Edward Maitland.

By and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 1) online

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nite. We do not find, however, that the
recorders of facts are generally the most,
competent to generalise from them.

" I see you are cogitating over my phrase
* oldest angels.' You think that If there be
ages in heaven, there must be birth, and
perhaps death. There are both of these.
We call the latter disappear mice. All I can
tell you about it is this : we have our time.
All finite beings have their time. It Is the
law of the Supreme. He said In his coun-
sels, ' I give them up all, reserving to myself
one prerogative — Death. They are free to
develop their natures to the full extent of
their conditions : but all must submit to a

jperlod. There they must trust me!

I "And we do trust Him. When too old



BY AND BY. 239

to enjoy, or enable others to enjoy ; perchance
when needed elsewhere, we disappear. This
keeps us from encumbering our sphere, and
gives the younger angels a chance.

*' What becomes of us on disappearing ?
Those who remain behind never know.
Some have a vague notion that the Supreme
puts us into the crucible of his love, and re-
moulds us for a fresh stage of existence.
But our ignorance brings us no fear, our
love and trust being perfect. We have no
certainty of a future. Like you, we are
phenomena, whether recurrent or not, we
know not. Do children, with you, when they
fall asleep in their parent's arms, wonder
whether, or where, they will wake ?

" So you thought we had only to will in
order to have. Indolent wishing procures
nothing, even in the highest of the spiritual
spheres. We are bound to prove the reality
of our desires by our efforts to realise
them.

" The sense in which I use the term
spirit ? When signifying an entity, it differs
from matter only in degree. In kind it is



240 BY AND BY.

the same, or, rather, they are different stages
of the same material.

" You wish to know whether we possess
aught that Is capable of surviving the grosser
organism, and becoming re-constltuted as an
individual.

" This Is what I said we do not know. It
is where we can only trust. Both in kind-
ness and wisdom is it so ordained. In kind-
ness, because hope is one of the most
precious of possessions, and where all Is
certainty there is no room for hope. In
wisdom, because the Imaginative faculty
which appertains to all intelligent beings,
would, by the certainty of a future state, be
called Into such Intense activity respecting its
nature, as to make the present comparatively
valueless. The Supreme lives in the Now,
as well as in the Then. So that to contemn
and neglect the present life. Is to defraud
Him and ourselves also.

" Glance to the past history of your own
world. Whence have sprung the vast ma-
jority of the evils your own race has expe-
rienced ? Is it not through regarding as



BY Ayn BY. ' 241

absolutely certain that which ought to be an
aspiration and a hope, that man has sacrificed
the happiness provided for him in the present
life, to his fears respecting the future ?

'' Well, with us in heaven, as well as with
you on earth, the certainty that a future
awaits us, would operate upon the present
more perniciously than an equally strong con-
viction the other way. The conviction that
we exist only in the present would, sooner or
later, lead to our making the very best of that
present. We should thus, at least, give the
Supreme credit for meaning well by us so
long as we existed. But we should not have
hope, as under the present arrangement — the
may-be.

*' Besides, were our actions weighted with
motives derived from the certainty of an
hereafter, real morality would be all but Im^-
possible. We must love and follow good for
its own sake, otherwise we are not fi.tted to
endure. Change of place works no radical
chanofe of mind. If we have no love of sfood
here, there is no reason to suppose we should
have it there. And if Vv'e have It not, how

VOL. I. 16



242



BY AND BY.



can we desire to perpetuate existences which
are devoid of such love ?

" Our abode ? That is principally on the
confines of the atmosphere which encircles
the earth. It sustains us as the solider surface
of the earth sustains you, and as the sea sus-
tains your ships. Resting on that, we can
raise our heads aloft, and inhale the pure
ether of space. Our capacity for physical
enjoyment is intense. On the ever shifting
billows of the outer atmosphere, we shoot
upwards or plunge downwards. In it or on
it we swim, and glide, and fly, and dive. It
is by a process of diving that I am able to
penetrate hither to you. Would that I could
take you into the far recesses of our world.
But your time will come. Thank God, your
time will come. At least, it is permitted to
hope so.

'' Oh no, we never have accidents to hurt
us, at least, seriously. We are so carefully
trained from infancy to obey the laws of our
being, that even when we go on excursions
into wild and distant regions, we know, as by
a second nature, what to do or to avoid.



BY AND BY. 243

''We have no other law than that with
which we are born, the law of sympathy.
The springs of all government are within us.
They may require developing, but never
counteracting.

" Do we never actually do wrong ? Well, ;
I can hardly explain. The fact is, we delight
In story-books, and we put all our wickedness
into them. It is a great safeguard to us, and
prevents them from being dull."

The latter remarks were made during
Criss's last ascent to the Angelic spheres be-
fore quitting his minority. The rest of the
conversation had been held at different
times.

After thus referring to the power of their
sympathetic faculties, the angel paused, and a
roseate hue overspread his whole form, and
he seemed to Criss as if about to withdraw
from him, but in obedience to what emotion,
Criss could not divine. Soon he re-
sumed, —

" I ought to have considered that my
utterances respecting our nature would excite

16 — 2



244 BY AND BY.

in you an earnest wish to know more. My
perceptions now show me on what your
thoughts are dwelling. Your thoughts are
pure, or I should not be here. It is not for-
bidden to me to gratify the desire of the
pure.

" Learn, then, that next to the Supreme,
and our own Inmost, whereby we come intO'
communion with Him, the most sacred of all
things to us is the mystery of Sex. Its origin is
a mystery hidden in the breast of the All-wise.
Its method is likewise a mystery. Enough
has been revealed to us to show that finite
existences are possible only through Duality.
It is the eternal and necessary antidote to sel-
fishness. For sex means sympathy, sympathy
with likeness in unlikeness. Itself the pro-
duct of eternal love, it is in its turn the creator
and sustainer of love. You, in your manifold
contradictions upon earth, once adored the
attributes of sex. Then for ages you con-
temned them, affecting a spirituality which
regarded it as an unhappy accident. Then
you blasphemed them by suffering a state of
society in which the natural sympathies were



BY AND BY.



245



forced to succumb to conventional exigencies.
At last you have attained a condition with
which we can sympathise, for you have re-
stored the affections to their due pre-eminence
as the sole basis of morals.

" Some day you will learn to love. With
most men love is the product of sex. I be-
lieve you more nearly resemble us, with
whom sex is the product of love. It may be,
a hard saying for you to comprehend, but we '
know not, until love has developed it withir
us, to what sex w^e shall belong when we love,
Unconsciously to ourselves, our inner nature
determines this according to some law which\
eludes our power of analysis. For no hnite \
being can comprehend its own nature." \

Criss noted here that there v.^as somethino^
in the tone and aspect of the angel Vv^hich
called forth his own most ardent sympathy,
as well as curiosity respecting his visitant's
own precise character and condition. It had
never before occurred to him to question the
sex of his friend. Novr, it struck him, there
was something that strove for expression ;
and Criss felt his heart eoine out towards



& ;:3



246 BY AND BY.

him in the fulness of intense sympathy. But
he did not speak what he felt. The angel
was accustomed to read his thoughts, so that
utterance was superfluous.

During most of their previous interviews^
his friend had been accompanied by another,
a slim stripling of middle height — a boy-
angel, as it seemed to Criss — whose slight and
active form was matched with a playfulness
of disposition which was wont to exhibit it-
self in smart repartees and practical jokes
upon Criss and his Ariel ; and yet whose
eyes and voice indicated a capacity for a feel-
ing deeper than seemed compatible with his
boyishness in other respects.

It delighted Criss to witness the strong
mutual affection subsisting between the two
friends, and to watch the gradual and evident
development of the younger from mischie-
vous sprite to laughing fairy ; and he won-
dered whether he ever would attain a
character grave and sweet and earnest as
that of his tall companion. Now and again
would the look of tender devotion which
shone through the lad's steel-blue eyes, and



'BY AND BY, 247

diffused itself over his merry countenance,
suddenly give place to an outbreak of the
wildest spirits, when his look would become
wholly defiant, and his voice break into
snatches of joyous song, and his whole bear-
ing become that of a spoilt and wayward
child.

Sometimes he would perch himself on
the top of Criss's car, and, pretending to be
jealous of him, declare that he would push
him back to the earth. At others he would
get beneath it, and seek to give it an im-
pulse upwards, declaring that Criss must
come and stay altogether with them in
heaven. Of course, he could only make as
though he would move the car, for it is quite
out of the power of beings so delicately or-
ganised and ethereally constituted, to exercise
a direct and perceptible influence upon the
gross elements of earth. At times he ap-
peared to be really jealous of Criss, once
even leaving them, and returning home alone,
pouting like a sulky girl.

Criss had noticed that of late his tall friend
had become graver, and somewhat distrait, as



248 BY AND BY.

if pre-occupied and anxious. And on this
occasion there was, as I have stated, some-
thing in his demeanour that strangely excited
Criss's sympathy. The angel detected his
feeling, and understood it better than Criss
himself

" Your sympathy," he at length said, " has
won from me something that I have been
longing to utter, but shrunk from confessing,
even to my own kind. With you, attractions
are of opposites. Yours are marriages of
completion. With us, like attracts like.
Ours are marriages of intensification. I
doubt whether that which I shall next tell
you, will be equally comprehensible to you.
I am in the stage in which love is developing
my sex. I love and am loved, but neither
of us have yet attained assurance which of
us will be endowed with masculine, which
with feminine, functions. It seems to me
that in some way this conversation has has-
tened the crisis. I have grown bolder since
I gave you my confidence ; and now I am
almost certain that — that "

And here his form and eyes dilated, and



BY A2s'D BY. 249

he gazed Intently Into space. Then Criss
thought he heard a rustHng, but he saw
nothing. Presently his angel-frlend opened
wide his arms, and with a bound there
entered Into them another angel of smaller
dimensions, fuller and more delicate outlines,
with lone flowlnof hair that seemed to him
like the minelino: of sunbeam and orold-dust.
The face was hidden In the breast of the
other, as each clasped each, and only a tiny
luminous foot appeared beneath the alabas-
trous skirt ; but that foot convinced CrIss
that his friend need no lono^er doubt which
province of being he was to occupy In the
new dispensation upon which he had en-
tered.

And as Criss gazed at them still clasping
each other In blissful trance, the air around
became Instinct with life, and strains of music
reached his ears, and those of the new-comer
also ; for She raised her head from the breast
where It had so long been hidden ; a face,
one glimpse of which told even Criss's
duller — because still human — faculties that
every thrill and pulse of her being apper-



250 BV AND BY.

tained to the feminine. She raised her face
and uttered a Httle cry, — half of timidity,
half of amusement : —

" We are caught ! we are caught ! Oh,
where shall we hide from them ?"

For even among angels the first Impulse
of love for the one, is to conceal itself from
the many.

But the joy of the angels over a new-
found affinity extends far and wide, and is
too vivid to be repressed ; and so they had
sought out these, diving after them to the
lower airs where they held converse with
Criss.

And then, surrounded by congratulating
friends, and strains of wedding-music, the
celestial marriage party, — the bride still
clasped in her bridegroom's arms, — soared
aloft to their own abiding-place, and disap-
peared from Criss's sight.

But the unutterable fairness of the face of
which he had caught a glimpse, remained
indelibly impressed upon his memory. It
was the face of the boy-angel, as Criss had
once deemed him ; now by the force of love



BY AND BY. 251

developed into the woman, and lit up with
all the devotion and beauty which consti-
tutes the special appanage of her sex, no
matter in what sphere of existence.




CHAPTER II.

RISS determined to spend the last
days of his minority with his foster-
father. It happened that Bertie
was much occupied in carrying out
a scheme of immigration for the government
of Patagonia; and, induced by tempting
offers, large numbers of settlers were leaving
Central Africa for the bracing climate and
fertile slopes of the Southern Cordilleras.

The illwill beginning to be manifested
towards the whites on the African plateau,
especially in the districts immediately around
the capital, and the Bornouse and Sakatos
districts of Central Soudan, contributed also
to the movement. Many of the richer class
of emigrants adopted the easy and rapid



BY AND BY. 253

journey aloft, and thereby escaped the dis-
comforts and risk of the unwholesome low
coast country ; but the majority, together
with all heavy goods, were carried by sea,
embarking near the mouth of the river
Niger.

There was in reality no hardship about
the sea journey, except to people accustomed
to the exquisite ease of air-travel. Our an-
cestors even of a few generations back, would
have been filled with envy could they have
foreseen the enormous improvements in the
construction of ships, which a cheap motive
power has enabled us to make. It is diffi-
cult for us to realise the fact that people used
to traverse the ocean by the aid of the wind
alone, or at best impelled by steam, produced
by the combustion of coal ; the stock of this
article requisite for a long voyage occupying
two- thirds of a vessel's whole carrying-
capacity ; and the vessel itself riding upon a
single keel, at the mercy of every change in
the level of the water, and the decks lying
so low that the waves frequently washed
over them ! What would they have said



254



BY AND BY.



could they have beheld the huge ferries,
rather than ships, in which, raised high upon
sharp, parallel keels, and propelled by rows
of wheels and screws, we swiftly pass and
re-pass the ocean in crowds, scarce knowing
by any movement whether it is storm or
calm !

The sea now has few terrors for voyagers.
The danger of fire, indeed, cannot be altogether
abolished, though it is reduced to a minimum.
Neither are collisions, either with each other
or with icebergs, altogether unknown ; and
when these do happen, the tremendous pace
at which our vessels move is apt to produce
catastrophes which are terrible indeed.

In the event to which the course of my nar-
rative now brings me, both these dangers befel
a vessel bound from the west coast of Africa
to Patagonia, having on board a large party
of emigrants. The clash occurred in the mid
South Atlantic, and while the two floating
cities were inextricably crushed and entangled
together, and their machinery in a state of
utter disorganisation, a fire broke out, and



BY AND BY. 255

threatened everything with utter destruc-
tion.

The first act of the authorities on board in
such an emergency is always to dispatch a
boat to pick up a wire of the floating tele-
graph, and summon aid from the nearest
port. This was accordingly done, and then
as many of the passengers as possible were
lowered into the life-boats, to await, at a safe
distance from the burning wreck, the arrival
of aid. To the dismay of all, it was found
that the boats could not accommodate the
entire party, so that several still remained
upon the burning vessels.

Among these were an elderly man and his
daughter, who had emigrated from the Scotch
Highlands to the mountain settlement on the
slopes of Atlantika, in Soudan, and were
now, after some years' residence there, start-
ing on a new venture in a climate and country
more nearly resembling their own.

The daughter, a girl of sixteen, had by her
marvellous beauty and fascinating vivacity,
won vast admiration from all on board. To
the old, she was as a warm and glancing sun-



256 BY AND BY.

beam ; to the young, she was a realisation of
their most ardent dreams of joy and love.

The father made a strange contrast with
his daughter. He was a hard-featured, tall,
saturnine, reserved, unbending man. They
stood together now, on the edge of the blaz-
ing flotilla, watching the receding and over-
laden boats.

On the crowded benches of these was
many a young man who, during the brief so-
journ at sea, had learnt to regard the fair
Scotch lassie with feelings akin to adoration,
but in the excitement of the catastrophe had
forgotten everything but self-preservation.
It must be said on their behalf, that the for-
bidding aspect of the father had kept them
all at too great a distance to allow of any-
thing like an intimacy.

Presently a cry arose from them —

" Nannie ! we must save Nannie ! Jump,
Nannie, and we will pick you up !"

Nannie's face brightened for a moment,
less at the idea of being saved, than in pride
of conquest. Mechanically she looked up
into her father's face. The grim resolution



BY AND BY. 257

she read there arrested her impulse to fling
herself Into the water, as bidden by her ad-
mirers In the boats.

And now between those who were for
saving Nannie, and those who were eager to
get further from the burning wrecks, a clamour
arose. The old Scotchman made no sign
to guide her. The resolution with which she
adhered to his side touched him not. The
fact was, he loved her not. His was only the
self-love of a cold, austere disposition. How
such a fair, tender wild-flower had ever come
to spring up on the bleak mountain side of a
nature like his, was a mystery even to him-
self. He saw nothing of himself In her ; and
in his heart he reproached her with being all
her mother's — that mother who had pined
away beneath his chilling influence, and, after
producing three fair and lovely daughters, was
buried in the Highland home, which soon after-
wards he deserted for the slopes of Atlantika.
One daughter had recently died ; another, the
eldest, was married and settled in Africa ; and
he was now taking this one, and all his posses-
sions, to the new settlements In South America.

VOL. I. 17



258 BY AND BY.

Untrained by discipline, and unregulated
by reason, Nannie was entirely a creature of
impulse. She knew neither fear for herself,
nor love for her father ; but some blind in-
stinct made her say to herself,

"• At least, if he cannot love me, he shall
not be ashamed of me."

So, in reply to those w^ho bade her jump
and be saved, she calmly took her father s
hand, and said,

"Not alone ! I cannot be saved by my-
self!"

Then she whispered to him,

*' Father, shall we jump ? I am sure they
will save us both."

" Do as you please," was his reply. " For
myself, I have never in my life accepted a
favour from any man, and I am too old to
begin now."

Nannie was terribly perplexed. She her-
self had always been ready to accept, and
eaeer to serve, and she understood not her
father's disposition.

Her attention was drawn from her per-
plexity by another shout, differing altogether



BY AND BY. 259

in character from the last, for there was in it
a tone of joyousness.

Above the crackling of the flames was
heard the sound of a signal, exploding at a
distance ; then another, nearer ; and another,
so much louder as to indicate that they pro-
ceeded from a swift ship of the air, and no
comparatively slow toiler of the sea.

All listened and looked intently. Pre-
sently a tiny aeromotive settled down upon
the water between the boats and the blazing
wreck. Its diminutiveness caused a thrill of
disappointment in every breast. Adapted
but for one or two persons, it was evidently
incapable of aiding in the present dreadful
emergency. But a clear voice arose from it,
saying,

" Take courage ! A fleet of aeromotives
will soon be here. I have outstripped it, to
give you notice. But I can save one now,
at once. Will anyone come with me ?"

It was Christmas Carol who spoke. He
had joined Bertie on his last trip with the
emigrants, and they were now on their way
home too;-ether over the Atlantic. The elare

17 2



26o BY AND BY.

of the conflagration had reached them at a
vast distance, when high up in the air, whither
they had ascended in order to escape the con-
trary trade winds. Criss was traveUing in
his Ariel, and keeping company with the con-
voy, when he caught sight of the fire. He
only paused to shout to Bertie that it must be
a ship that was burning, and that he would
hurry on, and announce the coming of the
rest.

In answer to his question, " Will anyone
come with me ?" there rose once more the
cry,—

" Nannie ! Nannie ! Save yon fair-haired
lassie !"

In a moment he had risen from the water,
and was grasping the rail at the edge of the
burning deck, against which the remaining
passengers were crowded together. There
was no need to ask which was Nannie. The
looks of all sufficiently indicated her, as, clad
in little beside her long white night-dress and
flowing golden hair, she stood mute and
trembling by her father's side.

*' Have a little patience," said Criss to the



BY AND BY. 261

poor people, " you will all be taken oft soon.
Come, little one," he added to Nannie, " I
will take you safely anywhere you wish to

go."

Scarce knowing what she did, she took his
hand and stepped Into the car, her father
being apparently too bewildered to be capable
of any decision.

" Where would you like to find her ?"
asked Criss of the old man.

'* At her sister's," was the tardy response.

" Very good," said CrIss ; " at her sister's?
wherever that may be, you shall find her
safe. When the convoy comes, tell the leader
that he Is to bring you thither as soon as
possible. Good-bye !" And amid a ringing
shout he darted aloft, bearing Nannie with
him.

She, on her side, seemed to partake of the
general stupefaction. The shouting and the
rapidity of the ascent recalled her to con-
sciousness.

"Oh, my father! my father !" she cried,
'' do save my father !"

" Fear not for him, little one." said Criss.



262 BY AND BY.

"See! yonder come the great air-ships, in time
to save them all. Their captain is a good
kind man, and will soon bring your father to
you — to us — for I shall not leave you until I
see you safe with him."

His voice re-assured her, as no voice had
ever before done, and allayed the beating of
her wild and eager heart.

" But when and where will that be ?" she
asked.

" At your sister s ? Did you not hear him
say so ?"

" You are going to take me all that way ?
and by ourselves too ?"

" I do not know where, or how far ' all that
way' may be ; but I intend to take you every
inch of it, no matter where. By the way,
what is your sister's address ?"

" The Elephant Farm, Yolo, Mount At-
lantika. Central Africa."

" Very good, then. At the Elephant Farm,
Yolo, Mount Atlantika, Central Africa, you
will in a few hours have the pleasure of meet-
ing your father."

And glancing at the stars, Criss turned a



BY AND BY. 263

handle and gave the Ariel an easterly direc-
tion.

" And now," he said, *' as we are no longer


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Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 13)