1

It seems that in this context "by-and-by" doesn't mean "before long" or something of the kind. It's an extract from Meredith's Diana of the Crossways. I'd be grateful if you could explain what it means; my only guess is that it is something like "your health" because the characters are about to drink champagne. Thanks in advance!

'I'll never live to hear a lady insulted.'

'You don't mean to say you're the donkey to provoke a duel!' Mr. Redworth burst out gruffly, through turkey and stuffing.

'And an Irish lady, the young Beauty of Erin!' Mr. Sullivan Smith was flowing on. He became frigid, he politely bowed: 'Two, sir, if you haven't the grace to withdraw the offensive term before it cools and can't be obliterated.'

'Fiddle! and go to the deuce!' Mr. Redworth cried.

'Would a soft slap o' the cheek persuade you, sir?'

'Try it outside, and don't bother me with nonsense of that sort at my supper. If I'm struck, I strike back. I keep my pistols for bandits and law-breakers. Here,' said Mr. Redworth, better inspired as to the way of treating an ultra of the isle; 'touch glasses: you're a gentleman, and won't disturb good company. By-and-by.'

The pleasing prospect of by-and-by renewed in Mr. Sullivan Smith his composure. They touched the foaming glasses: upon which, in a friendly manner, Mr. Sullivan Smith proposed that they should go outside as soon as Mr. Redworth had finished supper-quite finished supper: for the reason that the term 'donkey' affixed to him was like a minster cap of schooldays, ringing bells on his topknot, and also that it stuck in his gizzard.

  • I strongly suspect it does mean before long. The characters have agreed to duel by and by: as soon as they finish the meal. – MetaEd Aug 25 '16 at 23:19
  • The first quoted use is not consistent with the current idiomatic meaning. It almost sounds like a toast. The second use is slightly more consistent with current meaning, but still not totally idiomatic. – Hot Licks Sep 25 '16 at 0:33
1

I think it means "eventually" in the first instance, and is used as a noun in the second:

By and by

  • adverb - presently or eventually n
  • noun - US and Canadian a future time or occasion Collins English Dictionary –

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.