Edward Maitland.

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

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and daintily-turned limbs.

A fine, pleasant-looking man, the husband,
whom Criss already knew as Frank, then
came forward and welcomed and thanked
Criss, saying he presumed he was the Carol
named in the telegram he had received from
mid-ocean, and placed in his hands another
addressed to him, which proved to be from
Bertie.

From this he learnt that Nannie's father
had, with the rest of the passengers, pre-
ferred to continue the journey to South
America, the Patagonian government having,
on being communicated with from the scene
of the wreck, undertaken to provide for them
on their arrival, and despatched a swift ves-
sel to convey them all thither. Bertie added
that after landing his own party of the rescued
on the American coast, he should steer home-
wards to keep his appointment for Christmas-
eve with Criss and his fellow-trustees.



BY AND BY. 289

The message from the old Scotchman to
his married daughter, was to the effect that
he had lost nearly everything, except his Hfe ;
and that as he was too proud to come back
to be a burden to his children, he should
accept the offers of the Patagonian govern-
ment, and do the best he could for himself in
South America. If Nannie ever reached
them — of which he had great doubts, not-
withstanding the high character Mr. Great-
head gave him of the young man Carol, for
steadiness and skill — he hoped she would not
be too great a trouble to them. But he
would write at length on reaching his desti-
nation, which he hoped to do without further
mishap, as a vessel had been dispatched to
their aid, and he was not one rash enough to
tempt Providence by travelling in a machine
so contrary to nature as an air-ship.



VOL. I. 19



CHAPTER IV.




HE European settlements in Soudan^
of which that on Mount Atlantika
was the chief, while rich and
flourishing as communities, were,,
as regards their civilisation, somewhat in
arrear of Europe itself. Many fashions, old
and discarded elsewhere as the excesses of
unpractical enthusiasts, were here still in full
vigour. To Criss it was like going back to
the times he had read of in history, to find
women claiming, not merely equality, but
identity, with men, in all the affairs of life,
political as well as social.

Educated in the self-same schools, and on
the self-same system, as the boys, and taught
to have precisely the same contempt for all



BV AND BY.

pomps and vanities, they devoted themselves
as equally a matter of course to grave and
industrial pursuits, working in the farm, the
factory, and the office, on the plough and the
locomotive, in the Legislature and the police
(for the white communities of Soudan en-
joyed the privilege of conducting in their
own fashion whatever affairs exclusively
affected themselves), and would hold a rifle,
and go through military drill, and had no
manner of doubt that, if called on, they
would exhibit on the battle-field a prowess
little, if at all, inferior to that of the men.

In a state of society in which woman cared
more to be sensible than ornamental, and men
valued them for their uses rather than for
their graces, for their robustness rather than
their delicacy and tenderness, and mere
esteem had taken the place of love, and the
general aspect of life was grey and sober ;
the sensation had been one akin to conster-
nation, which was created by these young
Scotch girls, who, from the moment of their
arrival, bade resolute defiance to all estab-
lished rules of decorum.

19 — 2



292 BY AND BY.

f (

At first the elders of the community felt
rong in the conviction that they had edu-
ated the youth of both sexes far too well for
hem to suffer from so evil an example. But
hen they saw the effect produced by the
Wondrous beauty of face and form of the
new arrivals, their witching ways of scorn or
merriment : their reckless abandon of man-
ner and speech : their utter contempt for the
useful, and instinctive devotion to the charm-
ing, as the one thing needful or desirable in
their sex ; and saw, too, that even the gravest
and most practical of their sons were unable
^to resist the fascination, — they were moved
to indignation and wrath, and ceased not to
utter warnings against all association with
*' the witches of Atlantika."

These on their part enjoyed the commo-
tion they were only too conscious of having
created. They knew that none could say
/ any harm of them, save that they were pretty
/ girls, and scorned to be anything else. Too
/ heedless and untaught, save In the young ways
of their own Inbred nature, they scarce knew
the source of their power, but felt that,



BY AND BY. 293

somehow, in them a tribute was being paid
to Womanhood it failed to obtain elsewhere
around them ; and it was nothing to them if
it were paid at the expense of " civilisation."
And the whole career of these girls certainly
was a veritable triumph of womanhood, —
w^omanhood in its simple freshness and
genuineness, pure from the hands of Nature,
wild and untamable in its utter unconscious-
ness of ill ; haughty and proud in its con-
scious superiority to all arts ; and winning and
joyous in its wish to please, and its confidence
of inability to fail to do so, even when making
most strenuous efforts to be disagreeable. /

The father was utterly powerless to com-M
prehend or restrain the exuberant natures of
his daughters. As children, there was no
garden, wood, or meadow, where they would
not wilfully trespass and stray. As maidens,
there was no heart they would not win, and
make merry with. As women, — ah, the
thought of what they would be as women,
sometimes made him hate the very beauty
that served to remind him of the '^mother his
own hardness had done to death.1



294 BY AND BY.

At length some one was found bold enough
to seriously wish to marry the elder of the
sisters ; a man of good repute for sense
and substance, the owner of an extensive
elephant-nursery, and valuable ivory-works :
honest, straightforward, good-looking, and
highly regarded, even by the father himself.
It was even more astonishing to the latter to
find his daughter readily accepting the offer,
at so low a rate had he estimated her good
sense. But his surprise was as nothing com-
pared to that of the whole community when
Mattie insisted on being married out and
out, at once, without any provision for a
trial of compatibilities, and without any of
the usual settlements of property on herself
separately. When remonstrated with, and
told that such confiding generosity was a
culpable weakness, and a wanton throwing of
temptation in a man's way, she said that she
was a woman, and had a right to be weak if
she liked ; that the other women of the place
might turn themselves into men if they chose ;
but that she believed any true woman knew a
true man when she saw one, and that if she



BY AND BY. 295

could not trust a man altogether, she would
not trust him at all ; and she did trust
Frank Hazeltine.

Her lover would not be outdone in orene-
rosity, and accepted her with the same
absence of all the usual safeguards and pre-
cautions. And so they became man and
wife in the simple fashion of old times, when
there were no marriage-settlements, no sepa-
ration-clauses, no woman's rights. In short,
they took each other for better or for worse,,
and agreed to swim or sink together. And
the only member of her own sex in the wide
country round that approved of their con-
duct, was the rebellious and defiant Nannie.

It was with a grim satisfaction that the old
Scotchman saw his daughter taken off his
hands. He liked Hazeltine, but he was too
confident of ]\Iattie's powers to plague, to
consider him a subject for envy. He soon
learnt to hope that she would plague him, for
he conceived a profound distrust of Hazeltine
so soon as he realised the fact that his wife
loved him. The father felt himself sup-
planted in his daughter s affections ! His



296 BY AND BY.

jealousy blazed out afresh when he found that
Nannie preferred her sister's home to her
own. Altogether, he was so ill at ease that
he determined to leave the country. It was
not through any wish for Nannie's company
that he took her with him. Indeed, he
probably would have left her with the Hazel-
tines, but the eagerness with which both they
and Nannie welcomed the arrangement, de-
cided the old man against it.

All that Criss saw during his brief sojourn
at the Farm, was an exquisitely lovely woman
retaining in maternity all the charms of girl-
hood ; and an exquisitely lovely girl, not yet
matron, and apparently as fancy-free as any
young spring-bok of the country ; and so
given to inconsistent extremes of conduct, so
incalculable in her moods, that she would
hardly bestow upon him a kind look or civil
speech, until he went to take leave of her,
and then she burst into a flood of passionate
tears.

Criss was moving away distressed and
perplexed at a phenomena so strange and un-



BY AND BY. 297

expected. But Nannie darted at him, and
declared vehemently that if he said a word
to her sister or anyone else about her crying,
she would kill him first and then herself;
and that she believed she only cried because
she had been so preternaturally good all the
time she had been in the Ariel with him, and
ever since, that she must make up for it
somehow.



END OF VOL. I.



BILLING, PRINTER, GUILDFORO, SURREi'.



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