Edward Maitland.

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

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And at this she rebelled, for she could not see
why it should be so. No small nature ever
can see how narrow it is, intense though it
may be within its own limits. Her dissatis-
faction found vent in the cry —

" All of me wants you, and only a part of I
you wants me !" /

Criss was sanguine, however, that under
his loving tuition she would grow.

As time went on, her expressions of regret
at his occasional absences took the form of

VOL. II. 19

^90 BY AND BY.

Strong opposition to all absence whatever. It
was not enough for her that she always ac-
companied him when practicable. Neither
was she content with burdening him with
reproaches because he did not decline all
business or other engagements which took
him from her. She was jealous even of the
engagements themselves.

''Why, Nannie darling," he said one day
to her, in answer to her remonstrances, " what
would become of you and your husband, sup-
posing you had married a man who had to
earn his living by working away from home ?"

She evaded an answer by saying that Criss
had no need to leave home to earn a living.

*' But it is equally a duty," he pleaded,
" for a man to fulfil his obligations in the
world, whether he be rich or poor. The
world would never get on otherwise."

" But I don't care for the world," she re-
turned. " I only care for you. If you loved
me properly, you would not care for anything
beside me."

" Do you really mean that I do not love
you properly?"

'' You don't love me as I love you."

BY AND BY. 291

" You don't mean to say that you love me
when you distress me, and try to humiHate
me by persuading me to forfeit my self-
respect ?"

*' How self-respect ?"

" Why, by detaining me from duties I am
in honour pledged to fulfil."

"Is it your duty to go where there are
other women ?"

" Sometimes."

" Well, that is what 1 cannot bear, that you
should look at, or speak to, any other woman
than myself."

*' Do you know, Nannie, that the feeling
you are describing is called by one of the
ugliest names in language ? We mentioned
it once when talking together, before we were
married, or engaged. Do you remember ?"

" If you vi\^2.xv j ealoiLsy ^ I am jealous of you,
and I am not ashamed to own it."

" You ought to have a better opinion of the
power of your own charms. But do you
really think you have reason to be jealous ?"

" Reason ! I hate the word. Never talk
to the woman you love, of reason !"

" Nannie, I must have an answer. Do

19 — 2

292 BY AND BY.

you consider that I give you cause to be
jealous of me ?"

She was on the point of uttering an ani-
mated yes, but the unwonted sternness of his-
manner prompted her to change her yes to
*' No," and to accompany the negative with a
pout, by which she intended to indicate that
all she had said was in pure wilfulness, and
that she wanted him to kiss her and be friends
again. Her similar exhibitions on previous
occasions had always terminated thus ; but
this time Criss thought it would minister to
the happiness of both of them were he to-
postpone his coming round for a little while.
So he said very gravely, —

" Nannie, love is impossible where there is
no respect. To be jealous of me is to insult
and outrage me. Never pretend to be so
again, unless you can show me grounds for
the accusation."

The pout faded from Nannie's lips, as with
a frightened air she said, —

'' You should not take so seriously what I
said. I cannot conceal my feelings ; and only
wanted to show you how much I love you.
I won't be naughty any more, I promise.

BY AND BY. 293

I do not mean anything by what I

And then with all the sweet and womanly
arts which instinct had taught her to per-
fection, she insisted on his petting and making
much of her, and recapitulating all her charms
— a theme of which she never tired — and she
meanwhile was so soft and clinging, and
withal so childlike and simple in her affection-
ateness, that he perforce admitted that, how-
ever naughty she might sometimes be, surely
no one ever better repaid petting than his
Nannie— ^/i^r a short time! — a qualification
which brought out the pout that required so
much kissing to reduce it.

In the hope of wearing out her craving
for his exclusive companionship, Criss en-
deavoured to accustom her to social inter-
course with his friends at the Triangle and
elsewhere. In this way he hoped to turn to
good account her love of admiration, a love
of which she made no affectation of conceal-
ment from him ; for she often entertained him
with her narratives of the effect she produced
upon the men by her beauty, and upon the
Avomen by her marvellous skill in dress.

294 BV AND BY.

Criss had a special reason for desiring to wean
her in some degree from his own society. It
was becoming necessary for him to revisit
Soudan, and he dreaded the effect which the
separation might produce upon her, unless
she had the solace of some congenial com-
panionship in his absence. There were many
reasons why he should not take her with him.
In the occasional short aerial excursions he
had of late taken her, she had shown an ex-
citability which, to use the words of their
physician, "it was not desirable to encourage."
And the climate of the plains in which Criss's
business lay, was too trying for Europeans.
Besides, while absent he would be always on
the move.

He hoped to attach her sufficiently to some
of his friends to make her willing to receive
them as visitors, and exercise hospitality
towards them in her home. But when he ran
over the list, there was not a person in it
against whom she did not raise an objection.
And he soon learnt that to say a word in
favour of any one else on any score whatever,
was to find fault with her. The discovery
that she was likely to become a mother filled

BY AND BY. 295

him with joy, as much for the hope it gave
him that her condition of mind was the result
of her condition of body, and would pass away
with it, or that, at any rate, her promotion to
the dignity of parent would bring with it the
needed maturity of character ; as for the
pleasure with which he could contemplate
the blending of his own and Nannie's linea-
ments in their offspring.

There was ample time for him to make his
visit to Soudan before Nannie was likely to
be taken ill, and he cast about for some
method of gaining her assent which should
not arouse her excitability and opposition.
'' Could she only once see herself as she
makes herself appear to me," he thought,
*' she surely would be cured."

A remark of her own respecting some
theatrical performance she had lately wit-
nessed, suggested the Stage as a possible
agent in her education. Without letting her
know he had a hand in it, he obtained for one
of the periodical performances in the theatre
of the Triangle, the selection of a very clever
comedy, the purpose of which was to exhibit
the sorrows of a man under the infliction of a

296 BV AND By.

jealous wife. It was one of the well-known
series of educational dramas by which, through
the consummate art of their construction, the
highest moral teaching is conveyed without
the audience being made aware that any-
thing beyond mere amusement is designed.

To this Criss took Nannie, and so life-like
and apt were some of the scenes, that he
feared she would accuse him of a purpose in
taking her, and perhaps of having a hand in
the making of the play itself. But Nannie
enjoyed it immensely, laughing heartily at all
the points. And the only reflections she ex-
pressed afterwards were, as regarded the
unhappy husband, that he was a fool to
trouble himself about a woman who could
behave in such a manner ; and as regarded
the wife, that she did not deserve to have a
husband at all, much less a good one who
gave her no cause for jealousy. Of self-con-
sciousness Nannie, to Criss's amazement and
disappointment, exhibited not a particle : so
utterly was she unaware that she had been
gazing upon herself, as it were, in a mirror.
And so completely was the lesson lost upon
her, that she even remarked, —

BY AND BY. 297

** Oh, how I should hate myself if I thought
I could be such a woman as that !"

Clearly self-knowledge and self-examina-
tion were neither forte nor foible of Nannie's ;
and it became a serious problem with Criss
how to influence a nature so inaccessible to
reproof. Perhaps by giving her credit for. a
virtue which she did not possess, he would
be ministering to her acquisition of it. What
if he sought to enlist her sympathies for some
friend in difficulty or trouble ?

An opportunity presented itself. He told
Nannie that Bessie Avenil, after being united
for some time to a man morally her superior
but physically and mentally her inferior, had
resolved to dismiss him, on the ground that
he did not come up to her idea of what a
husband should be. And he appealed to
Nannie, as a woman of feeling, whether it
would not be a friendly act to try and save
Bessie from the remorse she would be sure to
feel for having deserted one whom she had
taught to love her, simply because, though
thoroughly good, he was a somewhat feeble
specimen of a man.

298 BY AND BY.

" What does she say for herself ?" asked

" She says that when she married she was
young and ignorant ; but that now that she
knows what a husband means, she intends to
have a good one."

" There's sense in that," said Nannie.

" But not the tenderness or sympathy you
would show for a husband who needed your
consideration ?"

" What does she say to that ?"

** That sympathy is all very well, but that
she prefers justice — justice to herself — and
believes justice to oneself is the first of moral

** And what do you want me to do ?"

"It occurred to me that, before the final
rupture takes place, you might get her here,
and show her, by your own example, what an
affectionate wife should be to a man."

" To a man who doesn't love her ?"

" He does love her, utterly : only she is so
full of life and health, that he cannot live at
the same pace. You could teach her to hold
herself in."

Nannie shook her head.

BY AND BY. 299

'' He loves her so well," pursued Criss,
" that he is ready, out of regard for her hap-
piness, to sacrifice his own and relinquish
her. You would have been touched by the
tone of distress in which he told me how
deeply he felt his own unworthiness, and in-
ability properly to fulfil the position he held
towards her. But he counted his happiness
as nothing in comparison to hers."

" Have they any children ?" asked Nannie.

" Only one ; a girl."

** And what becomes of it if they separate?"

" If they separate for incompatibility merely,
it will spend half its time with each parent
alternately. Where there is a serious defect
of character or conduct on one side, the law
assigns the sole charge of the child to the

" It is just as I said," she exclaimed, after
a brief pause. " He does not love her, or he
would not give her up for anything. He
isn't a man, and she isn't a woman ; at least,
not what I call a woman. If she was a
woman, she would make him love her just as
she wished, in spite of everything. I would,
if it was me. I dare say she is not worth

300 BY AND BY,

troubling about. What makes you take such
an interest in her ? Isn't one woman enough
for you to be concerned with ?"

" Too much, Nannie, if she requires me to
abandon or neglect the friends of a life."

" If you were properly in love you would
have no room for friends."

'* Were I to be indifferent to the welfare of
those who have always befriended me, I
should be a base wretch, and unworthy of
love. You don't mean what your words
imply, Nannie darling. I should be cruelly
distressed if I thought you did. I should be
forced to think you did not love me, or else
that you were not worth loving, if I thought
you did not care for my character, my honour,
or my happiness."

" What do you want, then, with any woman
besides me ?"

*' Have I not explained ? Do you not un-
derstand the meaning of words ?"

'' I understand what you mean by friends ^
and I won't have it. / don't want any friends.
Why should you ?"

"■ Well, Nannie, I will say good morning to
you for the present. I trust I shall find you

BY AND BY. 301

in a different mood on my return. It was a
^eat mistake of mine to appeal to your con-
sideration for another when you have none for

She was silent until he had reached and
opened the door, and then she exclaimed —

** There's a man ! pretends to love me, and
goes away without a kiss !"

For the first time this appeal failed to
arrest him. She darted after him, cr^^ing —

" Criss ! Criss ! how can you be so cruel to
your poor Nannie, who loves you so ?"

" Nannie," he said coldly, " I want to be
loved in deeds as well a§ in words. If this
passes your power, pray tell me so plainly."

Throwing her arms round him, and cling-'
inof to him with her whole lithe form, she
exclaimed —

" Why, how can I better show that I love
you than by being jealous of you ?"

Making no response to her pressure, but
speaking still in the same measured tone, he
replied —

" Love and jealousy are two things wide
asunder as the poles. Love means confi-
dence, devotion, trust. Jealousy means self-

302 BY AND BY.

love, and its indulgence is the worst form of
selfishness ; for it is a selfishness that takes
the most pains to make others miserable."

" I am sure you are not miserable with
me," she said, in one of her most winning
ways. "No one ever said I was selfish be-

" Then do not force me to say it now. But
endeavour, while I am gone, to think over
the cause you have given me for pain, and
resolve to be what I wish you in future."

'' It's no use. I can't think of anything
when you are away from me, besides you —
and those women ! Oh ! I will be revenged
on them !" she added, with a dangerous gleam
in her eyes.

With a quick movement, and before she
w^as aware of his intention, Criss had carried
her back into the room, and deposited her on
a sofa. Then, ringing the bell violently, he
summoned a servant, and bade him hasten
with all speed for the doctor. He then flung
himself into a chair at a distance from her,
and with knotted veins and heavy breathing,
sat motionless, awaiting the doctor's arrival.

Nannie lay so still for several moments as

BY AND BY. 303

to surprise him. Her hand was over her
face. Presently he caught sight of her eyes
glancing at him between her fingers. Seeing
he was watching her, she said —

" Why have you sent for the doctor ? Are
you ill ?"

The evidently affected unconsciousness of
her tone gave Criss a keener pang than he
had yet felt. Could it be that she was
utterly heartless ? He would ascertain by
letting her suppose by his silence that he
was ill.

Failing to obtain an answer, she began to

" She does not care whether I am ill or
not. She is thinking only of herself," was
his inward commentary on this new phase.
So he remained mute and took no notice of
her tears. During this interval he changed
his design. He had sent for the doctor, be-
lieving that Nannie's conduct could only be
attributable to some temporary excitement of
brain, which required to be allayed by medi-
cine. Seeing that she was deliberately acting
a part, he resolved on another expedient.

Nannie, on her part, finding her tears un-

304 BV AND BY.

heeded, judged it time to try some other
means of attracting his attention.

'' Criss ! Criss !" she almost screamed, *' I
am crying, and you don't come to comfort

Still no response.

" Criss ! Criss ! what do you want with the
doctor ? If it is for me, I won't see him ! I
don't want him to know how cruelly you treat
me ;" and then, seeing him still unmoved, she
added, —

" Or how naughty I have been."

The expression of pain on his face did not
relax one jot, although Criss was beginning
to suspect that her conduct was simply the
result of a determination to make herself
completely his master. He had commenced
to give her a lesson for her good, and would
not flinch from carrying it out, cost him what
it might.

His prolonged silence was beginning really
to alarm her when the doctor entered. Won-
dering what was coming, Nannie shrank into
a corner of her sofa.

Criss rose, and having greeted the doctor
with grave courtesy, said in a low and anxious

BY AND BY. 305

tone, as if in the room of one stricken with
alarming illness, —

'' I wish, Dr. Markwell, to consult you re-
specting the effect likely to be produced on a
child, by the mother's giving way during the
period antecedent to its birth to violent and
unreasonable tempers. Is its health of mind
or body in any way dependent on her con-
duct ? I wish you to speak without reserve,
as I have the most serious motive for asking."

Looking from one to the other, and divin-
ing the situation, the doctor said that the
effect would depend in a great measure upon
the period concerned ; and then in a low tone
he put sundry questions to Criss. Having
got his answer, he looked very grave, and
said, aloud, —

'' It is the most sacred of a miOther's duties
to repress, not merely all violence of de-
meanour, and everything that may excite her,
during the period in question ; but also every
thought and disposition which she does not
wish to see shared by her offspring. A
neglect of duty in regard to the former may
result in the production of idiots or cripples.
But even this is not the greatest misfortune

VOL. II. 20

3o6 BY AND BY.

which can befall a family. The worst un-
happiness comes from the depraved and un-
governed characters which are apt to be
engendered by a neglect of the latter duty."

" Have you anything in the shape of a
sedative that you can recommend to my
wife ? She has become liable of late to ac-
cessions of excitement, which cause me much
anxiety both for her own health and that of
her unborn child."

'' Doctor !" cried Nannie from her hidlnor-
place in the sofa cushions. " I won t take any-
thing but poison. Send me some poison,
and I shall be grateful to you. Oh, my
father ! my father ! why did you give me
such a wicked disposition !"

*' You see, doctor, that she needs your care,
and that more than is possible while you are
under different roofs. Now I have a propo-
sition to make to, or rather a favour to ask of
you. I am obliged, much against my wish,
to be absent from home for a space of
probably three or four weeks. Will you
either allow my wife to dwell with you, under
the care of yourself and Mrs. Markwell, or
will you transport yourself and your whole

BY AND BY. 307

family hither, and take care of Xannie during
my absence ?"

This speech brought Nannie Into full pos-
session of her faculties. It was the first time
that CrIss had spoken of his absence as an
event near at hand. She sat up and gazed
wildly at him with an expression full of agony
and apprehension.

This demeanour was not lost upon CrIss.
Regarding It as one of the artitices by which
she sought to establish her sway over him,
and convinced of the absolute necessity, If
they were ever to be happy together, of
exhibiting the futility of her endeavour, he
continued his address to the doctor.

'' I am sanguine, doctor, of the good results
which will flow from my temporary absence.
The paroxysms which cause me so much
anxiety and alarm, have steadily increased In
frequency, duration, and Intensity, until they
threaten permanently to Impair her constitu-
tion, physical as well as mental. So bad
have they become, that even should my
absence have no good effect, It at least can do
no harm. I need not tell you how great will
be my gratitude should the kind care and

20 — 2

3o8 BY AND BY.

professional skill of yourself and your wife
be the means of restoring to my beloved wife
the health, and to both of us the happiness,
which this terrible malady has so wofully
impaired." And Criss's voice faltered as he

The doctor began saying that he and his
wife would gladly do all in their power to
bring about so desirable a result, and he
would leave it to her and Mrs. Carol to decide
which of the two plans proposed would be
most convenient and agreeable. But Nannie
interrupted him, declaring that she would
have nothing of the kind ; that she hated
medical women, who knew all a woman's
little weaknesses by their own ; and that if
Criss chose to go away and leave her, she
Vv^ould follow him. She knew by her own
experience, how ready he was to pick up
women and carry them about in his Ariel ;
and she was not going to give him the chance
of doinor so while she was his wife.

Criss could not help feeling a certain sen-
sation of amusement at the unexpected and
ingenious perversity of this new attack. But
he said to the doctor, — •

BY AND BY. 309

" You see, doctor, for yourself what a task
you will be undertaking. It is clear that it
will never do for you to have her in your
own house. These high walls are the only
safe asylum. I intend, when you have trans-
ferred your family hither, to instruct my
servants to take their orders from you alone.
You will thus be able to control the move-
ments of your patient."

" It shall be as you wish. May I ask when
you propose to take your departure ?"

" So soon as you are installed here. I
have, out of consideration for my wife,
already delayed it too long. The sooner I
go, the sooner I shall return. I wish to
spend the last month before her confinement
with her. Of course, if you report her state
to be such that my presence will be preju-
dicial, I will delay my return."

" You call yourselves men," exclaimed
Nannie, " and you conspire to drive a poor
woman mad."

" On the contrary," said Criss, " we con-
spire — do we not, doctor ? — to keep a poor
woman sane, who by yielding to wanton
tempers is driving herself mad. We conspire,


too, on behalf of the unborn, as well as of the

The renewal of this suggestion made
Nannie once more hide her face in the
cushions, and sob. Presently a voice came
from the depths, saying, in a subdued
tone —

'' Tell me when the doctor is gone. I
want to speak to you."

Criss whispered a few sentences to the
doctor, and dismissed him. He then seated
himself beside Nannie on the sofa, and
awaited her pleasure.

Presently she looked up, and finding her-
self alone widi Criss, said —

" You don't know how to treat a woman.
You will never conquer me in that way.
Such a fuss to make about my loving you
well enough to be jealous of you, and not like
your leaving me ! Why, I have done no-
thing, absolutely nothing. Mattie, my sister,
was ten times worse than ever I have been.
I have seen her strike him, and pull his hair
out by handfuls. And Frank didn't make
half the fuss you have made over a few
words said by poor little me."

BY AND BY. 311

'' Poor Frank, what a happy release the
plague must have brought to him."

*' Not a bit of it. He was very happy
with Mattie."

'' There is no accountinof for tastes. He
must have been very differently constituted
from me."

"He understood women "

" Women ! yes. But not furies and

'' Women who are not logs, like the tame
creatures who pass for women here. Poor
Frank ! he loved ]\Iattie properly, and was
very happy with her in consequence."

" I wish I knew his prescription."

" It was a very simple one."

" Tell me."

" It cut all her naughtiness short, and made
her ofood for a lone time together."

" What was it ?"

" I— I— can't tell you."

" Do."

Nannie covered her face with her plump
white arm, and bending her head a little
downwards, looked with coy shyness at Criss
through the angle of her elbow. Presently


312 BY AND BY.

the magic words came falteringly forth, and
she said, speaking in the smallest of voices —

" He beat her !"

Criss turned away with the impatient air
of one who has been tricked ; but Nannie
exclaimed — -

" He did ; I assure you he did. It is the
only way with women like us. We must
fear the man we love, to be good to him. If
he had not beat her, she would have made
him as unhappy as — as I have made you.
And she was the happier for it too ?"

" Am I to infer, then, that you wish me to
follow his example ?"

" I often think I should behave better if
you were to beat me, and make me afraid to
be naughty. Not with the fist or a stick,
you know, but a little thin whip, or switch,
which only hurts without doing any injury.
Oh, I have often and often seen Frank trying

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Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 14)