Edward Maitland.

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

. (page 3 of 13)
Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


lads, as we sat round our little stove, the child
as usual lying on young Wilmer's lap, and
flourishing marvellously, when Avenil ab-
ruptly asked me who was the maker of the
broken cylinder of our aeromotive, and whe-
ther the size and number w^ere stamped upon
it?

" Thinkinof he was indulofinof in visions of
a claim for damages against the manufacturer
on our return home, I twitted him on the score
of his reflections takinor a more sordid and

o

less practical turn than usual.

''He had then the same imperturbable



48 BY AND BY.

good temper that distinguishes him in his
present exalted position, and he made no
reply to my taunt. But after the rest of the
party had turned in and were asleep, he
beckoned to me to take the lamp and come
outside our place of shelter. When I got
there, he said —

'' ' What I want to know is this : — can the
fans be worked with a less powerful decom-
poser than the one we have broken ? '

'' I said, certainly ; the only difference
would be in our speed ; but that I did not
care about that, for, provided we had power
enough to carry us aloft, and sustain us
there, the winds would be sure sooner or
later to carry us to some eligible place for
descending. At any rate we could hardly be
in a worse one.

" ' Well,' he said, ' now will you answer my
question about the broken cylinder ?'

'' I mentioned the maker's name, and the
number of the piece.

" ' Now look at this,' he said, ' and tell me
what you think of it' And he led me to the
machinery of the strange balloon, which he



BY AND BY.



49



had been taking to pieces, and uncovering the
cyHnder, which he had concealed, bade me
look at it.

" I did look at It, and then at the machinery
of which it formed a part, and then at the
boy. And then I said —

" ' Do any of the others know of this ?'

" ' Of course not,' he answered. ' I was
not going to raise hopes only to have them
disappointed. But what do you think of It ?*

'' ' Think of it ? Why that this cylinder,
though less powerful than our own, is by the
same maker, and of precisely the same kind,
and that It will take us up off the Ice, and if
we have moderate weather, enable us to steer
homewards.' And I grasped his hand in
joyous revulsion of feeling at the immediate
prospect of escape for my lads.

" It is true that I oucrht sooner to have seen
this possibility, as all the machinery used in
the East is of British manufacture. But the
events connected with the arrival of the
balloon had occupied nearly all my thoughts.
Besides, the acquisition of such an addition
to our stock of provisions had removed

VOL. I. 4



50 BY AND BY,

from my mind all apprehension for the
present.

*' I will not detail the experiments which
occupied the next two or three days. Suffice
it to say, that after several trials we succeeded
in fitting the new combination of machinery
so as to give sufficient power for our purpose.
The moment of our quitting the iceberg was
one of intense emotion ; the thought of our
various homes and the feelings we knew
would be working there, had our position
been known, dominating all others.

** Next to this, the strongest feeling I verily
believe was that of eagerness to save the
child whose advent had so strangely minis-
tered to our salvation, and of curiosity to see
whether its subsequent career would cor-
respond with its commencement.

*' The important question, in which di-
rection we should steer, was soon decided in
favour of home, though it was by much the
longest journey. It is true we might easily
have regained the Pole, which was but some
eight degrees distant, and there we should
have found a fresh vessel to take us home.



BY AND BY. 51

But the lads all shrank from a return to its
gloomy though hospitable shores, and cried
out for the sun, and the light, and home ; and
the little Criss carolled so cheerily at the sound
of their acclamations, that I determined to
undertake the longer voyage without more
ado.

*' So we departed, rising slowly and steadily
from off the cratered pinnacle of ice which
had been our home for so many days ;
leaving on it a burning beacon, which re-
mained in sight long after we had started.
The air was perfectly calm ; and so, slowly
and without mishap, and glad not to rise very
high, for fear of the effect of a rare atmo-
sphere upon the child's tender lungs, we
steered for the invisible sun, remaining igno-
rant of our longitude until we had got well
within the daylight.

" When next we came near enough the earth
to discern the character of the things upon it,
w^e were pleased to find that we were coming
among friends. For I espied the familiar
outlines of one of those stereotyped stations
for aerial and railway locomotion, with which

4—2

uSlTf OF 11UN0I5



^2 BY AND BY.

our Government has provided the whole of
its Asiatic protectorate. And by the signal
hoisted on it for the information of aerial
travellers, we learnt that it was one of the
north-eastern-most stations of British China.

"It soon appeared that we bore a more
dilapidated aspect than we were aware of;
for a large number of spectators assembled to
witness our descent in the enclosure appointed
for the purpose. At first they were disposed
to make merry at our appearance ; but when
they beheld the gravity which we all stead-
fastly maintained as we stepped one by one
out of the car, now properly secured by the
station officials ; and when finally young
Wilmer came forth bearing the infant, laugh-
ing and crowing in his arms, and we pro-
ceeded to the Station Hotel, the curiosity,
especially of the Chinese portion of the crowd,
knew no bounds. They would have it that
one of us was a woman in disguise ; and then,
that we must have abducted the child. Hear-
ing murmurs to this effect, and not desiring
to excite the hostility of the natives, I asked
one of the officials in their hearing, if there was



BY AND BY. 53

a place of worship at hand, where a thanks-
giving service for escape from great peril could
be performed ; and learning that a Buddhist
temple was near, I sent a liberal fee, to secure
the services of the priest. I took care to say
all this aloud, in the language of the country,
for former experiences had taught me that
the nearest way to the hearts of a barbarous
people is by paying respect to their religion.
And I knew from history that nothing had
contributed more to induce the Chinese to en-
trust the political management of their empire
to us on our retiring from India, when we
had taught its people to govern themselves,
and hold their own against the Russians ;
or to dispose them favourably towards our
beliefs, than the conviction that we should
pay the same respect to their religion and
customs that we showed to those of each
other in our own country, as well as to those
of the Hindoos.

*' I also sent for a native newspaper re-
porter."




CHAPTER V.

^E were fortunate In finding a nurse

for the infant In a young English

widow of gentle nurture, who had

just lost her own child, and was

desirous of returning to England, her wedded

relation having come to an end."

[Here the old man's voice faltered, and
became broken. The cause of his emotion
was known to few beside myself; but he
succeeded in mastering it, and presently went
on.]

'' We did not escape the usual penalty of
novelty while we remained In the Mongol
town. It was on the western borders of the
sea of Japan that we had alighted. We were
duly interviewed by the caterers for the



BY AND BY.



55



public press, especially those of the native
religious papers which my act of piety had
conciliated. Some of these were illustrated,
and marvellous were the sketches they pro-
duced of our encampment on the ice-peak ;
for they had depicted faces of buried dead
peering with open eyes through the lid of
their crystal coffin, from the walls and floor
of our crater ; while watching over us w^as
seen the shadowy form of their principal
divinity, — the one to whom the temple I had
patronised was specially dedicated. All these
and other paintings were done in the same
style of Chinese art that prevailed thousands
of years ago ; for they are the most con-
servative people in the world. I am inclined
to believe that, like the horse, the bee, and
many other highly-organised animals, the
Chinese have long ago reached the utmost
perfection of which their particular species is \
capable ; so that they do not, like us, keep/
developing into new varieties. The period/
during which a race retains the faculty of
changing for the better, which with us con-\
stitutes the secret of civilisation, has lonofl

1



\



56 BY AND BY.

since been passed by them, and their sole
care is to continue to exist without palpable
deterioration. They are the bees of hu-
manity, very ingenious and industrious, but
they do not get on any further. They live
only to repeat what has been done before
over and over again. Their organisation has
quenched individuality.

'' It is possible, however, that such stereo-
typing of character is but a resultant from the
stereotyping of conditions. Now the Japan-
ese, who were long ago called the Englishmen
of the East, form a wonderful contrast to
their neighbours across the strait. But for
us, China and its splendid coal-fields would
lonor ao^o have been theirs.

" But I see one of my young friends oppo-
site yawning. I am obliged to him for doing
so. It was a needed reminder that mere
reflections are apt to be tedious, especially
when they have nothing to do with the sub-
ject in hand. And I undertook to relate
facts, not reflections. In my excuse, let me
tell you that the life I have led so much up
in the air, and so much alone, without a sight



BY AND BY, 57

or a sound to attract the attention, and guided
only by the needle, without reference to aught
without, — like a soul by its internal ideal, — is
very apt to make a man reflective. He comes
to regard himself as a bystander to the world,
and to think and talk about it as if he were
not a part of it.

" We brought ourselves and the infant all
safe to Europe and England by the Great
Eastern Railway, the new nurse being timid
about the air-voyage, and the physicians
whom I consulted saying that her fears, if
excited by being forced to undertake it,
might have an injurious effect upon the child.
I almost regretted nurse Wilmer w^hen I
heard this, so much did I prefer my ow^n
mode of travelling. But I gave in for the
child's sake, and amply was I repaid for so
doing. There are angels in the real, as well
as in the ideal world."

And Bertie's voice trembled again as he
closed his manuscript.




CHAPTER VI.

H E work of which the foreofolne nar-

o o

rative is to serve as commencement^
^{ will in reality be a joint production,
to the greater portion of which I
shall enact the part of editor rather than of
author ; for it is derived from the remini-
scences of the loving hearts of those who knew
him best, and who, during its progress, have
been continuously associated with me in our
common home.

This home is no other than the well-known
" Club" (as our ancestors taught us to name
such institutions), already referred to under
the name of The Triangle. As I hope our
story will be read in regions whither the fame
of The Triangle has not yet travelled, I will



BY AND BY. 59

here mention that it is the oldest, and as its
members fondly believe, the most highly con-
sidered, of the institutions which have, more
than any others, served to ameliorate the social
life of modern times. It has been the model
for the numberless similar clubs which have
now lonor existed amono- all kinds and classes
of civilised people, and in their perfection of
economy and organisation, brought facilities
for comfort, fellowship, and culture otherwise
unattainable, within easy reach of ever}- rank
and grade of life, without detriment to do-
mesticity or individuality. And here I may
remark that in no respect does our idea of
perfection in organisation differ from that of
antiquity more than in this, — that while for-
merly its highest triumph was to repress, so
now its sole, or at least main, aim is to develop
Individuality. Other clubs have such names
as The Right-angled Triangle, The Obtuse-
angled Triangle, or The Ac2cte-angled Tri-
angle, and are called for short. The Rights
The ObtiLse, or The Aczite. There Is also
the Isosceles, and the Eqiiilateral. Ours alone
is known as The Triangle.



6o BY AND BY.

I The determining idea of all these institu-
tions is derived from the fundamental plan of
human life. They consist, therefore, of three
departments, each distinct and complete in
itself, yet all inseparably united to form an
harmonious whole. One angle of the build-
ing is devoted to men, another to women, and
the third to both in common, with their fami-
lies.

Formerly it was only in this last section of
the building that the inhabitants of the various
divisions could meet together, except by call-
ing upon each other privately by an external
entrance. Now, each division has its own
hall private to itself, the common one for all
having recently been constructed. In the
opinion of the members of The Triangle, the
propinquity of the family folks is as desirable
as that of others. We are, therefore, empha-
tically an Equilateral Triangle, and dispense
altogether with diagonals or bi-sections ; for
these involve an expedient which we hold to
be subversive of the essential significance of
the club principle. The example of the
Square, Rectangular, or Parallelogrammatical



BY AND BY. 6i

Clubs, which have been started as an im-
provement upon the Triangular ones, and
which provide a fourth and separate division
for the exclusive use of couples ungifted with
offspring, has never obtained favour at The
Tf tangle.

It is by the frank adoption of the Triangular
principle that modern society has reconciled
the lono^-conflictinor ideas of the Home and
the Commune. Co-existing harmoniously be-
neath the same roof, the former is free from
invasion or dictation from without, while the
latter involves no deprivation of domesticity
or individuality. Conve7iie7ice, not interference,
is their motto. We thus vindicate our claim
to be the most perfect exponents of the most I
perfect civilisation yet attained, — the civilisa- '
tion which, while affording complete security,
ministers also to the promotion of Indi-
viduality and the development of the affec-
tions.

It was this that endeared The Trlano^le to
the great and loving heart of him whose loss
we are now so sorely lamenting. A multi-
plication of distinctions beyond those broadly



^2 BY AND BY.

> Indicated by life Itself, he regarded as a de-
parture from the basis of Nature, and a return
to the system which proved so disastrous to
our ancestors.

These, as the lessons of our childhood In-
form us, used to Imagine that they had de-

; tected Imperfections in the structure of the
universe, and particularly of the moral world ;
and In the plenitude of their presumption
set themselves to Improve upon natural order
by artificial expedients contrived without

! reference to the principles of that order.

\ Their sentiment of humanity was undermined
by their sentiment of patriotism; and their
sentiment of patriotism was undermined by
the yet more sub-divisional character of their
religion. It was only through the rise of a
spirit superior to both patriotism and religion
(as then understood), that our country was
rescued from falling into utter disintegration
and insignificance.

The struggle by Avhich this happy era was
inaueurated was a tremendous one : and in-
asmuch as it was a struggle of principles,
apart from all material vested interests or



BY AND BY. (^^

Other forms of selfishness, it is regarded by
us as constituting the grandest period in our
history.

As some of its details will necessarily
be alluded to in the course of our narrative,
I will not here say more respecting it than
that its result was to extinofuish for even
so far as the vast bulk of our population is
concerned, that antagonism between the
Church and the World, which had for cen-
turies been the fount of woes innumerable to
mankind ; and to obtain recognition of the
essential identity of the two opposing forces.
It is the return to the basis of Nature, through
the abrogation of the ancient divorce between
the various departments of the human under-
standing, that is symbolised in the triune form
of our modern life. Hence the love borne to
it by one who more vividly than any other of
modern times realised the essential Oneness
of Humanity, in its capabilities and signifi-
cance, with its sub-standing and informing
principle.

It must not be supposed that the idea of
such an institution as The Triangle attained



64 BY AND BY,

its full development all at once. It required
the Emancipation to restore the taste for the
almost forgotten art of marriage. The de-
mand for dwellings suitable for couples and
families of moderate means, had led to the in-
stitution of Flats or Suites, and even of Ra-
dials^ as a ring of houses was called, having
a central kitchen and service in common.
These were a great step in the promotion of
comfort and economy ; but they failed to
minister to that fulness of social intercourse
which all cultivated natures crave. For,
however well adapted to each other a man
and a woman may be, their intellectual capa-
cities require to draw at least a part of their
sustenance from without. Otherwise, domes-
ticity Itself becomes a bar to the maintenance
of individuality.

To this end they must have a varied society
within their reach. It was reserved for The
Triangle to show how this want was to be
met. People who Avatched with curiosity the
growth of the great three-cornered building
which overlooks the Hampstead Park, little
thought that they were witnessing the birth



BY AND BY. 65

of a system that was to revolutionise human
life. No greater proof of its perfect adapta-
tion to all the wants of developed humanity
could be found, than in its rapid extension to
every class of the community. Even the
artisan and the labourer now have their tri-
angular clubs of residence — the club that
civilises ; In place of the " beershop" that
brutalises — ^as our ancestors knew to their
cost, though they w^ere so terribly perplexed
to find a substitute for the latter, that some of
them went to the length of denouncing the
social instinct altogether, as well as the use of
all stimulatinor beverao^es !

Concerning The Triangle. I will here only
add further, that it is situated in the heart of
the intellectual quarter of London ; so called
because here dwell chiefly those who are de-
voted to literature, science, and art. To the
east of this quarter lies the mercantile and
industrial ; to the west, the fashionable ; and to
the south, the governmental and legal quarter,
the whole covering an area which to our
ancestors of the earlier part of the Victorian
era would have appeared monstrous and im-

VOL. I. 5



66 BY AND BY.

possible. Yet it is not so much in a lateral
direction that London has spread, as upwards,
through the enormous elevation given to our
modern buildings.




CHAPTER VII.

SHALL now continue the narrative
Vv^hich Bertie has so well beeun for
me, and endeavour to weave into an
harmonious whole the various items
supplied me from the sources at my command.
Next to Bertie Greathead, it is mainly from
the Avenil family that I have drawn my in-
formation. The whole of the Wilmers, to
whom. I belong, early left the scene, and only
reappeared on it towards the end.

It was by general acclamation of the
whole party of the iceberg, and of their rela-
tives, that Bertie undertook the charge of the
little Christmas Carol. As his calling caused
him frequently to be absent, and as the child's
property promised to be considerable, Bertie

5—2



68 BY AND BY.

begged that the fathers of Avenll and of my
father might be associated with him in the
trust. This was done, and when my father
and Avenil came of age they also were made
trustees.

The only difficulty was about the place of
residence for the child and Alma Nutrix, for
so the new nurse was called. Bertie insisted
on their living with him, so attached had he
become to the child. But his bachelor's
quarters were altogether too straitened to
admit such a party. His fellow-guardians
wished him to come into The Triangle.
But he was not a member ; and on
making application, and being asked which
division of the club he desired to join,
he found himself ineligible for an}'-. He
could not have the child and its nurse with
him in the single men's quarters ; and he
could not go with them to the single women's
quarters. As for the married folks' division,
he would not hear of It. He was not quali-
hed, he said, and did not mean to be qualified,
to occupy that department.

In the meantime, the child and nurse w^ere



BY AND BY. 69

accommodated by the Avenils, in their own
quarters in the club, and Bertie used to visit
them there. The Avenils had thus an excellent
opportunity of becoming well acquainted with
Alma's character. What they saw of her
led them to have a high regard for her, and
it occurred to them that the best solution of
the difficulty would be her marriage with
Bertie. She, however, made no secret of
her unwillingness to enter again upon an
association of the kind. Bertie became
more and more dissatisfied at the barrier
to his complete ownership of the child. At
length he abruptly, and some say very crossly,
proposed to Alma, that as they both liked
having the child with them, they should
overcome their mutual aversion and be mar-
ried, for the sake of the better taking care of
it. She said, that if that was all he wanted,
she had no objection ; and so the couple,
after entering into a contract of the third
class, became with the infant, inmates of the
married folks' quarters. It was said that
they continued to be very cold and distant to
each other for a considerable period after this.



70 BY AND BY.

But the child, who so early in its career had
power thus to bring these two persons to-
gether in spite of themselves, exhibited its
power yet more in reconciling them to their
union afterwards. For, to the great amuse-
ment and delight of their friends, Bertie and
Alma fairly fell in love with each other after
their marriage ; and so long as she lived, no
more truly attached couple was to be found. It
was his reminiscence of this tender passage
in his history that caused Bertie's voice to
falter in his recital. She died when little
Criss was between three and four years old,
leaving no child of her own to divide Bertie's
affection ; and has been sincerely mourned by
him ever since.

Bertie then, for his own solace, took the
child with him on an aerial journey. It had
begun to pine a little, as if for its foster-
mother. The journey did it so much good
that Bertie concluded that, having been born
in the air, the air was its natural element.
After this it was his constant companion, until
old enough to Q^o to school. It was doubtless

o o

in a measure owing to the action of the life



BY AND BY. 71

aloft Upon a peculiar temperament, that little
Criss grew up to be the man he was. It
served to develop a temperament which was
itself the result of a union between two
races of opposite characteristics. A careful
examination of the contents of the balloon,
made after Bertie's arrival in England, re-
vealed letters and other documents which
proved that the old man, though himself of
Jewish extraction, had married an European
woman ; and that Criss's mother Zoe was
their daughter, being named after her mother.
She, again, had a husband or lover, who was
a Greek, w^hose child Criss was. Her father
hated this Greek, and believed him to be the
emissary of enemies who were plotting against
him. It was to escape from their malevo-
lence that he had embarked in his balloon
with his daughter and his wealth, intending
to settle in some country where he would be
more secure than in Syria. He was com-
pletely in the dark as to how far matters had
gone between his daughter and her lover. It
had been with a breaking heart, and on the
eve of her expected confinement, that she



72 BY AND BY.

had received his command to enter the bal-
loon and start instanty. She dared not dis-
obey him. Her lover was not at hand. A
hasty, blurred, half-finished letter which was


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 13)