithful to the trust? Have we guarded this treasure of
uncounted value? Alas! alas! Already the warm cheeks are fading; the
eyes are blinded with tears. I look anxiously down the vista of
years, and shudder. Can the shadowy form I see be that of our
child?"

"Oh, Agnes! Agnes!" exclaimed Mr. Markland, lifting his hands, and
partly averting his face, as if to avoid the sight of some fearful
image.

There was another hushed silence. It was broken by Mrs. Markland,
who grasped the hand of her husband, and said, in a low, impressive
voice--

"Fanny is yet with us--yet in the sheltered fold of home, though her
eyes have wandered beyond its happy boundaries and her ears are
hearkening to a voice that is now calling her from the distance.
Yet, under our loving guardianship, may we not do much to save her
from consequences my fearful heart has prophesied?"

"What can we do?" Mr. Markland spoke with the air of one bewildered.

"Guard her from all further approaches of this man; at least, until
we know him better. There is a power of attraction about him that
few so young and untaught in the world's strange lessons as our
child, can resist."

"He attracts strongly, I know," said Mr. Markland, in an absent way.

"And therefore the greater our child's danger, if he be of evil
heart."

"You, wrong him, believe me, Agnes, by even this intimation. I will
vouch for him as a man of high and honourable principles." Mr.
Markland spoke with some warmth of manner.

"Oh, Edward! Edward!" exclaimed his wife, in a distressed voice.
"What has so blinded you to the real quality of this man? 'By their
fruit ye shall know them.' And is not the first fruit, we have
plucked from this tree, bitter to the taste?"

"You are excited and bewildered in thought, Agnes," said Mr.
Markland, in a soothing voice. "Let us waive this subject for the
present, until both of us can refer to it with a more even
heart-beat."

Mrs. Markland caught her breath, as if the air had suddenly grown
stifling.

"Will they ever beat more evenly?" she murmured, in a sad voice.

"Why, Agnes! Into what a strange mood you have fallen! You are not
like yourself."

"And I am not, to my own consciousness. For weeks it has seemed to
me as if I were in a troubled dream."

"The glad waking will soon come, I trust," said Mr. Markland, with
forced cheerfulness of manner.

"I pray that it may be so," was answered, in a solemn voice.

There was silence for some moments, and then the other's full heart
overflowed. Mr. Markland soothed her, with tender, hopeful words,
calling her fears idle, and seeking, by many forms of speech, to
scatter the doubts and fears which, like thick clouds, had
encompassed her spirit.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

FROM that period, Mr. Markland not only avoided all conference with
his wife touching their daughter's relation to Mr. Lyon, but became
so deeply absorbed in business matters, that he gave little earnest
thought to the subject. As the new interests in which he was
involved grew into larger and larger importance, all things else
dwindled comparatively.

At the end of six months he was so changed that, even to his own
family, he was scarcely like the same individual. All the time he
appeared thinking intensely. As to "Woodbine Lodge," its beauties no
longer fell into thought or perception. The charming landscape
spread itself wooingly before him, but he saw nothing of its varied
attractions. Far away, fixing his inward gaze with the fascination
of a serpent's eye, was the grand result of his new enterprise, and
all else was obscured by the brightness of a vortex toward which he
was moving in swiftly-closing circles. Already two-thirds of his
handsome fortune was embarked in this new scheme, that was still
growing in magnitude, and still, like the horse-leech, crying "Give!
give!" All that now remained was "Woodbine Lodge," valued at over
twenty-five thousand dollars. This property he determined to leave
untouched. But new calls for funds were constantly being made by Mr.
Fenwick, backed by the most flattering reports from Mr. Lyon and his
associates in Central America, and at last the question of selling
or heavily mortgaging the "Lodge" had to be considered. The latter
alternative was adopted, and the sum of fifteen thousand dollars
raised, and thrown, with a kind of desperation, into the whirlpool
which had already swallowed up nearly the whole of his fortune.

With this sum in his hands, Mr. Markland went to New York. He found
the Company's agent, Mr. Fenwick, as full of encouraging words and
sanguine anticipations as ever.

"The prize is just within our grasp," said he, in answer to some
close inquiries of Markland. "There has been a most vigorous
prosecution of the works, and a more rapid absorption of capital, in
consequence, than was anticipated; but, as you have clearly seen,
this is far better than the snail-like progress at which affairs
were moving when Mr. Lyon reached the ground. Results which will now
crown our efforts in a few months, would scarcely have been reached
in as many years."

"How soon may we reasonably hope for returns?" asked Mr. Markland,
with more concern in his voice than he meant to express.

"In a few months," was answered.

"In two, three, or four months?"

"It is difficult to fix an exact period," said Mr. Fenwick,
evasively. "You know how far the works have progressed, and what
they were doing at the latest dates."

"There ought to be handsome returns in less than six months."

"And will be, no doubt," replied the agent.

"There _must_ be," said Mr. Markland, betraying some excitement.

Mr. Fenwick looked at him earnestly, and with a slight manifestation
of surprise.

"The assessments have been larger and more frequent than was
anticipated. I did not intend embarking more than twenty thousand
dollars in the beginning, and already some sixty thousand have been
absorbed."

"To return you that sum, twice told, in less than a year, besides
giving you a position of power and influence that the richest
capitalist in New York might envy."

And, enlarging on this theme, Fenwick, as on former occasions,
presented to the imagination of Mr. Markland such a brilliant series
of achievements, that the latter was elevated into the old state of
confidence, and saw the golden harvest he was to reap already
bending to the sickle.

Twice had Markland proposed to visit the scene of the Company's
operations, and as often had Mr. Fenwick diverted his thoughts from
that direction. He again declared his purpose to go out at an early
date.

"We cannot spare you from our councils at home," said Mr. Fenwick,
pleasantly, yet with evident earnestness.

"Oh, yes, you can," was promptly answered. "I do not find myself of
as much use as I desire to be. The direction at this point is in
good enough hands, and can do without my presence. It is at the
chief point of operations that I may be of most use, and thither I
shall proceed."

"We will talk more about that another time," said Mr. Fenwick. "Now
we must discuss the question of ways and means. There will yet be
many thousand dollars to provide."

"Beyond my present investment, _I_ can advance nothing," said Mr.
Markland, seriously.

"It will not be necessary," replied Mr. Fenwick. "The credit of the
Company--that is, of those in this and other cities, including
yourself, who belong to the Company, and have the chief management
of its affairs--is good for all we shall need."

"I am rather disappointed," said Markland, "at the small advances
made, so far, from the other side of the Atlantic. They ought to
have been far heavier. We have borne more than our share of the
burden."

"So I have written, and expect good remittances by next steamers."

"How much?"

"Forty or fifty thousand dollars at least."

"Suppose the money does not come?"

"I will suppose nothing of the kind. It must and will come."

"You and I have both lived long enough in the world," said Markland,
"to know that our wills cannot always produce in others the actions
we desire."

"True enough. But there are wills on the other side of the Atlantic
as well as here, and wills acting in concert with ours. Have no
concern on this head; the English advances will be along in good
season. In the mean time, if more money is wanted, our credit is
good to almost any amount."

This proposition in regard to credit was no mere temporary
expedient, thought of at the time, to meet an unexpected
contingency. It had been all clearly arranged in the minds of
Fenwick and other ruling spirits in New York, and Markland was not
permitted to leave before his name, coupled with that of "some of
the best names in the city," was on promissory notes for almost
fabulous amounts.

Taking into account the former business experience of Mr. Markland,
his present reckless investments and still more reckless signing of
obligations for large sums, show how utterly blind his perceptions
and unsettled his judgment had become. The waters he had so
successfully navigated before were none of them strange waters. He
had been over them with chart, compass, and pilot, many times before
he adventured for himself. But now, with a richly freighted argosy,
he was on an unknown sea. Pleasantly the summer breeze had wafted
him onward for a season. Spice-islands were passed, and golden
shores revealed themselves invitingly in the distance. The haven was
almost gained, when along the far horizon dusky vapours gathered and
hid the pleasant land. Darker they grew, and higher they arose,
until at length the whole sky was draped, and neither sun nor stars
looked down from its leaden depths. Yet with a desperate courage he
kept steadily onward, for the record of observations since the
voyage began was too imperfect to serve as a guide to return. Behind
was certain destruction; while beyond the dark obscurity, the golden
land of promise smiled ever in the glittering sunshine.

CHAPTER XXIX.

MR. MARKLAND'S determination to visit the scene of the Company's
operations was no suddenly-formed impulse; and the manifest desire
that he should not do so, exhibited by Mr. Fenwick, in no way
lessened his purpose to get upon the ground as early as possible,
and see for himself how matters were progressing. His whole fortune
was locked up in this new enterprise, and his compeers were
strangers, or acquaintances of a recent date. To have acted with so
much blindness was unlike Markland; but it was like him to wish to
know all about any business in which he was engaged. This knowledge
he had failed to obtain in New York. There his imagination was
constantly dazzled, and while he remained there, uncounted, treasure
seemed just ready to fall at his feet. The lamp of Aladdin was
almost within his grasp. But, on leaving Fenwick and his sanguine
associates, a large portion of his enthusiasm died out, and his mind
reached forth into the obscurity around him and sought for the old
landmarks.

On returning home from this visit to New York, Mr. Markland found
his mind oppressed with doubts and questions, that could neither be
removed nor answered satisfactorily. His entire fortune, acquired
through years of patient labour, was beyond his reach, and might
never come back into his possession, however desperately he grasped
after it. And "Woodbine Lodge,"--its beauty suddenly restored to
eyes from which scales had fallen--held now only by an uncertain
tenure, a breath might sweep from his hand.

Suddenly, Markland was awakened, as if from a dream, and realized
the actual of his position. It was a fearful waking to him, and
caused every nerve in his being to thrill with pain. On the brink of
a gulf he found himself standing, and as he gazed down into its
fearful obscurity, he shuddered and grew sick. And now, having taken
the alarm, his thoughts became active in a new direction, and
penetrated beneath surfaces which hitherto had blinded his eyes by
their golden lustre. Facts and statements which before had appeared
favourable and coherent now presented irreconcilable discrepancies,
and he wondered at the mental blindness which had prevented his
seeing things in their present aspects.

It was not possible for a man of Mr. Markland's peculiar temperament
and business experience to sit down idly, and, with folded hands,
await the issue of this great venture. Now that his fears were
aroused, he could not stop short of a thorough examination of
affairs, and that, too, at the chief point of operations, which lay
thousands of miles distant.

Letters from Mr. Lyon awaited his return from New York. They said
little of matters about which he now most desired specific
information, while they seemed to communicate a great many important
facts in regard to the splendid enterprise in which they were
engaged. Altogether, they left no satisfactory impression on his
mind. One of them, bearing a later date than the rest, disturbed him
deeply. It was the first, for some months, in which allusion was
made to his daughter. The closing paragraph of this letter ran
thus:--

"I have not found time, amid this pressure of business, to write a
word to your daughter for some weeks. Say to her that I ever bear
her in respectful remembrance, and shall refer to the days spent at
Woodbine Lodge as among the brightest of my life."

There had been no formal application for the hand of his daughter up
to this time; yet had it not crossed the thought of Markland that
any other result would follow; for the relation into which Lyon had
voluntarily brought himself left no room for honourable retreat. His
letters to Fanny more than bound him to a pledge of his hand. They
were only such as one bearing the tenderest affection might write.

Many weeks had elapsed since Fanny received a letter, and she was
beginning to droop under the long suspense. None came for her now,
and here was the cold, brief reference to one whose heart was
throbbing toward him, full of love.

Markland was stung by this evasive reference to his daughter, for
its meaning he clearly understood. Not that he had set his heart on
an alliance of Fanny with this man, but, having come to look upon
such an event as almost certain, and regarding all obstacles in the
way as lying on his side of the question, pride was severely shocked
by so unexpected a show of indifference. And its exhibition was the
more annoying, manifested, as it was, just at the moment when he had
become most painfully aware that all his worldly possessions were
beyond his control, and might pass from his reach forever.

"Can there be such baseness in the man?" he exclaimed, mentally,
with bitterness, as the thought flitted through his mind that Lyon
had deliberately inveigled him, and, having been an instrument of
his ruin, now turned from him with cold indifference.

"Impossible!" he replied, aloud, to the frightful conjecture. "I
will not cherish the thought for a single moment."

But a suggestion like this, once made to a man in his circumstances,
is not to be cast out of the mind by a simple act of rejection. It
becomes a living thing, and manifests its perpetual presence. Turn
his thought from it as he would, back to that point it came, and the
oftener this occurred, the more corroborating suggestions arrayed
themselves by its side.

Mr. Markland was alone in the library, with Mr. Lyon's hastily read
letters before him, and yet pondering, with an unquiet spirit, the
varied relations in which he had become placed, when the door was
quietly pushed open, and he heard light footsteps crossing the room.
Turning, he met the anxious face of his daughter, who, no longer
able to bear the suspense that was torturing her, had overcome all
shrinking maiden delicacy, and now came to ask if, enclosed in
either of his letters, was one for her. She advanced close to where
he was sitting, and, as he looked at her with a close observation,
he saw that her countenance was almost colourless, her lips rigid,
and her heart beating with an oppressed motion, as if half the blood
in her body had flowed back upon it.

"Fanny, dear!" said Mr. Markland, grasping her hand tightly. As he
did so, she leaned heavily against him, while her eyes ran eagerly
over the table.

Two or three times she tried to speak, but was unable to articulate.

"What can I say to you, love?" Her father spoke in a low, sad,
tender voice, that to her was prophetic of the worst.

"Is there a letter for me?" she asked, in a husky whisper.

"No, dear."

He felt her whole frame quiver as if shocked.

"You have heard from Mr. Lyon?" She asked this after the lapse of a
few moments, raising herself up as she spoke, and assuming a
calmness of exterior that was little in accord with the tumult
within.

"Yes. I have three letters of different dates."

"And none for me?"

"None."

"Has he not mentioned my name?"

A moment Mr. Markland hesitated, and then answered--

"Yes."

He saw a slight, quick flush mantle her face, that grew instantly
pale again.

"Will you read to me what he says?"

"If you wish me to do so." Mr. Markland said this almost
mechanically.

"Read it." And as her father took from the table a letter, Fanny
grasped his arm tightly, and then stood with the immovable rigidity
of a statue. She had already prophesied the worst. The cold, and, to
her, cruel words, were like chilling ice-drops on her heart. She
listened to the end, and then, with a low cry, fell against her
father, happily unconscious of further suffering. To her these brief
sentences told the story of unrequited love. How tenderly, how
ardently he had written a few months gone by! and now, after a long
silence, he makes to her a mere incidental allusion, and asks a
"respectful remembrance!" She had heard the knell of all her dearest
hopes. Her love had become almost her life, and to trample thus upon
it was like extinguishing her life.

"Fanny! Love! Dear Fanny!" But the distressed father called to her
in vain, and in vain lifted her nerveless body erect. The oppressed
heart was stilled.

A cry of alarm quickly summoned the family, and for a short time a
scene of wild terror ensued; for, in the white face of the fainting
girl, all saw the image of death. A servant was hurriedly despatched
for their physician, and the body removed to one of the chambers.

But motion soon came back, feebly, to the heart; the lungs drew in
the vital air, and the circle of life was restored. When the
physician arrived, nature had done all for her that could be done.
The sickness of her spirit was beyond the reach of any remedy he
might prescribe.

CHAPTER XXX.

THE shock received by Fanny left her in a feeble state of mind as
well as body. For two or three days she wept almost constantly. Then
a leaden calmness, bordering on stupor, ensued, that, even more than
her tears, distressed her parents.

Meantime, the anxieties of Mr. Markland, in regard to the business
in which he had ventured more than all his possessions, were hourly
increasing. Now that suspicion had been admitted into his thought,
circumstances which had before given him encouragement bore a
doubtful aspect. He was astonished at his own blindness, and
frightened at the position in which he found himself placed.
Altogether dissatisfied with the kind and amount of information to
be gained in New York, his resolution to go South was strengthened
daily. Finally, he announced to his family that he must leave them,
to be gone at least two or three months. The intelligence came with
a shock that partially aroused Fanny from the lethargic state into
which she had fallen. Mrs. Markland made only a feeble, tearful
opposition. Upon her mind had settled a brooding apprehension of
trouble in the future, and every changing aspect in the progression
of events but confirmed her fears.

That her husband's mind had become deeply disturbed Mrs. Markland
saw but too clearly; and that this disturbance increased daily, she
also saw. Of the causes she had no definite information; but it was
not difficult to infer that they involved serious disappointments in
regard to the brilliant schemes which had so captivated his
imagination. If these disappointments had thrown him back upon his
home, better satisfied with the real good in possession, she would
not very much have regretted them. But, on learning his purpose to
go far South, and even thousands of miles beyond the boundaries of
his own country, she became oppressed with a painful anxiety, which
was heightened, rather than allayed, by his vague replies to all her
earnest inquiries in regard to the state of affairs that rendered
this long journey imperative.

"Interests of great magnitude," he would say, "require that all who
are engaged in them should be minutely conversant with their state
of progress. I have long enough taken the statements of parties at a
distance: now I must see and know for myself."

How little there was in all this to allay anxiety, or reconcile the
heart to a long separation from its life-partner, is clear to every
one. Mrs. Markland saw that her husband wished to conceal from her
the exact position of his affairs, and this but gave her startled
imagination power to conjure up the most frightful images. Fears for
the safety of her husband during a long journey in a distant
country, where few traces of civilization could yet be found, were
far more active than concern for the result of his business. Of that
she knew but little; and, so far as its success or failure had power
to affect her, experienced but little anxiety. On this account, her
trouble was all for him.

Time progressed until the period of Markland's departure was near at
hand. He had watched, painfully, the slow progress of change in
Fanny's state of mind. There was yet no satisfactory aspect. The
fact of his near departure had ruffled the surface of her feelings,
and given a hectic warmth to her cheeks and a tearful brightness to
her eyes. Most earnestly had she entreated him, over and over again,
not to leave them.

"Home will no longer be like home, dear father, when you are far
absent," she said to him, pleadingly, a few days before the
appointed time for departure had come. "Do not go away."

"It is no desire to leave home that prompts the journey, Fanny,
love," he answered, drawing his arm around her and pressing her
closely to his side. "At the call of duty, none of us should
hesitate to obey."

"Duty, father?" Fanny did not comprehend the meaning of his words.

"It is the duty of all men to thoroughly comprehend what they are
doing, and to see that their business is well conducted at every
point."

"I did not before understand that you had business in that distant
country," said Fanny.

"I am largely interested there," replied Mr. Markland, speaking as
though the admission to her was half-extorted.

"Not with Mr. Lyon, I hope?" said Fanny, quickly and earnestly. It
was the first time she had mentioned his name since the day his cold
allusion to her had nearly palsied her heart.

"Why not with Mr. Lyon, my child? Do you know any thing in regard to
him that would make such a connection perilous to my interest?" Mr.
Markland looked earnestly into the face of his daughter. Her eyes
did not fall from his, but grew brighter, and her person became more
erect. There was something of indignant surprise in the expression
of her countenance.

"Do you know any thing in regard to him that would make the
connection perilous to my interest?" repeated Mr. Markland.

"Will that man be true to the father, who is false to his child?"
said Fanny, in a deep, hoarse voice.

He looked long and silently into her face, his mind bewildered by
the searching interrogatory.

"False to you, Fanny!" he at length said, in a confused way. "Has he
been false to you?"

"Oh, father! father! And is it from you this question comes?"
exclaimed Fanny, clasping her hands together and then pressing them
tightly against her bosom.

"He spoke of you in his letter with great kindness," said Mr.
Markland. "I know that he has been deeply absorbed in a perplexing
business; and this may be the reason why he has not written."

"Father,"--Fanny's words were uttered slowly and impressively--"if
you are in any manner involved in business with Mr. Lyon--if you
have any thing at stake through confidence in him--get free from the
connection as early as possible. He is no true man. With the
fascinating qualities of the serpent, he has also the power to
sting."

"I fear, my daughter," said Mr. Markland, "that too great a
revulsion has taken place in your feelings toward him; that wounded
pride is becoming unduly active."

"Pride!" ejaculated Fanny--and her face, that had flushed, grew pale
again--"pride! Oh, father! how sadly you misjudge your child!
No--no. I was for months in the blinding mazes of a delicious dream;
but I am awake now--fully awake, and older--how much older it makes
me shudder to think--than I was when lulled into slumber by melodies
so new, and wild, and sweet, that it seemed as if I had entered
another state of existence. Yes, father, I am awake now; startled
suddenly from visions of joy and beauty into icy realities, like
thousands of other dreamers around me. Pride? Oh, my father!"

And Fanny laid her head down upon the breast of her parent, and wept
bitterly.

Mr. Markland was at a loss what answer to make. So entire a change
in the feelings of his daughter toward Mr. Lyon was unsuspected, and
he scarcely knew how to explain the fact. Fascinated as she had
been, he had looked for nothing else but a clinging to his image
even in coldness and neglect. That she would seek to obliterate that
image from her heart, as an evil thing, was something he had not for
an instant expected. He did not know how, treasured up in tenderest
infancy, through sunny childhood, and in sweetly dawning maidenhood,
innocence and truth had formed for her a talisman by which the
qualities of others might be tested. At the first approach of Mr.
Lyon this had given instinctive warning; but his personal
attractions were so great, and her father's approving confidence of
the man so strong, that the inward monitor was unheeded. But, after
a long silence following a series of impassioned letters, to find
herself alluded to in this cold and distant way revealed a state of
feeling in the man she loved so wildly, that proved him false beyond
all question. Like one standing on a mountain-top, who suddenly
finds the ground giving way beneath his feet, she felt herself
sweeping down through a fearfully intervening space, and fell, with
scarcely a pulse of life remaining, on the rocky ground beneath. She
caught at no object in her quick descent, for none tempted her hand.
It was one swift plunge, and the shock was over.

"No, father," she said, in a calmer voice, lifting her face from his
bosom--"it is not pride, nor womanly indignation at a deep wrong. I
speak of him as he is now known to me. Oh, beware of him! Let not
his shadow fall darker on our household."

The effect of this conversation in no way quieted the apprehensions
of Mr. Markland, but made his anxieties the deeper. That Lyon had
been false to his child was clear even to him; and the searching
questions of Fanny he could not banish from his thoughts.

"All things confirm the necessity of my journey," he said, when
alone, and in close debate with himself on the subject. "I fear that
I am in the toils of a serpent, and that escape, even with life, is
doubtful. By what a strange infatuation I have been governed! Alas!
into what a fearful jeopardy have I brought the tangible good things
given me by a kind Providence, by grasping at what dazzled my eyes
as of supremely greater value! Have I not been lured by a shadow,
forgetful of the substance in possession?"

CHAPTER XXXI.

"I SHOULD have been contented amid so much beauty, and with even
more than my share of earthly blessings." Thus Mr. Markland communed
with himself, walking about alone, near the close of the day
preceding that on which his appointed journey was to begin. "Am I
not acting over again that old folly of the substance and shadow?
Verily, I believe it is so. Ah! will we ever be satisfied with any
achievement in this life? To-morrow I leave all by which I am here
surrounded, and more, a thousand-fold more--my heart's beloved ones;
and for what? To seek the fortune I was mad enough to cast from me
into a great whirlpool, believing that it would be thrown up at my
feet again, with every disk of gold changed into a sparkling
diamond. I have waited eagerly on the shore for the returning tide,
but yet there is no reflux, and now my last hope rests on the
diver's strength and doubtful fortune. I must make the fearful
plunge."

A cold shudder ran through the frame of Mr. Markland, as he
realized, too distinctly, the image he had conjured up. A feeling of
weakness and irresolution succeeded.

"Ah!" he murmured to himself, "if all had not been so blindly cast
upon this venture, I might be willing to wait the issue, providing
for the worst by a new disposition of affairs, and by new efforts
here. But I was too eager, too hopeful, too insanely confident.
Every thing is now beyond my reach."

This was the state of his mind when Mr. Allison, whom he had not met
in a familiar manner for several weeks, joined him, saying, as he
came up with extended hand, and fine face, bright with the generous
interest in others that always burned in his heart--

"What is this I hear, Mr. Markland? Is it true that you are going
away, to be absent for some months? Mr. Willet was telling me about
it this morning."

"It is too true," replied Mr. Markland, assuming a cheerful air, yet
betraying much of the troubled feeling that oppressed him. "The
calls of business cannot always be disregarded."

"No--but, if I understand aright, you contemplate going a long
distance South--somewhere into Central America."

"Such is my destination. Having been induced to invest money in a
promising enterprise in that far-off region, it is no more than
right to look after my interests there."

"With so much to hold your thoughts and interests here," said Mr.
Allison, "I can hardly understand why you should let them wander off
so far from home."

"And I can hardly understand it myself," returned Mr. Markland, in a
lower tone of voice, as if the admission were made reluctantly. "But
so it is. I am but a man, and man is always dissatisfied with his
actual, and always looking forward to some good time coming. Ah,
sir, this faculty of imagination that we possess is one of the
curses entailed by the fall. It is forever leading us off from a
true enjoyment of what we have. It has no faith in to-day--no love
for the good and beautiful that really exists."

"I can show you a person whose imagination plays no truant pranks
like this," replied Mr. Allison. "And this shall be at least one
exception to your rule."

"Name that person," was the half-incredulous response.

"Your excellent wife," said Mr. Allison.

For some moments Mr. Markland stood with his eyes cast down; then,
lifting them to the face of the old man, he said:

"The reference is true. But, if she be not the only exception, the
number who, like her, can find the best reward in the present, are,
alas! but few."

"If not found in the present, Mr. Markland, will it ever be found?
Think!"

"Never!" There was an utterance of grief in the deep tone that thus
responded-for conviction had come like a quick flash upon his heart.

"But who finds it, Mr. Allison?" he said, shortly after, speaking
with stern energy. "Who comprehends the present and the actual? who
loves it sufficiently? Ah, sir! is the present ever what a fond,
cheating imagination prefigured it?"

"And knowing this so well," returned the, old man, "was it wise for
you to build so largely on the future as you seem to have done?"

"No, it was not wise." The answer came with a bitter emphasis.

"We seek to escape the restlessness of unsatisfied desire," said Mr.
Allison, "by giving it more stimulating food, instead of firmly
repressing its morbid activities. Think you not that there is
something false in the life we are leading here, when we consider
how few and brief are the days in which we experience a feeling of
rest and satisfaction? And if our life be false--or, in other words,
our life-purposes--what hope for us is there in any change of
pursuit or any change of scene?"

"None--none," replied Mr. Markland.

"We may look for the good time coming, but look in vain. Its morning
will never break over the distant mountain-tops to which our eyes
are turned."

"Life is a mockery, a cheating dream!" said Mr. Markland, bitterly.

"Not so, my friend," was the calmly spoken answer.

"Not so. Our life here is the beginning of an immortal life. But, to
be a happy life, it must be a true one. All its activities must have
an orderly pulsation."

Mr. Markland slowly raised a hand, and, pressing it strongly against
his forehead, stood motionless for some moments, his mind deeply
abstracted.

"My thoughts flow back, Mr. Allison," he said, at length, speaking
in a subdued tone, "to a period many months gone by, and revives a
conversation held with you, almost in this very place. What you then
said made a strong impression on my mind. I saw, in clear light, how
vain were all efforts to secure happiness in this world, if made
selfishly, and thus in a direction contrary to true order. The great
social man I recognised as no mere idealism, but as a verity. I saw
myself a member of this body, and felt deeply the truth then uttered
by you, that just in proportion as each member thinks of and works
for himself alone will that individual be working in selfish
disorder, and, like the member of the human body that takes more
than its share of blood, must certainly suffer the pain of
inflammation. The truth then presented to my mind was like a flood
of light; but I did not love the truth, and shut my eyes to the
light that revealed more than I wished to know. Ah, sir! if I could
have accepted all you then advanced--if I could have overcome the
false principle of self-seeking then so clearly shown to be the
curse of life--I would not have involved myself in business that
must now separate me for months from my home and family."

"And should you achieve all that was anticipated in the beginning,"
said Mr. Allison, "I doubt if you will find pleasure enough in the
realization to compensate for this hour of pain, to say nothing of
what you are destined to suffer during the months of separation that
are before you."

"Your doubts are my own," replied Markland, musingly. "But,"--and he
spoke in a quicker and lighter tone,--"this is all folly! I must go
forward, now, to the end. Why, then, yield to unmanly weakness?"

"True, sir," returned the old man. "No matter how difficult the way
in which our feet must walk, the path must be trodden bravely."

"I shall learn some lessons of wisdom by this experience," said Mr.
Markland, "that will go with me through life. But, I fear, they will
be all too dearly purchased."

"Wisdom," was the answer, "is a thing of priceless value."

"It is sometimes too dearly bought, for all that."

"Never," replied the old man,--"never. Wisdom is the soul's true
riches; and there is no worldly possession that compares with it in
value. If you acquire wisdom by any experience, no matter how severe
it may prove, you are largely the gainer. And here is the
compensation in every affliction, in every disappointment, and in
every misfortune. We may gather pearls of wisdom from amid the ashes
and cinders of our lost hopes, after the fires have consumed them."

Mr. Markland sighed deeply, but did not answer. There was a dark sky
above and around him; yet gleams of light skirted a cloud here and
there, telling him that the great sun was shining serenely beyond.
He felt weak, sad, and almost hopeless, as he parted from Mr.
Allison, who promised often to visit his family during his absence;
and in his weakness, he lifted his heart involuntarily upward, and
asked direction and strength from Him whom he had forgotten in the
days when all was light around him, and, in the pride and strength
of conscious manhood, he had felt that he possessed all power to
effect the purposes of his own will.

CHAPTER XXXII.

AFTER a night that was sleepless to at least three members of the
family the morning of the day on which Mr. Markland was to start on
his journey came. Tearful eyes were around him. Even to the last,
Fanny begged him not to leave them, and almost clung to him at the
moment of parting. Finally, the separation was accomplished, and,
shrinking back in the carriage that conveyed him to the city, Mr.
Markland gave himself up to sad reveries. As his thoughts reached
forward to the point of his destination, and he tried to arrange in
his mind all the information he had relating to the business in
which he was now embarked, he saw more clearly than ever the feeble
hold upon his fortune that remained to him. Less confident, too, was
he of the good result of his journey. Now that he was fairly on the
way, doubt began to enter his mind.

This was Mr. Markland's state of feelings on reaching the city. His
first act was to drive to the post-office, to get any letters that
might have arrived for him. He received only one, and that was from
New York. The contents were of a startling character. Mr. Fenwick
wrote:

"Come on immediately. Your presence is desired by all the members of
the Company here. We have news of an unexpected and far from
pleasant character."

This was all; but it came with a painful shock upon the feelings of
Mr. Markland. Its very vagueness made it the more frightful to him;
and his heart imagined the worst.

Without communicating with his family, who supposed him on his
journey southward, Mr. Markland took the first train for New York,
and in a few hours arrived in that city, and called at the office of
Mr. Fenwick. A single glance at the agent's countenance told him
that much was wrong. A look of trouble shadowed it, and only a
feeble smile parted his lips as he came forward to meet him.

"What news have you?" eagerly inquired Mr. Markland.

"Bad news, I am sorry to say," was answered.

"What is its nature?" The face of Mr. Markland was of an ashen hue,
and his lips quivered.

"I fear we have been mistaken in our man," said Mr. Fenwick.

"In Lyon?"

"Yes. His last letters are of a very unsatisfactory character, and
little in agreement with previous communications. We have, besides,
direct information from a partly on the ground, that tends to
confirm our worst fears."

"Worst fears of what?" asked Markland, still strongly agitated.

"Unfair--nay, treacherous--dealing."

"Treachery!"

"That word but feebly expresses all we apprehend."

"It involves fearful meaning in the present case," said Markland, in
a hoarse voice.

"Fearful enough," said Fenwick, gloomily.

"I was just on the eve of starting for the ground of the Company's
operations, when your letter reached me this morning. An hour later,
and I would have been on my journey southward," said Mr. Markland.

"It is well that I wrote, promptly," remarked Fenwick. "You were, at
least, saved a long and fruitless journey."

"It will yet have to be taken, I fear," said Markland.

Fenwick shook his head ominously, and muttered, half to
himself--"Vain--vain!"

"Will you state clearly, yet in brief, the nature of the information
you have received from Mr. Lyon?" said Markland. "I comprehend
nothing yet."

"His last communication," was answered, "gives a hurried, rather
confused account of the sudden flooding of the main shaft, in
sinking which a large part of the capital invested has been
expended, and the hopeless abandonment of the work in that
direction."

"Do you believe this statement?" asked Mr. Markland.

"I have another letter from one of the party on the ground, bearing
the same date."

"What does he say?"

"But little of the flooded shaft. Such an occurrence had, however,
taken place, and the writer seemed to think it might require a
steam-engine and pump to keep it clear, involving a delay of several
months. The amount of water which came in was sufficient to cause a
suspension of work, which he thought might be only temporary; but he
could not speak with certainty in regard to that. But the most
serious part of his communication is this:"

Mr. Fenwick took a letter from his desk, and read:--

"The worst feature of the case is the lack of funds. The Government
officials have demanded the immediate payment of the second, third,
and fourth instalments due on the Company's grant of land, and have
announced their purpose to seize upon all the effects here, and
declare a forfeiture, unless these dues are forthcoming at the end
of the present month. Mr. Lyon is greatly troubled, but mysterious.
He has not, from the first day of his arrival out up to the present
moment, admitted any one fully into his counsels. I know he has been
seriously hampered for lack of funds, but was not aware, until now,
that the second and third instalments of purchase-money remained
unpaid; and my knowledge of this, and the impending danger from the
Government, was only acquired through accident. No doubt Mr. Lyon
has fully advised you of all the facts in the case; still, I feel it
to be my duty also to refer to the subject."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Mr. Markland, as Fenwick paused, and
lifted his eyes from the letter. "The second, third, and fourth
instalments not paid! What can it mean? Was not the money forwarded
to Mr. Lyon?"

"He took out funds to meet the second and third regular payments;
and the money for the fourth went forward in good time. There is
something wrong."

"Wrong!" Mr. Markland was on his feet, and pacing the floor in an
agitated manner. "Something wrong! There exists, I fear, somewhere
in this business a conspiracy to swindle."

And as he said this, he fixed his eyes intently on the countenance
of Mr. Fenwick.

"The agent with whom we intrusted so much has, I fear, abused our
confidence," said Mr. Fenwick, speaking calmly, and returning the
steady gaze of Markland.

"Who is the person who gives this information about the unpaid
instalments?" asked the latter.

"A man in whose word every reliance may be placed."

"You know him personally?"

"Yes."

"Is his position on the ground such as to bring him within the reach
of information like that which he assumes to give?"

"Yes."

"Is he a man of intelligence?"

"He is."

"And one of cool judgment?"

"Yes; and this is why the information he gives is of such serious
import. He would never communicate such information on mere rumour
or inference. He knows the facts, or he would not have averred to
their existence."

"Has there been a meeting of the Board?" inquired Markland.

"There was a hurried meeting yesterday afternoon; and we shall
convene again at six this evening."

"What was done?"

"Nothing. Consternation at the intelligence seized upon every one.
There were regrets, anxieties, and denunciations, but no action."

"What is the general view in regard to Lyon?"

"Some refuse to admit the implied charge that lies against him;
while others take the worst for granted, and denounce him in
unmeasured terms."

"What is your opinion?" asked Markland.

"Knowing the man from whom information comes, I am led to fear the
worst. Still, there may have been some mistake--some misapprehension
on his part."

"The meeting takes place at six o'clock?" said Markland, after
remaining a short time silent.

"Yes."

"Will you propose any thing?"

"I wish, first, to hear the views of others. Prompt action of some
kind is certainly required."

"If Lyon be actually the villain he now seems, he will put himself
entirely beyond our reach on the first intimation of danger," said
Markland.

"So I have reasoned. Our only hope, therefore, is to get possession
of his person. But how is this to be accomplished?"

"Give immediate notice to the--Government, that he is in
possession of the funds due them by the Company, and they will not
fail to secure his person," said Markland.

"A good suggestion," replied Fenwick. And he sat in a thoughtful
attitude for some moments. "Yes, that is a good suggestion," he
repeated. "We must send a shrewd, confidential agent at once to
L--, and give information of the exact position of affairs."

"What is the date of the last communication from Lyon?" asked
Markland.

"He wrote on the tenth."

"Of last month?"

"Yes."

"And the--Government threatened to enter upon and seize our
property on the first of the present month?"

"True--true; and the worst may have already happened," said Fenwick.
"Still, an agent must go out, and vigorous efforts be made to save
our property."

"It will scarcely be worth saving, if in the condition represented,
and all our funds dissipated."

Fenwick sighed. There was something in that sigh, as it reached the
ears of Markland, which seemed like a mockery of trouble. He raised
his glance quickly to the agent's face, and searched it over with
the sharp eye of suspicion. Fenwick bore this scrutiny without the
faltering of a muscle. If he comprehended its meaning, his
consciousness thereof was in no way revealed.

"The Board will meet here at six o'clock this evening," said he,
quietly. "In the mean time, you had better digest the information we
have, and come prepared to aid us with your better judgment. The
crisis is one that demands calm, earnest thought and decisive
action."

"I will be here," replied Markland, rising. Then, with a formal bow,
he left the agent's office.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE time until six o'clock, the meeting-hour of the Board, was not
spent by Mr. Markland in solitary thought. He visited, during that
period, three of the principal men interested in the business, and
gleaned from them their views in regard to the late startling
intelligence. Most of them seemed utterly confounded, and no two had
arrived at the same conclusion as to what was best to be done.
Nearly all were inclined to credit fully the report of Lyon's having
failed to pay the last three instalments on the Company's land, and
they denounced him bitterly. These conferences had the effect of
extinguishing all hope in the breast of Mr. Markland. Even if the
half of what he feared were true, he was hopelessly ruined.

At the hour of meeting, Markland assembled with the New York members
of the Company, and two from Boston, who had been summoned on the
day previous by telegraph. The last communications received by Mr.
Fenwick were again read, and the intelligence they brought discussed
with more of passion than judgment. Some proposed deferring all
action until further news came; while others were for sending out an
agent, with full powers, immediately. To this latter view the
majority inclined. "If it be true," suggested Markland, "that
the--Government has threatened to seize upon our property if the
three instalments were not paid on the first of the present month,
every thing may now be in its hands."

"Lyon would hardly let it come to that," said another, "He has in
his possession the means of preventing such a catastrophe, by paying
over one of the instalments, and thus gaining time."

"Time for what?" was asked. "If he mean to enrich himself at our
expense, he can do it best now. He is too shrewd not to understand
that; if a question of his integrity arises, his further power to
reach our funds is gone."

"But he does not know that we have information of the unpaid
instalments."

"And that information may come from one who has an interest in
ruining him," said another.

"You may think so, gentlemen," said Mr. Fenwick, coolly, "but I will
stake my life on the unwavering faith of my correspondent in all he
alleges. Moreover, he is not the man to make a communication of such
serious import lightly. He knows the facts, or he would not affirm
them. My advice is to send out an agent immediately."

"For what purpose?" was inquired.

"To ascertain the true position of affairs; and if our property have
really been seized by the--Government, to take steps for its
release."

"More funds will be required," said one of the Company.

"We cannot, of course, send out an agent empty-handed," was replied.

"Depletion must stop, so far as I am concerned," was the firm
response of one individual. "I will throw no more good money after
bad. If you send out an agent, gentlemen, don't call on me to bear a
part of the expense."

"You are not, surely, prepared to abandon every thing at this
point," said another.

"I am prepared to wait for further news, before I let one more
dollar leave my pocket; and I will wait," was answered.

"And so will I," added another.

Two parties were gradually formed; one in favour of sending out an
agent forthwith, and the other decided in their purpose not to risk
another dollar until more certain information was received. This was
the aspect of affairs when the Board adjourned to meet again on the
next evening.

The result of this conference tended in no degree to calm the fears
of Mr. Markland. How gladly would he now give up all interest in the
splendid enterprise which had so captivated his imagination, if he
could do so at the expense of one-half of his fortune!

"If I could save only a small part of the wreck!" he said to
himself, as he paced the floor of his room at the hotel. It was far
past the hour of midnight, but no sleep weighed upon his eyelids.
"Even sufficient," he added, in a sad voice, "to keep in possession
our beautiful home. As for myself, I can go back into busy life
again. I am yet in the prime of manhood, and can tread safely and
successfully the old and yet unforgotten ways to prosperity. Toil
will be nothing to me, so the home-nest remain undisturbed, and my
beloved ones suffer not through my blindness and folly."

A new thought came into his mind. His investments in the enterprise,
now in such jeopardy, reached the sum of nearly one hundred thousand
dollars. The greater part of this had been actually paid in. His
notes and endorsements made up the balance.

"I will sell out for twenty-five cents in the dollar," said he.

There was a feeble ray of light in his mind, as the thought of
selling out his entire interest in the business, at a most desperate
sacrifice, grew more and more distinct. One or two members of the
Board of Direction had, during the evening's discussion, expressed
strong doubts as to the truth of the charge brought against Mr.
Lyon. The flooding of the shaft was not, they thought, unlikely, and
it might, seriously delay operations; but they were unwilling to
believe affairs to be in the hopeless condition some were disposed
to think. Here was a straw at which the drowning man caught. He
would call upon one of these individuals in the morning, and offer
his whole interest at a tempting reduction. Relieved at this
thought, Mr. Markland could retire for the night; and he even slept
soundly. On awaking in the morning, the conclusion of the previous
night was reviewed. There were some natural regrets at the thought
of giving up, by a single act, three-fourths of his whole fortune;
but, like the mariner whose ship was sinking, there was no time to
hesitate on the question of sacrificing the rich cargo.

"Yes--yes," he said within himself, "I will be content with
certainty. Suspense like the present is not to be endured."

And so he made preparations to call upon a certain broker in Wall
street, who had expressed most confidence in Lyon, and offer to sell
him out his whole interest. He had taken breakfast, and was about
leaving the hotel, when, in passing the reading-room, it occurred to
him to glance over the morning papers. So he stepped in for that
purpose.

Almost the first thing that arrested his attention was the
announcement of an arrival, and news from Central America. "BURSTING
OF A MAGNIFICENT BUBBLE--FLIGHT OF A DEFAULTING AGENT."--were the
next words that startled him. He read on:

"The Government of--has seized upon all that immense tract of
land, reported to be so rich in mineral wealth, which was granted
some two years ago to the--Company. A confidential agent of this
company, to whom, it is reported, immense sums of money were
intrusted, and who failed to pay over the amounts due on the
purchase, has disappeared, and, it is thought, passed over to the
Pacific. He is believed to have defrauded the company out of nearly
half a million of dollars."

"So dies a splendid scheme," was the editorial remark in the New
York paper. "Certain parties in this city are largely interested in
the Company, and have made investments of several hundred thousand
dollars. More than one of these, it is thought, will be ruined by
the catastrophe. Another lesson to the too eager and over-credulous
money-seeker! They will not receive a very large share of public
sympathy."

Mr. Markland read to the end, and then staggered back into a chair,
where he remained for many minutes, before he had the will or
strength to rise. He then went forth hastily, and repaired to the
office of Mr. Fenwick. Several members of the Company, who had seen
the announcement in the morning papers, were there, some pale with
consternation, and some strongly excited. The agent had not yet
arrived. The clerk in the office could answer no questions
satisfactorily. He had not seen Mr. Fenwick since the evening
previous.

"Have his letters yet arrived?" was inquired by one.

"He always takes them from the post-office himself," answered the
clerk.

"What is his usual hour for coming to his office in the morning?"

"He is generally here by this time--often much earlier."

These interrogations, addressed to the clerk by one of those
present, excited doubts and questions in the minds of others.

"It is rather singular that he should be absent at this particular
time," said Markland, giving indirect expression to his own
intruding suspicions.

"It is very singular," said another. "He is the medium of
information from the theatre of our operations, and, above all
things, should not be out of the way now."

"Where does he live?" was inquired of the clerk.

"At No.--, Fourteenth street."

"Will you get into a stage and ride up there?"

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