Edward Maitland.

By and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 2) online

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ing you."

'' You never stay long enough for that."

'' I am going to stay longer than usual
this time."

'* Then you won't be able to find me out."

'' Why ?"

'' Because when you are here I am never

"Very prettily said, Nannie. I shall re-
ward you by showing you some of the pretty
things in my house, to-morrow."

" Oh, I do so long to see your house, and
everything in it. I have only had one little
peep, and it seemed so nice, I could not
think how you could stay so much away from
it. I hope it will take a long time to see it

266 'BV AND BY.

*' Well, you must come over early, and
bring Bertie to breakfast, and spend the day
with me."

Nannie went to bed radiant with pleasure.
Criss and Bertie sat up some time to talk
over the great engineering operations already
in progress at Lake Tchad. There had been
considerable opposition to the scheme on the
part of the Conservatives of Bornou, who
said that if Providence had wished a river to
run from the lake into the Sahara, it would
have made one ; and also from the Econo-
mists, who said that whatever might be the
result to posterity, the present generation
would never obtain any return for the outlay.
Criss's declaration that he would bear the
responsibility, and pay the expense, silenced
both parties. He had also purchased the
consent of the tribes inhabiting the neigh-
bouring oases, to flood their country. Already
was an army of labourers at work, with vast
engineering appliances, but the scheme had
not been bruited in Europe. Neither had
his ultimate design upon the Niger been di-
vulged. This was to be contingent upon the
experiment with Lake Tchad.

BY AND BY. 267

Bertie remarked that although he might
succeed in restraining the overflow of the
lake, and so vastly improving the condition
of the plateau, he suspected that the desert
could swallow up any amount of water that
might be made to run into it.

Criss said that such might at first be the
result, but Egypt was an example to the
contrary. All depended upon whether the
stream consisted of clear water, or was
charged with sediment. The country about
Lake Tchad was probably the largest allu-
vial plain in the world. He had made
borings which showed the amount of soil to
be practically inexhaustible. The water
would soon spread a layer of this on the
sand, and a new Egypt and new Nile would
arise in the midst of the Sahara. Besides,
if necessary, he was prepared to run his
drain right up into the vast swamps which
occupy the heart of Nigritia itself The only
doubt was as to the precise direction the
stream would take : whether towards the
Atlantic on the north-west coast, opposite the
Canary Isles ; or north-east, towards the Me-
diterranean and the Libyan desert

268 BY AND BY.

" Why, you will have done more than dis-
cover a world," exclaimed Bertie, as the vast
scheme became unfolded before him. " You
will have created one."

"My scheme involves far more even than
I have yet told you," replied Criss. " A
world without a sea, has no charms for me.
The ocean which once filled the Sahara,
alone can fill it again. But this belongs not
to the present."


SOUND of rippling laughter and
singing in the garden, drew Criss
early to his window next morning.
The impatient Nannie could not
wait for the breakfast-hour, or for Bertie to
accompany her. Criss's housekeeper, — a
young married woman, who, with her hus-
band and children, dwelt in the house, —
was surprised by the apparition of Nannie,
while the dew still lay thick on the lawn,
saying she was corne to stay all day, and
demanding of her the baby, that she might
nurse it until breakfast-time.

Nannie and the housekeeper were excel-
lent friends, and the young mother had
already proved Nannie's qualifications for
such an office. A charming picture to Criss

270 BY AND BY.

did the two make in his garden : Nannie,
with all the skill of an experienced nurse,
tossing and fondling the child, and the child
responding delightedly to her blandishments
by throwing about its little limbs and crow-
ing. Criss thought he had never seen Nan-
nie look so lovely, or so womanly.

''Surely," thought he to himself, "that
must be what she was made for. Poor child,
what a pity it is there is no one here that
she likes."

Nannie presided at Criss's breakfast-table,
precisely as she had learned to do at Bertie's ;
and Criss thought the period of his meal had
never been so bright and cheerful before.
After breakfast she disappeared for an hour,
leaving the men to discuss the day's affairs,
and was presently back in the garden with
the child. Then returning, she told Criss
that she came to remind him of his promise
to show her the house and its contents ;
whereupon he took her into a room which
hitherto had been seen by her only in its
closed and muffled state, but now was mani-
fest in all its beauty of ornament and deco-

BY AND BY. 271

ration. This was the drawing-room, where
Criss had arranged his paintings, and sculp-
tures, and cabinets of curiosities. Opening
one of these, he took out a necklace and
locket, which had excited her admiration,
and hung it round her fair neck. Nannie
rushed in delight to the glass to admire
herself thus decorated, and then returned it
to Criss. But he told her that he hoped she
would do him the favour to keep it for her
own. Nannie said it was lovely, and suited
her exactly, but she would rather not keep
it ; alleging as a reason, in answer to Criss's
questionings, that she understood that only
married or elderly women wore such

" But even if you cannot wear it at pre-
sent," he said, '* you can keep it until you
have attained the necessary qualifications."

" No ; I shall never marry,'*' she answered,

" You never marry ! My dear Nannie,
what a fancy ! Why, to see you with that
child, anyone would think you were made for
no other purpose."

" Appearances are very deceitful," said

272 BV AND BY,

Nannie, demurely. " I could only marry
where I was properly loved ; and no one will
love me like that. I am not a woman wha
could tolerate a man coming to me, and say-
ing, * Oh, I do love you with my whole heart
so dearly, that I beg you will let me take you
for a time on trial, to see what sort of a wo-
man you will turn out.' That's what they do
in Soudan. Mattie, my sister, was properly
loved and properly married, for Frank took
her for altogether at once. I am like her in
that. I wouldn't be married in any other
way. No rehearsals for me."

" You forget, Nannie, that the women as
well as the men, have the benefit of the trial.
Suppose you found yourself irrevocably tied to
a man who was unworthy of you, or who did
not ' properly ' love you. One cannot always
judge beforehand how people will agree in a
new relationship."

'' A woman who is a woman can always
tell a man who is a man, when she sees him ;
and if she is a woman she can make him love
her as he ought."

" Well, Nannie, at any rate you need have
no misgivings on the score of not being pro-

BV AND BY, 273

perly loved, when your time comes. No
man can be indifferent to your sweet face and
winning ways."

" I don't believe you mean a word of it,"

exclaimed Nannie, "for you are quite in-
different to them yourself." And she com-
posed her pretty lips into a pout, while her
eyes sparkled, and her whole frame vibrated
with quick vitality.

'' So far from being indifferent to your
charms, Nannie dear," replied Criss, " I have
found myself wondering sometimes whether,
if you had not been possessed of them, I
should have acted by you as I have done,
from a sense of duty only."

'' Oh, I hope not !" cried Nannie ; "I could
not bear to have you do things for me from a
sense of duty, and not because you admire
and — and — care for me."

Nannie's profound sense of superiority to
all codes whatever of morals, and her habit
of unconsciously referring all conduct to the
criterion of affection, had often struck Criss
as a remarkable element in her character.
It coincided with his own intuitions in re

VOL. ir. 18

274 BY AND BY.

spect to the infinite ; for he had found him-
self as much at a loss to discern the connec-
tion between the spiritual and moral, as be-
tween the physical and moral worlds. And
here was the animal world, as represented by
one of its highest types — a lovely, impul-
sive girl — repudiating it also.

*' Ah !" he said, '' what a world this would
be if the promptings of love were always in
accordance with those of duty. We might
drop the word duty out of our dictionaries
altogether then, and / like would rightly take
the place of / ought. But we must have
very well-regulated natures for that to be so,
you know."

"• I am sure," returned Nannie, " that if it
was anybody's ' duty ' to like me properly, it
would be his duty to do whatever I liked,
too ! And I know he would be repaid by
being very happy in return."

" I don't doubt it in the least," replied
Criss ; " and I think he will be a very for-
tunate fellow who shall win the whole of
your affectionate little heart for himself."

Nannie made a gesture of impatience, and
turning to some article in the room, began

BY AND BY. 275

asking him questions about it. The morning
passed rapidly, and in the afternoon several
of Criss's friends came, much to Nannie's
discomposure, for it put an end to her ex-
<:lusive possession of him. While resenting
the demands made by these upon his atten-
tion, she was struck by the greatness of the
deference they showed him. Having no con-
ception of the position held by him in the
regards of men, and having, moreover, seen
him only among his oldest and most familiar
friends, she found herself now compelled to
make some modification in her view of him.
And as nothing gave Nannie greater annoy-
ance than having to modify a view once
taken, this and his engrossment by strangers
combined to make the afternoon pass as dis-
agreeably for her as the morning had passed

In the evening they were alone again, and
Nannie's good temper returned ; though she
was still disconcerted at finding herself obliged
to regard Criss as a personage of more im-
portance than she had ever before deemed
him. Nannie was very proud, and held her-
self to be as good as anyone. It was intoler-

iS— 2

276 BV AND BY.

able that any should deem themselves too-
good for her. And she shrank from the
thought of Criss looking upon her as the oc-
cupant of a mere corner in his occasional
regards, as might easily be the case if he
were a great personage, engaged in important

However, all reflections of this kind van-
ished in presence of the wonders revealed to
her for the first time in the splendid micro-
scope which Criss exhibited to her. For some
time her faculty of surprise and admiration
was so excited as to overpower all other
faculties ; but at length her manner changed,
her delight and vivacity disappeared, and she
pushed the instrument away, saying she could
not bear it — it made her feel so insignificant.
It was no good being bigger, or cleverer, or
prettier, than those tiny, ugly specimens, if
when you magnified them you found them
just as beautiful and perfect as yourself And
it was but a qualified submission that she
made when Criss told her that he, on the
contrary, derived more spiritual comfort from
the microscope than almost from anything
else ; inasmuch as by revealing the same

BY AND BY. 277

perfect organisation pervading the infinitely
small that we find in the large, it demonstrates
that nothing is too minute or unimportant to
be the subject of the Divine law and pro-

Nannie expressed her approval of this
thought, but said that, after looking through
the microscope, it seemed to her as if there
were no such differences as small and great.

Crlss spent the next day in London, re-
turning- to Bertie's in the eveninor. Nannie
passed most of the time he was there in the
garden, saying she felt the house too close
for her, and preferred the air. Again they
talked about her, and Bertie said that Nannie
had confessed that she had never been so
happy and so miserable as yesterday. The
strength of her feelings, he said, fairly
frightened him, and he did not know to what
they might bring her, unless she were pro-
vided with some object on which to bestow

" But why should she have been so happy,
.and why so miserable at my house ?"

" Well, so far as I can make out, she was

278 BV AND BY.

happy because she was with the only friend
she has in the world ; and miserable because
that friend did not seem to be equally en-
grossed by her."

" But," said Criss, '' that is very much like
what is called ' being in love/ "

'' Very much indeed," said Bertie, dryly.

*' But you do not mean to say that Nannie
is in that condition as regards me ?"

" I believe that if ever young woman was
over head and ears in love with young man,
she is that at this moment with you."

" Dear me," said Criss, " I never thought
of such a thing."

" You don't seem over pleased at what any
other man of your age would give his ears
for," said Bertie, unconsciously repeating and
recalling to Criss s memory almost the very
words Nannie had used of herself in the Ariel.

" I suppose she is very beautiful," remarked
Criss, as if he had never made up his mind
on the subject.

" Not a man beholds her but declares that
he never saw her equal, and that not for
beauty of feature and form merely, but for
the peculiar feminineness of her look and

BY AND BY. 279

ways. One cannot fancy her other than
always young and bHthesome."

" And as good as her looks ?" said Criss,

" I believe," answered Bertie, " that her
nature is a force which she will find hard to
control. Way it will have, but its direction
will depend upon the circumstances in which
she will be placed, and the people with whom
she will have to deal. Indeed, the responsi-
bility of supervising her is already become
more than I like to contemplate. Yet I can-
not think of any change that would be for the
better, excepting one. Only a husband can
really influence her development and lot.
Her whole nature throughout is genuine, rich,
and untilled as a virgin soil ; and like it,
ready to bear a crop of good or evil, accord-
ing to the will of the husbandman."

Here Bertie chuckled at his own unin-
tended double.

" The strength of her character," he went
on, ''consists in her affections. She will
abandon herself utterly to their dominion.
Whatever she may do, whether in love or
hate, will be done heartily. The man who

28o BY AND BY.

marries her will be tied to no inert mass.
Her intense vitality will not let her be
ignored, or got accustomed to as a mere
habit. But she will be an active element in
his existence, whether for his happiness or his
misery. There is no sameness about her.
Reading my Shakespeare the other evening,
when I came to his description of Cleopatra,
as infinite in variety, and lovely in all, I was
irresistibly reminded of the dear child. And
I truly believe she needs only a return as
genuine as that which she renders, to ensure
the happier fate."

" Well, Nannie, how is the head now ?"
said Criss, joining her in the garden. " I
hope you liked my house well enough to give
me the pleasure of seeing you In It again

*' I like the house and everything about It
so well, that If it belonged to me, I should
not always be leaving it, as you do, for other
places. But was it really a pleasure to you
to see me in it ? I hope It was, because
I like nothing so much as giving you

£Y AND BY. 281

** My dear Nannie, while flitting about on
the lawn and among the flowers, you looked
like a fair young angel. And when you
were nursing and singing to the child, you
appeared such a bright and joyous creature,
that it seemed as if nothing but brightness
and happiness could ever come where you
were. I really could not help thinking that
if only that young fellow who has been so
fortunate as to touch your fancy, had seen
you yesterday, he could not long have re-
mained obdurate."

*' What ? whom do you mean ?" cried

" Am I not right in understanding your
expression of a wish to return to Soudan, as
an admission that there is some one there to
whom you are attached .^ Well, now, coup-
ling this with your liking for my house, I
have been thinking that if the gentleman in
question be really w^orthy of you, instead of
your going back to Africa, I will send for
him to England, and you shall have my
house, or one just like it, for your own."

" But — but—" gasped Nannie, '' I did not
mean that I liked your house for itself. I

282 BY AND BY.

liked It for your being in it. There is no
one in Africa I care for. Oh ! Criss, Criss,
why did you save a poor girl's life only to
tease her ? I did hope you cared for me a
little bit. But now you offer to give me up,
and get rid of me altogether I I wish I had
jumped overboard from the Ariel, and made
an end at once. I should have been spared
all this after."

'' My dear Nannie, I thought I was show-
ing that I cared, not a little, but a big bit, for
you when I proposed to do all I could to
make you happy."

" Care for me when you would give me to
another ! No, no, that is not caring. Caring
means wanting all for oneself. It means love,
and jealousy too, for no love is without that."

"If ever a woman were to care for me,
Nannie, the last thing I should expect from
her would be jealousy. I should not give
her cause. Surely you are not of a jealous
disposition ? For jealousy and happiness
cannot possibly exist together ; and I am
sure you would prefer to give happiness."

" Oh, yes !" she exclaimed ; " but I can
be very naughty, sometimes ; I know I can.

' BY AND BY. 283

and shall. But I know I can be very good
and nice, too, at others, to make up. Why,
do you know, I think it is partly because I
am sure to be so naughty as to make him
want sometimes to get rid of me, that I shall
insist on my husband marrying me for alto-
gether at once, when I do marr}'."

" I dislike the idea of limited liability mar-
riages as much as you do," returned Criss ;
'' but even other kinds are not absolutely
irrevocable, you know. Good behaviour is
always necessary, just as in other partner-
ships. But Nannie, it is not as a safeguard
against a true and genuine nature that such
release is permitted, but against falsehood
and insincerity. And it is not in you to
exhibit those."

" I like you to praise me," said Nannie,
simply ; " it helps me to be good."

" Tell me truly and seriously, Nannie.
Do you think you would be perfectly con-
tented and happy if you were to come and
live altogether in my house, and take care
of it as you do of Bertie's, and let me take
care of you as my own dear little wife ?"

Nannie uttered a sharp cr}', and gasped
out, —


" Do you mean it ? Is it for real love of
me, or only for pity ?"

And without waiting for his answer, or
rather, perhaps, reading it in his eyes, she
fell in a swoon upon the floor of the arbour,
in which they were sitting.

*' I fear, Bertie, you must consent to lose
the services of your fair housekeeper. Nan-
nie declares that she likes my house better
than yours, and has promised to come and
keep it for me. I grant you that I have
driven a hard bargain with her, for I have
made her promise also to be my wife."

And the young pair stood before Bertie
as before a father, to receive his congratula-
tions and blessing, which were given in no
niggardly fashion.

When Nannie,* almost borne down with
the weight of her happiness, had retired, he
said to Criss, —

" Does she know all ?"

** She knows nothing," he answered ; " but
takes me for myself."


i^VENIL was overjoyed. With work
and a wife, he held Criss's sanity
assured. The female part of his
family was less pleased. Though
kind to them as any brother, Criss had never
manifested such preference for any of the
girls as could justify expectation of a closer
connection. Nevertheless, but for the intru-
sion of Nannie, there was no knowing what
might not have happened.

However, no Avenil could entertain a
petty feeling. They were of the sort of
people who, if they err, err through strength,
and not through weakness. It was probably
the impression they produced, of having
natures so strong and complete in themselves,
that led to the comparative indifference with

286 BY AND BY.

which they were regarded by the opposite
sex. Ordinarily, women like to be wanted.
But an Avenil man never gave a woman the
impression that he had any need of her.
And an Avenil woman was endowed with
too robust a faculty of self-help, to suggest
to men the idea of tenderness. They might
and did contract alliances, which were pro-
ductive of a considerable amount of solid,
sensible happiness ; but the passion of love
came not near them. Between such love as
they felt or inspired, and passion, was pre-
cisely the same interval, in kind and degree,
as between talent and genius.

The two points the feminine part of the
family mainly discussed now, were, —

Was Criss really and properly in love,
and after what fashion ? and, was Nannie
" good enough " for him ?

Certainly, Nannie was as great a contrast
to them as could possibly be. They, so com-
plete in themselves as to make the sugges-
tion seem absurd that there was room about
them for any complementary addition. She,
so palpably incomplete, so unable to stand
alone, so essentially complementary in her


whole structure of character and form, and
therefore in her unHkeness to men so sug-
gestive of Hkeness and fitness — in a word,
so distinctively feminine — that men could
not help being drawn towards her by the
sheer necessity of their nature. Of course,
Criss had made no such critical analysis
either of Nannie, or of the feeling which
impelled them towards each other. But he
came to understand it all from experience ;
and the insio^ht thus s^iven him into the true
nature of the relations of the sexes, was to
him a further revelation than any he had
previously attained concerning the funda-
mental nature and significance of the Uni- \
verse. He learnt, too, what he had before
but dimly apprehended, the truth of the old
saying, that " Woman is not lesser man, but
diverse," so that the more a woman is a
woman, the less is she a man. /

On one point the whole of the Avenils
took the same view, and held it strono^h'.
They thought that by marrying Nannie, in
the first instance at least, by a contract of the
first class, Criss was running a great and
superfluous risk. To put it out of his power

288 BY AND BY.

to get rid of her at his own will, they urged,,
was to hazard too much on an unknown
chance. Even with people trained to civilisa-
tion from infancy, and whose every thought
and action were familiarly known, marriage
was a lottery, owing to the impossibility of
forecasting the influence it would have on the
character of an individual. How much more
so, then, in the case of one of whom nothing
was known save that she was utterly undisci-
plined and selfwilled.

Criss, however, would listen to no sug-
gestion of the kind. He would give himself
wholly, or not at all. He could not conceive
of the fair creature he had so often saved, and
w^hose whole heart was so evidently his, as
making herself liable to repudiation for bad
behaviour. Neither did he think of her as
one whose spirit could be subdued by any
amount of liability. But, be she what she
might, he had all faith in the power of the
true and honest affection he should give her, ta
mould her into complete harmony with himself.

Intense as was the satisfaction which Criss
derived from Nannie's unrestrained abandon-

BV AND BY. 289

ment to the impulses of her emotional nature,
in the direction of affection, the unexpected
difficulty he found soon after their marriage
in making her comprehend that a man's nature
possesses sides which do not come within the
category of the emotions, at least of that of
love, involved him at times in no slight em-
barrassment. She could not, or would not^
understand that he could have duties which
must occasionally take him from her side, or'
friendships which bore no rivalry to his love
for her. \

With her nature, so far as it went, Criss
felt that he coincided entirely. But his nature
extended far beyond hers in every direction.

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