The British Barbarians
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo@yahoo.com
Don Lainson email@example.com
THE BRITISH BARBARIANS
A HILL-TOP NOVEL
Which every reader of this book is requested to read before
beginning the story.
This is a Hill-top Novel. I dedicate it to all who have heart
enough, brain enough, and soul enough to understand it.
What do I mean by a Hill-top Novel? Well, of late we have been
flooded with stories of evil tendencies: a Hill-top Novel is one
which raises a protest in favour of purity.
Why have not novelists raised the protest earlier? For this
reason. Hitherto, owing to the stern necessity laid upon the
modern seer for earning his bread, and, incidentally, for finding a
publisher to assist him in promulgating his prophetic opinions, it
has seldom happened that writers of exceptional aims have been able
to proclaim to the world at large the things which they conceived
to be best worth their telling it. Especially has this been the
case in the province of fiction. Let me explain the situation.
Most novels nowadays have to run as serials through magazines or
newspapers; and the editors of these periodicals are timid to a
degree which outsiders would hardly believe with regard to the
fiction they admit into their pages. Endless spells surround them.
This story or episode would annoy their Catholic readers; that one
would repel their Wesleyan Methodist subscribers; such an incident
is unfit for the perusal of the young person; such another would
drive away the offended British matron. I do not myself believe
there is any real ground for this excessive and, to be quite frank,
somewhat ridiculous timidity. Incredible as it may seem to the
ordinary editor, I am of opinion that it would be possible to tell
the truth, and yet preserve the circulation. A first-class journal
does not really suffer because two or three formalists or two or
three bigots among its thousands of subscribers give it up for six
weeks in a pet of ill-temper--and then take it on again. Still,
the effect remains: it is almost impossible to get a novel printed
in an English journal unless it is warranted to contain nothing at
all to which anybody, however narrow, could possibly object, on any
grounds whatever, religious, political, social, moral, or
aesthetic. The romance that appeals to the average editor must say
or hint at nothing at all that is not universally believed and
received by everybody everywhere in this realm of Britain. But
literature, as Thomas Hardy says with truth, is mainly the
expression of souls in revolt. Hence the antagonism between
literature and journalism.
Why, then, publish one's novels serially at all? Why not appeal at
once to the outside public, which has few such prejudices? Why not
deliver one's message direct to those who are ready to consider it
or at least to hear it? Because, unfortunately, the serial rights
of a novel at the present day are three times as valuable, in money
worth, as the final book rights. A man who elects to publish
direct, instead of running his story through the columns of a
newspaper, is forfeiting, in other words, three-quarters of his
income. This loss the prophet who cares for his mission could
cheerfully endure, of course, if only the diminished income were
enough for him to live upon. But in order to write, he must first
eat. In my own case, for example, up till the time when I
published The Woman who Did, I could never live on the proceeds of
direct publication; nor could I even secure a publisher who would
consent to aid me in introducing to the world what I thought most
important for it. Having now found such a publisher--having
secured my mountain--I am prepared to go on delivering my message
from its top, as long as the world will consent to hear it. I will
willingly forgo the serial value of my novels, and forfeit
three-quarters of the amount I might otherwise earn, for the sake
of uttering the truth that is in me, boldly and openly, to a
For this reason, and in order to mark the distinction between these
books which are really mine--my own in thought, in spirit, in
teaching--and those which I have produced, sorely against my will,
to satisfy editors, I propose in future to add the words, "A Hill-
top Novel," to every one of my stories which I write of my own
accord, simply and solely for the sake of embodying and enforcing
my own opinions.
Not that, as critics have sometimes supposed me to mean, I ever
wrote a line, even in fiction, contrary to my own profound beliefs.
I have never said a thing I did not think: but I have sometimes had
to abstain from saying many things I did think. When I wished to
purvey strong meat for men, I was condemned to provide milk for
babes. In the Hill-top Novels, I hope to reverse all that--to say
my say in my own way, representing the world as it appears to me,
not as editors and formalists would like me to represent it.
The Hill-top Novels, however, will not constitute, in the ordinary
sense, a series. I shall add the name, as a Trade Mark, to any
story, by whomsoever published, which I have written as the
expression of my own individuality. Nor will they necessarily
appear in the first instance in volume form. If ever I should be
lucky enough to find an editor sufficiently bold and sufficiently
righteous to venture upon running a Hill-top Novel as a serial
through his columns, I will gladly embrace that mode of
publication. But while editors remain as pusillanimous and as
careless of moral progress as they are at present, I have little
hope that I shall persuade any one of them to accept a work written
with a single eye to the enlightenment and bettering of humanity.
Whenever, therefore, in future, the words "A Hill-top Novel" appear
upon the title-page of a book by me, the reader who cares for truth
and righteousness may take it for granted that the book represents
my own original thinking, whether good or bad, on some important
point in human society or human evolution.
Not, again, that any one of these novels will deliberately attempt
to PROVE anything. I have been amused at the allegations brought
by certain critics against The Woman who Did that it "failed to
prove" the practicability of unions such as Herminia's and Alan's.
The famous Scotsman, in the same spirit, objected to Paradise Lost
that it "proved naething": but his criticism has not been generally
endorsed as valid. To say the truth, it is absurd to suppose a
work of imagination can prove or disprove anything. The author
holds the strings of all his puppets, and can pull them as he
likes, for good or evil: he can make his experiments turn out well
or ill: he can contrive that his unions should end happily or
miserably: how, then, can his story be said to PROVE anything? A
novel is not a proposition in Euclid. I give due notice beforehand
to reviewers in general, that if any principle at all is "proved"
by any of my Hill-top Novels, it will be simply this: "Act as I
think right, for the highest good of human kind, and you will
infallibly and inevitably come to a bad end for it."
Not to prove anything, but to suggest ideas, to arouse emotions,
is, I take it, the true function of fiction. One wishes to make
one's readers THINK about problems they have never considered, FEEL
with sentiments they have disliked or hated. The novelist as
prophet has his duty defined for him in those divine words of
"Singing songs unbidden
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not."
That, too, is the reason that impels me to embody such views as
these in romantic fiction, not in deliberate treatises. "Why sow
your ideas broadcast," many honest critics say, "in novels where
mere boys and girls can read them? Why not formulate them in
serious and argumentative books, where wise men alone will come
across them?" The answer is, because wise men are wise already: it
is the boys and girls of a community who stand most in need of
suggestion and instruction. Women, in particular, are the chief
readers of fiction; and it is women whom one mainly desires to
arouse to interest in profound problems by the aid of this vehicle.
Especially should one arouse them to such living interest while
they are still young and plastic, before they have crystallised and
hardened into the conventional marionettes of polite society. Make
them think while they are young: make them feel while they are
sensitive: it is then alone that they will think and feel, if ever.
I will venture, indeed, to enforce my views on this subject by a
little apologue which I have somewhere read, or heard,--or
A Revolutionist desired to issue an Election Address to the Working
Men of Bermondsey. The Rector of the Parish saw it at the
printer's, and came to him, much perturbed. "Why write it in
English?" he asked. "It will only inflame the minds of the lower
orders. Why not allow me to translate it into Ciceronian Latin?
It would then be comprehensible to all University men; your logic
would be duly and deliberately weighed: and the tanners and
tinkers, who are so very impressionable, would not be poisoned by
it." "My friend," said the Revolutionist, "it is the tanners and
tinkers _I_ want to get at. My object is, to win this election;
University graduates will not help me to win it."
The business of the preacher is above all things to preach; but in
order to preach, he must first reach his audience. The audience in
this case consists in large part of women and girls, who are most
simply and easily reached by fiction. Therefore, fiction is today
the best medium for the preacher of righteousness who addresses
Why, once more, this particular name, "A Hill-top Novel"? For
something like this reason.
I am writing in my study on a heather-clad hill-top. When I raise
my eye from my sheet of foolscap, it falls upon miles and miles of
broad open moorland. My window looks out upon unsullied nature.
Everything around is fresh and pure and wholesome. Through the open
casement, the scent of the pines blows in with the breeze from the
neighbouring firwood. Keen airs sigh through the pine-needles.
Grasshoppers chirp from deep tangles of bracken. The song of a
skylark drops from the sky like soft rain in summer; in the
evening, a nightjar croons to us his monotonously passionate love-
wail from his perch on the gnarled boughs of the wind-swept larch
that crowns the upland. But away below in the valley, as night
draws on, a lurid glare reddens the north-eastern horizon. It marks
the spot where the great wen of London heaves and festers. Up here
on the free hills, the sharp air blows in upon us, limpid and clear
from a thousand leagues of open ocean; down there in the crowded
town, it stagnates and ferments, polluted with the diseases and
vices of centuries.
This is an urban age. The men of the villages, alas, are leaving
behind them the green fields and purple moors of their childhood,
are foolishly crowding into the narrow lanes and purlieus of the
great cities. Strange decadent sins and morbid pleasures entice
them thither. But I desire in these books to utter a word once more
in favour of higher and purer ideals of life and art. Those who
sicken of the foul air and lurid light of towns may still wander
side by side with me on these heathery highlands. Far, far below,
the theatre and the music-hall spread their garish gas-lamps. Let
who will heed them. But here on the open hill-top we know fresher
and more wholesome delights. Those feverish joys allure us not.
O decadents of the town, we have seen your sham idyls, your tinsel
Arcadias. We have tired of their stuffy atmosphere, their dazzling
jets, their weary ways, their gaudy dresses; we shun the sunken
cheeks, the lack-lustre eyes, the heart-sick souls of your painted
goddesses. We love not the fetid air, thick and hot with human
breath, and reeking with tobacco smoke, of your modern Parnassus--
a Parnassus whose crags were reared and shaped by the hands of the
stage-carpenter! Your studied dalliance with your venal muses is
little to our taste. Your halls are too stifling with carbonic acid
gas; for us, we breathe oxygen.
And the oxygen of the hill-tops is purer, keener, rarer, more
ethereal. It is rich in ozone. Now, ozone stands to common oxygen
itself as the clean-cut metal to the dull and leaden exposed
surface. Nascent and ever renascent, it has electrical attraction;
it leaps to the embrace of the atom it selects, but only under the
influence of powerful affinities; and what it clasps once, it
clasps for ever. That is the pure air which we drink in on the
heather-clad heights--not the venomous air of the crowded casino,
nor even the close air of the middle-class parlour. It thrills and
nerves us. How we smile, we who live here, when some dweller in the
mists and smoke of the valley confounds our delicate atmosphere,
redolent of honey and echoing the manifold murmur of bees, with
that stifling miasma of the gambling hell and the dancing saloon!
Trust me, dear friend, the moorland air is far other than you
fancy. You can wander up here along the purple ridges, hand locked
in hand with those you love, without fear of harm to yourself or
your comrade. No Bloom of Ninon here, but fresh cheeks like the
peach-blossom where the sun has kissed it: no casual fruition of
loveless, joyless harlots, but life-long saturation of your own
heart's desire in your own heart's innocence. Ozone is better than
all the champagne in the Strand or Piccadilly. If only you will
believe it, it is purity and life and sympathy and vigour. Its
perfect freshness and perpetual fount of youth keep your age from
withering. It crimsons the sunset and lives in the afterglow. If
these delights thy mind may move, leave, oh, leave the meretricious
town, and come to the airy peaks. Such joy is ours, unknown to the
squalid village which spreads its swamps where the poet's silver
Thames runs dull and leaden.
Have we never our doubts, though, up here on the hill-tops? Ay,
marry, have we! Are we so sure that these gospels we preach with
all our hearts are the true and final ones? Who shall answer that
question? For myself, as I lift up my eyes from my paper once more,
my gaze falls first on the golden bracken that waves joyously over
the sandstone ridge without, and then, within, on a little white
shelf where lies the greatest book of our greatest philosopher. I
open it at random and consult its sortes. What comfort and counsel
has Herbert Spencer for those who venture to see otherwise than the
mass of their contemporaries?
"Whoever hesitates to utter that which he thinks the highest truth,
lest it should be too much in advance of the time, may reassure
himself by looking at his acts from an impersonal point of view.
Let him duly realise the fact that opinion is the agency through
which character adapts external arrangements to itself--that his
opinion rightly forms part of this agency--is a unit of force,
constituting, with other such units, the general power which works
out social changes; and he will perceive that he may properly give
full utterance to his innermost conviction; leaving it to produce
what effect it may. It is not for nothing that he has in him these
sympathies with some principles and repugnances to others. He,
with all his capacities, and aspirations, and beliefs, is not an
accident, but a product of the time. He must remember that while
he is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future; and
that his thoughts are as children born to him, which he may not
carelessly let die. He, like every other man, may properly consider
himself as one of the myriad agencies through whom works the
Unknown Cause; and when the Unknown Cause produces in him a certain
belief, he is thereby authorised to profess and act out that
belief. For, to render in their highest sense the words of the
'Nature is made better by no mean,
But nature makes that mean; over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes.'
"Not as adventitious therefore will the wise man regard the faith
which is in him. The highest truth he sees he will fearlessly
utter; knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing
his right part in the world--knowing that if he can effect the
change he aims at--well: if not--well also; though not SO well."
That passage comforts me. These, then, are my ideas. They may be
right, they may be wrong. But at least they are the sincere and
personal convictions of an honest man, warranted in him by that
spirit of the age, of which each of us is but an automatic
THE BRITISH BARBARIANS
The time was Saturday afternoon; the place was Surrey; the person
of the drama was Philip Christy.
He had come down by the early fast train to Brackenhurst. All the
world knows Brackenhurst, of course, the greenest and leafiest of
our southern suburbs. It looked even prettier than its wont just
then, that town of villas, in the first fresh tenderness of its wan
spring foliage, the first full flush of lilac, laburnum, horse-
chestnut, and guelder-rose. The air was heavy with the odour of May
and the hum of bees. Philip paused a while at the corner, by the
ivied cottage, admiring it silently. He was glad he lived there--
so very aristocratic! What joy to glide direct, on the enchanted
carpet of the South-Eastern Railway, from the gloom and din and
bustle of Cannon Street, to the breadth and space and silence and
exclusiveness of that upland village! For Philip Christy was a
gentlemanly clerk in Her Majesty's Civil Service.
As he stood there admiring it all with roving eyes, he was startled
after a moment by the sudden, and as it seemed to him unannounced
apparition of a man in a well-made grey tweed suit, just a yard or
two in front of him. He was aware of an intruder. To be sure, there
was nothing very remarkable at first sight either in the stranger's
dress, appearance, or manner. All that Philip noticed for himself
in the newcomer's mien for the first few seconds was a certain
distinct air of social superiority, an innate nobility of gait
and bearing. So much at least he observed at a glance quite
instinctively. But it was not this quiet and unobtrusive tone,
as of the Best Society, that surprised and astonished him;
Brackenhurst prided itself, indeed, on being a most well-bred and
distinguished neighbourhood; people of note grew as thick there as
heather or whortleberries. What puzzled him more was the abstruser
question, where on earth the stranger could have come from so
suddenly. Philip had glanced up the road and down the road just two
minutes before, and was prepared to swear when he withdrew his eyes
not a soul loomed in sight in either direction. Whence, then, could
the man in the grey suit have emerged? Had he dropped from the
clouds? No gate opened into the road on either side for two hundred
yards or more; for Brackenhurst is one of those extremely
respectable villa neighbourhoods where every house--an eligible
family residence--stands in its own grounds of at least six acres.
Now Philip could hardly suspect that so well dressed a man of such
distinguished exterior would be guilty of such a gross breach of
the recognised code of Brackenhurstian manners as was implied in
the act of vaulting over a hedgerow. So he gazed in blank wonder
at the suddenness of the apparition, more than half inclined to
satisfy his curiosity by inquiring of the stranger how the dickens
he had got there.
A moment's reflection, however, sufficed to save the ingenuous
young man from the pitfall of so serious a social solecism. It
would be fatal to accost him. For, mark you, no matter how
gentlemanly and well-tailored a stranger may look, you can never be
sure nowadays (in these topsy-turvy times of subversive radicalism)
whether he is or is not really a gentleman. That makes
acquaintanceship a dangerous luxury. If you begin by talking to a
man, be it ever so casually, he may desire to thrust his company
upon you, willy-nilly, in future; and when you have ladies of your
family living in a place, you really CANNOT be too particular what
companions you pick up there, were it even in the most informal and
momentary fashion. Besides, the fellow might turn out to be one of
your social superiors, and not care to know you; in which case, of
course, you would only be letting yourself in for a needless
snubbing. In fact, in this modern England of ours, this fatherland
of snobdom, one passes one's life in a see-saw of doubt, between
the Scylla and Charybdis of those two antithetical social dangers.
You are always afraid you may get to know somebody you yourself do
not want to know, or may try to know somebody who does not want to
Guided by these truly British principles of ancestral wisdom,
Philip Christy would probably never have seen anything more of the
distinguished-looking stranger had it not been for a passing
accident of muscular action, over which his control was distinctly
precarious. He happened in brushing past to catch the stranger's
eye. It was a clear blue eye, very deep and truthful. It somehow
succeeded in riveting for a second Philip's attention. And it was
plain the stranger was less afraid of speaking than Philip himself
was. For he advanced with a pleasant smile on his open countenance,
and waved one gloveless hand in a sort of impalpable or half-
checked salute, which impressed his new acquaintance as a vaguely
polite Continental gesture. This affected Philip favourably: the
newcomer was a somebody then, and knew his place: for just in
proportion as Philip felt afraid to begin conversation himself with
an unplaced stranger, did he respect any other man who felt so
perfectly sure of his own position that he shared no such middle-
class doubts or misgivings. A duke is never afraid of accosting
anybody. Philip was strengthened, therefore, in his first idea,
that the man in the grey suit was a person of no small distinction
in society, else surely he would not have come up and spoken with
such engaging frankness and ease of manner.
"I beg your pardon," the stranger said, addressing him in pure and
limpid English, which sounded to Philip like the dialect of the
very best circles, yet with some nameless difference of intonation
or accent which certainly was not foreign, still less provincial,
or Scotch, or Irish; it seemed rather like the very purest well of
English undefiled Philip had ever heard,--only, if anything, a
little more so; "I beg your pardon, but I'm a stranger hereabouts,
and I should be so VERY much obliged if you could kindly direct me
to any good lodgings."
His voice and accent attracted Philip even more now he stood near
at hand than his appearance had done from a little distance. It was
impossible, indeed, to say definitely in set terms what there was
about the man that made his personality and his words so charming;
but from that very first minute, Philip freely admitted to himself
that the stranger in the grey suit was a perfect gentleman. Nay, so
much did he feel it in his ingenuous way that he threw off at once
his accustomed cloak of dubious reserve, and, standing still to
think, answered after a short pause, "Well, we've a great many very
nice furnished houses about here to let, but not many lodgings.
Brackenhurst's a cut above lodgings, don't you know; it's a
residential quarter. But I should think Miss Blake's, at
Heathercliff House, would perhaps be just the sort of thing to
"Oh, thank you," the stranger answered, with a deferential
politeness which charmed Philip once more by its graceful
expressiveness. "And could you kindly direct me to them? I don't
know my way about at all, you see, as yet, in this country."
"With pleasure," Philip replied, quite delighted at the chance of
solving the mystery of where the stranger had dropped from. "I'm
going that way myself, and can take you past her door. It's only a
few steps. Then you're a stranger in England?"
The newcomer smiled a curious self-restrained smile. He was both
young and handsome. "Yes, I'm a stranger in your England," he
answered, gravely, in the tone of one who wishes to avoid an
awkward discussion. "In fact, an Alien. I only arrived here this
"From the Continent?" Philip inquired, arching his eyebrows
The stranger smiled again. "No, not from the Continent," he
replied, with provoking evasiveness.
"I thought you weren't a foreigner," Philip continued in a blandly
suggestive voice. "That is to say," he went on, after a second's
pause, during which the stranger volunteered no further statement,
"you speak English like an Englishman."
"Do I?" the stranger answered. "Well, I'm glad of that. It'll make
intercourse with your Englishmen so much more easy."
By this time Philip's curiosity was thoroughly whetted. "But you're
not an Englishman, you say?" he asked, with a little natural
"No, not exactly what you call an Englishman," the stranger
replied, as if he didn't quite care for such clumsy attempts to
examine his antecedents. "As I tell you, I'm an Alien. But we
always spoke English at home," he added with an afterthought, as if
ready to vouchsafe all the other information that lay in his power.
"You can't be an American, I'm sure," Philip went on, unabashed,
his eagerness to solve the question at issue, once raised, getting
the better for the moment of both reserve and politeness.
"No, I'm certainly not an American," the stranger answered with a
gentle courtesy in his tone that made Philip feel ashamed of his
rudeness in questioning him.
"Nor a Colonist?" Philip asked once more, unable to take the hint.
"Nor a Colonist either," the Alien replied curtly. And then he
relapsed into a momentary silence which threw upon Philip the
difficult task of continuing the conversation.
The member of Her Britannic Majesty's Civil Service would have
given anything just that minute to say to him frankly, "Well, if
you're not an Englishman, and you're not an American, and you're
not a Colonist, and you ARE an Alien, and yet you talk English like
a native, and have always talked it, why, what in the name of
goodness do you want us to take you for?" But he restrained himself
with difficulty. There was something about the stranger that made
him feel by instinct it would be more a breach of etiquette to
question him closely than to question any one he had ever met with.
They walked on along the road for some minutes together, the
stranger admiring all the way the golden tresses of the laburnum
and the rich perfume of the lilac, and talking much as he went of
the quaintness and prettiness of the suburban houses. Philip
thought them pretty, too (or rather, important), but failed to see
for his own part where the quaintness came in. Nay, he took the
imputation as rather a slur on so respectable a neighbourhood: for
to be quaint is to be picturesque, and to be picturesque is to be
old-fashioned. But the stranger's voice and manner were so
pleasant, almost so ingratiating, that Philip did not care to
differ from him on the abstract question of a qualifying epithet.
After all, there's nothing positively insulting in calling a house
quaint, though Philip would certainly have preferred, himself, to
hear the Eligible Family Residences of that Aristocratic
Neighbourhood described in auctioneering phrase as "imposing,"
"noble," "handsome," or "important-looking."
Just before they reached Miss Blake's door, the Alien paused for a
second. He took out a loose handful of money, gold and silver
together, from his trouser pocket. "One more question," he said,
with that pleasant smile on his lips, "if you'll excuse my
ignorance. Which of these coins is a pound, now, and which is a
"Why, a pound IS a sovereign, of course," Philip answered briskly,
smiling the genuine British smile of unfeigned astonishment that
anybody should be ignorant of a minor detail in the kind of life he
had always lived among. To be sure, he would have asked himself
with equal simplicity what was the difference between a twenty-
franc piece, a napoleon, and a louis, or would have debated as to
the precise numerical relation between twenty-five cents and a
quarter of a dollar; but then, those are mere foreign coins, you
see, which no fellow can be expected to understand, unless he
happens to have lived in the country they are used in. The others
are British and necessary to salvation. That feeling is instinctive
in the thoroughly provincial English nature. No Englishman ever
really grasps for himself the simple fact that England is a foreign
country to foreigners; if strangers happen to show themselves
ignorant of any petty matter in English life, he regards their
ignorance as silly and childish, not to be compared for a moment to
his own natural unfamiliarity with the absurd practices of foreign
The Alien, indeed, seemed to have learned beforehand this curious
peculiarity of the limited English intellect; for he blushed
slightly as he replied, "I know your currency, as a matter of
arithmetic, of course: twelve pence make one shilling; twenty
shillings make one pound--"
"Of course," Philip echoed in a tone of perfect conviction; it
would never have occurred to him to doubt for a moment that
everybody knew intuitively those beggarly elements of the inspired
British monetary system.
"Though they're singularly awkward units of value for any one
accustomed to a decimal coinage: so unreasonable and illogical,"
the stranger continued blandly, turning over the various pieces
with a dubious air of distrust and uncertainty.
"I BEG your pardon," Philip said, drawing himself up very stiff,
and scarcely able to believe his ears (he was an official of Her
Britannic Majesty's Government, and unused to such blasphemy). "Do
I understand you to say, you consider pounds, shillings, and pence
He put an emphasis on the last word that might fairly have struck
terror to the stranger's breast; but somehow it did not. "Why,
yes," the Alien went on with imperturbable gentleness: "no order or
principle, you know. No rational connection. A mere survival from
barbaric use. A score, and a dozen. The score is one man, ten
fingers and ten toes; the dozen is one man with shoes on--fingers
and feet together. Twelve pence make one shilling; twenty shillings
one pound. How very confusing! And then, the nomenclature's so
absurdly difficult! Which of these is half-a-crown, if you please,
and which is a florin? and what are their respective values in
pence and shillings?"
Philip picked out the coins and explained them to him separately.
The Alien meanwhile received the information with evident interest,
as a traveller in that vast tract that is called Abroad might note
the habits and manners of some savage tribe that dwells within its
confines, and solemnly wrapped each coin up in paper, as his
instructor named it for him, writing the designation and value
outside in a peculiarly beautiful and legible hand. "It's so
puzzling, you see," he said in explanation, as Philip smiled
another superior and condescending British smile at this infantile
proceeding; "the currency itself has no congruity or order: and
then, even these queer unrelated coins haven't for the most part
their values marked in words or figures upon them."
"Everybody knows what they are," Philip answered lightly. Though
for a moment, taken aback by the novelty of the idea, he almost
admitted in his own mind that to people who had the misfortune to
be born foreigners, there WAS perhaps a slight initial difficulty
in this unlettered system. But then, you cannot expect England to
be regulated throughout for the benefit of foreigners! Though, to
be sure, on the one occasion when Philip had visited the Rhine and
Switzerland, he had grumbled most consumedly from Ostend to
Grindelwald, at those very decimal coins which the stranger seemed
to admire so much, and had wondered why the deuce Belgium, Germany,
Holland, and Switzerland could not agree among themselves upon a
uniform coinage; it would be so much more convenient to the British
tourist. For the British tourist, of course, is NOT a foreigner.
On the door-step of Miss Blake's Furnished Apartments for Families
and Gentlemen, the stranger stopped again. "One more question," he
interposed in that same suave voice, "if I'm not trespassing too
much on your time and patience. For what sort of term--by the day,
month, year--does one usually take lodgings?"
"Why, by the week, of course," Philip answered, suppressing a broad
smile of absolute surprise at the man's childish ignorance.
"And how much shall I have to pay?" the Alien went on quietly.
"Have you any fixed rule about it?"
"Of course not," Philip answered, unable any longer to restrain his
amusement (everything in England was "of course" to Philip). "You
pay according to the sort of accommodation you require, the number
of your rooms, and the nature of the neighbourhood."
"I see," the Alien replied, imperturbably polite, in spite of
Philip's condescending manner. "And what do I pay per room in this
latitude and longitude?"
For twenty seconds, Philip half suspected his new acquaintance of a
desire to chaff him: but as at the same time the Alien drew from
his pocket a sort of combined compass and chronometer which he
gravely consulted for his geographical bearings, Philip came to the
conclusion he must be either a seafaring man or an escaped lunatic.
So he answered him to the point. "I should think," he said quietly,
"as Miss Blake's are extremely respectable lodgings, in a first-
rate quarter, and with a splendid view, you'll probably have to pay
somewhere about three guineas."
"Three what?" the stranger interposed, with an inquiring glance at
the little heap of coins he still held before him.
Philip misinterpreted his glance. "Perhaps that's too much for
you," he suggested, looking severe; for if people cannot afford to
pay for decent rooms, they have no right to invade an aristocratic
suburb, and bespeak the attention of its regular residents.
"Oh, that's not it," the Alien put in, reading his tone aright.
"The money doesn't matter to me. As long as I can get a tidy room,
with sun and air, I don't mind what I pay. It's the guinea I can't
quite remember about for the moment. I looked it up, I know, in a
dictionary at home; but I'm afraid I've forgotten it. Let me see;
it's twenty-one pounds to the guinea, isn't it? Then I'm to pay
about sixty-three pounds a week for my lodgings."
This was the right spirit. He said it so simply, so seriously, so
innocently, that Philip was quite sure he really meant it. He was
prepared, if necessary, to pay sixty odd pounds a week in rent.
Now, a man like that is the proper kind of man for a respectable
neighbourhood. He'll keep a good saddle-horse, join the club, and
play billiards freely. Philip briefly explained to him the nature
of his mistake, pointing out to him that a guinea was an imaginary
coin, unrepresented in metal, but reckoned by prescription at
twenty-one shillings. The stranger received the slight correction
with such perfect nonchalance, that Philip at once conceived a
high opinion of his wealth and solvency, and therefore of his
respectability and moral character. It was clear that pounds and
shillings were all one to him. Philip had been right, no doubt,
in his first diagnosis of his queer acquaintance as a man of
distinction. For wealth and distinction are practically synonyms
in England for one and the same quality, possession of the
As they parted, the stranger spoke again, still more at sea. "And
are there any special ceremonies to be gone through on taking up
lodgings?" he asked quite gravely. "Any religious rites, I mean to
say? Any poojah or so forth? That is," he went on, as Philip's
smile broadened, "is there any taboo to be removed or appeased
before I can take up my residence in the apartments?"
By this time Philip was really convinced he had to do with a
madman--perhaps a dangerous lunatic. So he answered rather testily,
"No, certainly not; how absurd! you must see that's ridiculous.
You're in a civilised country, not among Australian savages. All
you'll have to do is to take the rooms and pay for them. I'm sorry
I can't be of any further use to you, but I'm pressed for time
to-day. So now, good-morning."
As for the stranger, he turned up the path through the lodging-
house garden with curious misgivings. His heart failed him. It was
half-past three by mean solar time for that particular longitude.
Then why had this young man said so briskly, "Good morning," at
3.30 P.M., as if on purpose to deceive him? Was he laying a trap?
Was this some wile and guile of the English medicine-men?
Next day was (not unnaturally) Sunday. At half-past ten in the
morning, according to his wont, Philip Christy was seated in the
drawing-room at his sister's house, smooth silk hat in gloved hand,
waiting for Frida and her husband, Robert Monteith, to go to church
with him. As he sat there, twiddling his thumbs, or beating the
devil's tattoo on the red Japanese table, the housemaid entered.
"A gentleman to see you, sir," she said, handing Philip a card.
The young man glanced at it curiously. A visitor to call at such
an early hour!--and on Sunday morning too! How extremely odd!
This was really most irregular!
So he looked down at the card with a certain vague sense of
inarticulate disapproval. But he noticed at the same time it was
finer and clearer and more delicately engraved than any other card
he had ever yet come across. It bore in simple unobtrusive letters
the unknown name, "Mr. Bertram Ingledew."
Though he had never heard it before, name and engraving both tended
to mollify Philip's nascent dislike. "Show the gentleman in,
Martha," he said in his most grandiose tone; and the gentleman
Philip started at sight of him. It was his friend the Alien. Philip
was quite surprised to see his madman of last night; and what was
more disconcerting still, in the self-same grey tweed home-spun
suit he had worn last evening. Now, nothing can be more
gentlemanly, don't you know, than a grey home-spun, IN its proper
place; but its proper place Philip Christy felt was certainly NOT
in a respectable suburb on a Sunday morning.
"I beg your pardon," he said frigidly, rising from his seat with
his sternest official air--the air he was wont to assume in the
anteroom at the office when outsiders called and wished to
interview his chief "on important public business." "To what may I
owe the honour of this visit?" For he did not care to be hunted up
in his sister's house at a moment's notice by a most casual
acquaintance, whom he suspected of being an escaped lunatic.
Bertram Ingledew, for his part, however, advanced towards his
companion of last night with the frank smile and easy bearing of a
cultivated gentleman. He was blissfully unaware of the slight he
was putting upon the respectability of Brackenhurst by appearing on
Sunday in his grey tweed suit; so he only held out his hand as to
an ordinary friend, with the simple words, "You were so extremely
kind to me last night, Mr. Christy, that as I happen to know nobody
here in England, I ventured to come round and ask your advice in
unexpected circumstances that have since arisen."
When Bertram Ingledew looked at him, Philip once more relented. The
man's eye was so captivating. To say the truth, there was something
taking about the mysterious stranger--a curious air of unconscious
superiority--so that, the moment he came near, Philip felt himself
fascinated. He only answered, therefore, in as polite a tone as he
could easily muster, "Why, how did you get to know my name, or to
trace me to my sister's?"
"Oh, Miss Blake told me who you were and where you lived," Bertram
replied most innocently: his tone was pure candour; "and when I
went round to your lodgings just now, they explained that you were
out, but that I should probably find you at Mrs. Monteith's; so of
course I came on here."
Philip denied the applicability of that naive "of course" in his
inmost soul: but it was no use being angry with Mr. Bertram
Ingledew. So much he saw at once; the man was so simple-minded, so
transparently natural, one could not be angry with him. One could
only smile at him, a superior cynical London-bred smile, for an
unsophisticated foreigner. So the Civil Servant asked with a
condescending air, "Well, what's your difficulty? I'll see if
peradventure I can help you out of it." For he reflected to himself
in a flash that as Ingledew had apparently a good round sum in gold
and notes in his pocket yesterday, he was not likely to come
borrowing money this morning.
"It's like this, you see," the Alien answered with charming
simplicity, "I haven't got any luggage."
"Not got any luggage!" Philip repeated, awestruck, letting his jaw
fall short, and stroking his clean-shaven chin with one hand. He
was more doubtful than ever now as to the man's sanity or
respectability. If he was not a lunatic, then surely he must be
this celebrated Perpignan murderer, whom everybody was talking
about, and whom the French police were just then engaged in hunting
down for extradition.
"No; I brought none with me on purpose," Mr. Ingledew replied, as
innocently as ever. "I didn't feel quite sure about the ways, or
the customs, or the taboos of England. So I had just this one suit
of clothes made, after an English pattern of the present fashion,
which I was lucky enough to secure from a collector at home; and I
thought I'd buy everything else I wanted when I got to London. I
brought nothing at all in the way of luggage with me."
"Not even brush and comb?" Philip interposed, horrified.
"Oh, yes, naturally, just the few things one always takes in a
vade-mecum," Bertram Ingledew answered, with a gracefully
deprecatory wave of the hand, which Philip thought pretty enough,
but extremely foreign. "Beyond that, nothing. I felt it would be
best, you see, to set oneself up in things of the country in the
country itself. One's surer then of getting exactly what's worn in
the society one mixes in."
For the first and only time, as he said those words, the stranger
struck a chord that was familiar to Philip. "Oh, of course," the
Civil Servant answered, with brisk acquiescence, "if you want to be
really up to date in your dress, you must go to first-rate houses
in London for everything. Nobody anywhere can cut like a good
Bertram Ingledew bowed his head. It was the acquiescent bow of the
utter outsider who gives no opinion at all on the subject under
discussion, because he does not possess any. As he probably came,
in spite of his disclaimer, from America or the colonies, which are
belated places, toiling in vain far in the rear of Bond Street,
Philip thought this an exceedingly proper display of bashfulness,
especially in a man who had only landed in England yesterday. But
Bertram went on half-musingly. "And you had told me," he said, "I'm
sure not meaning to mislead me, there were no formalities or taboos
of any kind on entering into lodgings. However, I found, as soon as
I'd arranged to take the rooms and pay four guineas a week for
them, which was a guinea more than she asked me, Miss Blake would
hardly let me come in at all unless I could at once produce my
luggage." He looked comically puzzled. "I thought at first," he
continued, gazing earnestly at Philip, "the good lady was afraid I
wouldn't pay her what I'd agreed, and would go away and leave her
in the lurch without a penny,--which was naturally a very painful
imputation. But when I offered to let her have three weeks' rent
in advance, I saw that wasn't all: there was a taboo as well; she
couldn't let me in without luggage, she said, because it would
imperil some luck or talisman to which she frequently alluded as
the Respectability of her Lodgings. This Respectability seems a
very great fetich. I was obliged at last, in order to ensure a
night's lodging of any sort, to appease it by promising I'd go up
to London by the first train to-day, and fetch down my luggage."
"Then you've things at Charing Cross, in the cloak-room perhaps?"
Philip suggested, somewhat relieved; for he felt sure Bertram
Ingledew must have told Miss Blake it was HE who had recommended
him to Heathercliff House for furnished apartments.
"Oh, dear, no; nothing," Bertram responded cheerfully. "Not a sack
to my back. I've only what I stand up in. And I called this
morning just to ask as I passed if you could kindly direct me to an
emporium in London where I could set myself up in all that's
"A WHAT?" Philip interposed, catching quick at the unfamiliar word
with blank English astonishment, and more than ever convinced, in
spite of denial, that the stranger was an American.
"An emporium," Bertram answered, in the most matter-of-fact voice:
"a magazine, don't you know; a place where they supply things in
return for money. I want to go up to London at once this morning
and buy what I require there."
"Oh, A SHOP, you mean," Philip replied, putting on at once his most
respectable British sabbatarian air. "I can tell you of the very
best tailor in London, whose cut is perfect; a fine flower of
tailors: but NOT to-day. You forget you're in England, and this is
Sunday. On the Continent, it's different: but you'll find no decent
shops here open to-day in town or country."
Bertram Ingledew drew one hand over his high white brow with a
strangely puzzled air. "No more I will," he said slowly, like one
who by degrees half recalls with an effort some forgotten fact from
dim depths of his memory. "I ought to have remembered, of course.
Why, I knew that, long ago. I read it in a book on the habits and
manners of the English people. But somehow, one never recollects
these taboo days, wherever one may be, till one's pulled up short
by them in the course of one's travels. Now, what on earth am I to
do? A box, it seems, is the Open, Sesame of the situation. Some
mystic value is attached to it as a moral amulet. I don't believe
that excellent Miss Blake would consent to take me in for a second
night without the guarantee of a portmanteau to respectablise me."
We all have moments of weakness, even the most irreproachable
Philistine among us; and as Bertram said those words in rather a
piteous voice, it occurred to Philip Christy that the loan of a
portmanteau would be a Christian act which might perhaps simplify
matters for the handsome and engaging stranger. Besides, he was
sure, after all--mystery or no mystery--Bertram Ingledew was
Somebody. That nameless charm of dignity and distinction impressed
him more and more the longer he talked with the Alien. "Well, I
think, perhaps, I could help you," he hazarded after a moment, in
a dubious tone; though to be sure, if he lent the portmanteau, it
would be like cementing the friendship for good or for evil; which
Philip, being a prudent young man, felt to be in some ways a trifle
dangerous; for who borrows a portmanteau must needs bring it back
again--which opens the door to endless contingencies. "I MIGHT be
At that moment, their colloquy was suddenly interrupted by the
entry of a lady who immediately riveted Bertram Ingledew's
attention. She was tall and dark, a beautiful woman, of that riper
and truer beauty in face and form that only declares itself as
character develops. Her features were clear cut, rather delicate
than regular; her eyes were large and lustrous; her lips not too
thin, but rich and tempting; her brow was high, and surmounted by a
luscious wealth of glossy black hair which Bertram never remembered
to have seen equalled before for its silkiness of texture and its
strange blue sheen, like a plate of steel, or the grass of the
prairies. Gliding grace distinguished her when she walked. Her
motion was equable. As once the sons of God saw the daughters of
men that they were fair, and straightway coveted them, even so
Bertram Ingledew looked on Frida Monteith, and saw at the first
glance she was a woman to be desired, a soul high-throned, very
calm and beautiful.
She stood there for a moment and faced him, half in doubt, in her
flowing Oriental or Mauresque robe (for she dressed, as Philip
would have said, "artistically"), waiting to be introduced the
while, and taking good heed, as she waited, of the handsome
stranger. As for Philip, he hesitated, not quite certain in his own
mind on the point of etiquette--say rather of morals--whether one
ought or ought not to introduce "the ladies of one's family" to a
casual stranger picked up in the street, who confesses he has come
on a visit to England without a letter of introduction or even that
irreducible minimum of respectability--a portmanteau. Frida,
however, had no such scruples. She saw the young man was good-
looking and gentlemanly, and she turned to Philip with the hasty
sort of glance that says as plainly as words could say it, "Now,
then! introduce me."
Thus mutely exhorted, though with a visible effort, Philip murmured
half inarticulately, in a stifled undertone, "My sister, Mrs.
Monteith--Mr. Bertram Ingledew," and then trembled inwardly.
It was a surprise to Bertram that the beautiful woman with the
soul in her eyes should turn out to be the sister of the very
commonplace young man with the boiled-fish expression he had met
by the corner; but he disguised his astonishment, and only
interjected, as if it were the most natural remark in the world:
"I'm pleased to meet you. What a lovely gown! and how admirably it
Philip opened his eyes aghast. But Frida glanced down at the dress
with a glance of approbation. The stranger's frankness, though
quaint, was really refreshing.
"I'm so glad you like it," she said, taking the compliment with
quiet dignity, as simply as it was intended. "It's all my own
taste; I chose the stuff and designed the make of it. And I know
who this is, Phil, without your troubling to tell me; it's the
gentleman you met in the street last night, and were talking about
"You're quite right," Philip answered, with a deprecating look (as
who should say, aside, "I really couldn't help it"). "He--he's
rather in a difficulty." And then he went on to explain in a few
hurried words to Frida, with sundry shrugs and nods of profoundest
import, that the supposed lunatic or murderer or foreigner or fool
had gone to Miss Blake's without luggage of any sort; and that,
"Perhaps"--very dubitatively--"a portmanteau or bag might help him
out of his temporary difficulties."
"Why, of course," Frida cried impulsively, with prompt decision;
"Robert's Gladstone bag and my little brown trunk would be the very
things for him. I could lend them to him at once, if only we can
get a Sunday cab to take them."
"NOT before service, surely," Philip interposed, scandalised.
"If he were to take them now, you know, he'd meet all the church-
"Is it taboo, then, to face the clergy with a Gladstone bag?"
Bertram asked quite seriously, in that childlike tone of simple
inquiry that Philip had noticed more than once before in him. "Your
bonzes object to meet a man with luggage? They think it unlucky?"
Frida and Philip looked at one another with quick glances, and
"Well, it's not exactly tabooed," Frida answered gently; "and it's
not so much the rector himself, you know, as the feelings of one's
neighbours. This is a very respectable neighbourhood--oh, quite
dreadfully respectable--and people in the houses about might make a
talk of it if a cab drove away from the door as they were passing.
I think, Phil, you're right. He'd better wait till the church-
people are finished."
"Respectability seems to be a very great object of worship in your
village," Bertram suggested in perfect good faith. "Is it a local
cult, or is it general in England?"
Frida glanced at him, half puzzled. "Oh, I think it's pretty
general," she answered, with a happy smile. "But perhaps the
disease is a little more epidemic about here than elsewhere. It
affects the suburbs: and my brother's got it just as badly as any
"As badly as any one!" Bertram repeated with a puzzled air. "Then
you don't belong to that creed yourself? You don't bend the knee to
this embodied abstraction?--it's your brother who worships her, I
suppose, for the family?"
"Yes; he's more of a devotee than I am," Frida went on, quite
frankly, but not a little surprised at so much freedom in a
stranger. "Though we're all of us tarred with the same brush, no
doubt. It's a catching complaint, I suppose, respectability."
Bertram gazed at her dubiously. A complaint, did she say? Was
she serious or joking? He hardly understood her. But further
discussion was cut short for the moment by Frida good-humouredly
running upstairs to see after the Gladstone bag and brown
portmanteau, into which she crammed a few useless books and other
heavy things, to serve as make-weights for Miss Blake's injured
"You'd better wait a quarter of an hour after we go to church," she
said, as the servant brought these necessaries into the room where
Bertram and Philip were seated. "By that time nearly all the
church-people will be safe in their seats; and Phil's conscience
will be satisfied. You can tell Miss Blake you've brought a little
of your luggage to do for to-day, and the rest will follow from
town to-morrow morning."
"Oh, how very kind you are!" Bertram exclaimed, looking down at her
gratefully. "I'm sure I don't know what I should ever have done in
this crisis without you."
He said it with a warmth which was certainly unconventional. Frida
coloured and looked embarrassed. There was no denying he was
certainly a most strange and untrammelled person.
"And if I might venture on a hint," Philip put in, with a hasty
glance at his companion's extremely unsabbatical costume, "it would
be that you shouldn't try to go out much to-day in that suit you're
wearing; it looks peculiar, don't you know, and might attract
"Oh, is that a taboo too?" the stranger put in quickly, with an
anxious air. "Now, that's awfully kind of you. But it's curious,
as well; for two or three people passed my window last night, all
Englishmen, as I judged, and all with suits almost exactly like
this one--which was copied, as I told you, from an English model."
"Last night; oh, yes," Philip answered. "Last night was Saturday;
that makes all the difference. The suit's right enough in its way,
of course,--very neat and gentlemanly; but NOT for Sunday. You're
expected on Sundays to put on a black coat and waistcoat, you know,
like the ones I'm wearing."
Bertram's countenance fell. "And if I'm seen in the street like
this," he asked, "will they do anything to me? Will the guardians
of the peace--the police, I mean--arrest me?"
Frida laughed a bright little laugh of genuine amusement.
"Oh, dear, no," she said merrily; "it isn't an affair of police at
all; not so serious as that: it's only a matter of respectability."
"I see," Bertram answered. "Respectability's a religious or
popular, not an official or governmental, taboo. I quite understand
you. But those are often the most dangerous sort. Will the people
in the street, who adore Respectability, be likely to attack me or
mob me for disrespect to their fetich?"
"Certainly not," Frida replied, flushing up. He seemed to be
carrying a joke too far. "This is a free country. Everybody wears
and eats and drinks just what he pleases."
"Well, that's all very interesting to me," the Alien went on with a
charming smile, that disarmed her indignation; "for I've come here
on purpose to collect facts and notes about English taboos and
similar observances. I'm Secretary of a Nomological Society at
home, which is interested in pagodas, topes, and joss-houses; and
I've been travelling in Africa and in the South Sea Islands for a
long time past, working at materials for a History of Taboo, from
its earliest beginnings in the savage stage to its fully developed
European complexity; so of course all you say comes home to me
greatly. Your taboos, I foresee, will prove a most valuable and
"I beg your pardon," Philip interposed stiffly, now put upon his
mettle. "We have NO taboos at all in England. You're misled, no
doubt, by a mere playful facon de parler, which society indulges
in. England, you must remember, is a civilised country, and taboos
are institutions that belong to the lowest and most degraded
But Bertram Ingledew gazed at him in the blankest astonishment. "No
taboos!" he exclaimed, taken aback. "Why, I've read of hundreds.
Among nomological students, England has always been regarded with
the greatest interest as the home and centre of the highest and
most evolved taboo development. And you yourself," he added with a
courteous little bow, "have already supplied me with quite half a
dozen. But perhaps you call them by some other name among
yourselves; though in origin and essence, of course, they're
precisely the same as the other taboos I've been examining so long
in Asia and Africa. However, I'm afraid I'm detaining you from the
function of your joss-house. You wish, no doubt, to make your
genuflexions in the Temple of Respectability."
And he reflected silently on the curious fact that the English give
themselves by law fifty-two weekly holidays a year, and compel
themselves by custom to waste them entirely in ceremonial
On the way to church, the Monteiths sifted out their new
"Well, what do you make of him, Frida?" Philip asked, leaning back
in his place, with a luxurious air, as soon as the carriage had
turned the corner. "Lunatic or sharper?"
Frida gave an impatient gesture with her neatly gloved hand. "For
my part," she answered without a second's hesitation, "I make him
neither: I find him simply charming."
"That's because he praised your dress," Philip replied, looking
wise. "Did ever you know anything so cool in your life? Was it
ignorance, now, or insolence?"
"It was perfect simplicity and naturalness," Frida answered with
confidence. "He looked at the dress, and admired it, and being
transparently naif, he didn't see why he shouldn't say so. It
wasn't at all rude, I thought--and it gave me pleasure."
"He certainly has in some ways charming manners," Philip went on
more slowly. "He manages to impress one. If he's a madman, which
I rather more than half suspect, it's at least a gentlemanly form
"His manners are more than merely charming," Frida answered, quite
enthusiastic, for she had taken a great fancy at first sight to the
mysterious stranger. "They've such absolute freedom. That's what
strikes me most in them. They're like the best English aristocratic
manners, without the insolence; or the freest American manners,
without the roughness. He's extremely distinguished. And, oh,
isn't he handsome!"
"He IS good-looking," Philip assented grudgingly. Philip owned a
looking-glass, and was therefore accustomed to a very high
standard of manly beauty.
As for Robert Monteith, he smiled the grim smile of the wholly
unfascinated. He was a dour business man of Scotch descent, who
had made his money in palm-oil in the City of London; and having
married Frida as a remarkably fine woman, with a splendid figure,
to preside at his table, he had very small sympathy with what he
considered her high-flown fads and nonsensical fancies. He had seen
but little of the stranger, too, having come in from his weekly
stroll, or tour of inspection, round the garden and stables, just
as they were on the very point of starting for St. Barnabas: and
his opinion of the man was in no way enhanced by Frida's enthusiasm.
"As far as I'm concerned," he said, with his slow Scotch drawl,
inherited from his father (for though London-born and bred, he was
still in all essentials a pure Caledonian)--"As far as I'm
concerned, I haven't the slightest doubt but the man's a swindler.
I wonder at you, Frida, that you should leave him alone in the
house just now, with all that silver. I stepped round before I
left, and warned Martha privately not to move from the hall till
the fellow was gone, and to call up cook and James if he tried to
get out of the house with any of our property. But you never
seemed to suspect him. And to supply him with a bag, too, to
carry it all off in! Well, women are reckless! Hullo, there,
policeman;--stop, Price, one moment;--I wish you'd keep an eye on
my house this morning. There's a man in there I don't half like
the look of. When he drives away in a cab that my boy's going to
call for him, just see where he stops, and take care he hasn't got
anything my servants don't know about."
In the drawing-room, meanwhile, Bertram Ingledew was reflecting, as
he waited for the church people to clear away, how interesting
these English clothes-taboos and day-taboos promised to prove,
beside some similar customs he had met with or read of in his
investigations elsewhere. He remembered how on a certain morning of
the year the High Priest of the Zapotecs was obliged to get drunk,
an act which on any other day in the calendar would have been
regarded by all as a terrible sin in him. He reflected how in
Guinea and Tonquin, at a particular period once a twelvemonth,
nothing is considered wrong, and everything lawful, so that the
worst crimes and misdemeanours go unnoticed and unpunished. He
smiled to think how some days are tabooed in certain countries, so
that whatever you do on them, were it only a game of tennis, is
accounted wicked; while some days are periods of absolute licence,
so that whatever you do on them, were it murder itself, becomes fit
and holy. To him and his people at home, of course, it was the
intrinsic character of the act itself that made it right or wrong,
not the particular day or week or month on which one happened to do
it. What was wicked in June was wicked still in October. But not
so among the unreasoning devotees of taboo, in Africa or in England.
There, what was right in May became wicked in September, and what
was wrong on Sunday became harmless or even obligatory on Wednesday
or Thursday. It was all very hard for a rational being to
understand and explain: but he meant to fathom it, all the same, to
the very bottom--to find out why, for example, in Uganda, whoever
appears before the king must appear stark naked, while in England,
whoever appears before the queen must wear a tailor's sword or a
long silk train and a headdress of ostrich-feathers; why, in
Morocco, when you enter a mosque, you must take off your shoes and
catch a violent cold, in order to show your respect for Allah;
while in Europe, on entering a similar religious building, you must
uncover your head, no matter how draughty the place may be, since
the deity who presides there appears to be indifferent to the
danger of consumption or chest-diseases for his worshippers; why
certain clothes or foods are prescribed in London or Paris for
Sundays and Fridays, while certain others, just equally warm or
digestible or the contrary, are perfectly lawful to all the world
alike on Tuesdays and Saturdays. These were the curious questions
he had come so far to investigate, for which the fakirs and
dervishes of every land gave such fanciful reasons: and he saw he
would have no difficulty in picking up abundant examples of his
subject-matter everywhere in England. As the metropolis of taboo,
it exhibited the phenomena in their highest evolution. The only
thing that puzzled him was how Philip Christy, an Englishman born,
and evidently a most devout observer of the manifold taboos and
juggernauts of his country, should actually deny their very
existence. It was one more proof to him of the extreme caution
necessary in all anthropological investigations before accepting
the evidence even of well-meaning natives on points of religious or
social usage, which they are often quite childishly incapable of
describing in rational terms to outside inquirers. They take their
own manners and customs for granted, and they cannot see them in
their true relations or compare them with the similar manners and
customs of other nationalities.
Whether Philip Christy liked it or not, the Monteiths and he were
soon fairly committed to a tolerably close acquaintance with Bertram
Ingledew. For, as chance would have it, on the Monday morning
Bertram went up to town in the very same carriage with Philip and
his brother-in-law, to set himself up in necessaries of life for a
six or eight months' stay in England. When he returned that night
to Brackenhurst with two large trunks, full of underclothing and so
forth, he had to come round once more to the Monteiths, as Philip
anticipated, to bring back the Gladstone bag and the brown
portmanteau. He did it with so much graceful and gracious courtesy,
and such manly gratitude for the favour done him, that he left still
more deeply than ever on Frida's mind the impression of a gentleman.
He had found out all the right shops to go to in London, he said;
and he had ordered everything necessary to social salvation at the
very best tailor's, so strictly in accordance with Philip's
instructions that he thought he should now transgress no more the
sumptuary rules in that matter made and established, as long as he
remained in this realm of England. He had commanded a black cut-away
coat, suitable for Sunday morning; and a curious garment called a
frock-coat, buttoned tight over the chest, to be worn in the
afternoon, especially in London; and a still quainter coat, made of
shiny broadcloth, with strange tails behind, which was considered
"respectable," after seven P.M., for a certain restricted class of
citizens--those who paid a particular impost known as income-tax, as
far as he could gather from what the tailor told him: though the
classes who really did any good in the state, the working men and so
forth, seemed exempted by general consent from wearing it. Their
dress, indeed, he observed, was, strange to say, the least cared for
and evidently the least costly of anybody's.
He admired the Monteith children so unaffectedly, too, telling them
how pretty and how sweet-mannered they were to their very faces,
that he quite won Frida's heart; though Robert did not like it.
Robert had evidently some deep-seated superstition about the
matter; for he sent Maimie, the eldest girl, out of the room at
once; she was four years old; and he took little Archie, the two-
year-old, on his knee, as if to guard him from some moral or social
contagion. Then Bertram remembered how he had seen African mothers
beat or pinch their children till they made them cry, to avert the
evil omen, when he praised them to their faces; and he recollected,
too, that most fetichistic races believe in Nemesis--that is to
say, in jealous gods, who, if they see you love a child too much,
or admire it too greatly, will take it from you or do it some
grievous bodily harm, such as blinding it or maiming it, in order
to pay you out for thinking yourself too fortunate. He did not
doubt, therefore, but that in Scotland, which he knew by report to
be a country exceptionally given over to terrible superstitions,
the people still thought their sanguinary Calvinistic deity,
fashioned by a race of stern John Knoxes in their own image, would
do some harm to an over-praised child, "to wean them from it." He
was glad to see, however, that Frida at least did not share this
degrading and hateful belief, handed down from the most fiendish of
savage conceptions. On the contrary, she seemed delighted that
Bertram should pat little Maimie on the head, and praise her sunny
smile and her lovely hair "just like her mother's."
To Philip, this was all a rather serious matter. He felt he was
responsible for having introduced the mysterious Alien, however
unwillingly, into the bosom of Robert Monteith's family. Now,
Philip was not rich, and Frida was supposed to have "made a good
match of it"--that is to say, she had married a man a great deal
wealthier than her own upbringing. So Philip, after his kind,
thought much of the Monteith connection. He lived in lodgings at
Brackenhurst, at a highly inconvenient distance from town, so as to
be near their house, and catch whatever rays of reflected glory
might fall upon his head like a shadowy halo from their horses and
carriages, their dinners and garden-parties. He did not like,
therefore, to introduce into his sister's house anybody that Robert
Monteith, that moneyed man of oil, in the West African trade, might
consider an undesirable acquaintance. But as time wore on, and
Bertram's new clothes came home from the tailor's, it began to
strike the Civil Servant's mind that the mysterious Alien, though
he excited much comment and conjecture in Brackenhurst, was
accepted on the whole by local society as rather an acquisition to
its ranks than otherwise. He was well off: he was well dressed: he
had no trade or profession: and Brackenhurst, undermanned, hailed
him as a godsend for afternoon teas and informal tennis-parties.
That ineffable air of distinction as of one royal born, which
Philip had noticed at once the first evening they met, seemed to
strike and impress almost everybody who saw him. People felt he was
mysterious, but at any rate he was Someone. And then he had been
everywhere--except in Europe; and had seen everything--except their
own society: and he talked agreeably when he was not on taboos: and
in suburban towns, don't you know, an outsider who brings fresh
blood into the field--who has anything to say we do not all know
beforehand--is always welcome! So Brackenhurst accepted Bertram
Ingledew before long, as an eccentric but interesting and romantic
Not that he stopped much in Brackenhurst itself. He went up to town
every day almost as regularly as Robert Monteith and Philip
Christy. He had things he wanted to observe there, he said, for the
work he was engaged upon. And the work clearly occupied the best
part of his energies. Every night he came down to Brackenhurst
with his notebook crammed full of modern facts and illustrative
instances. He worked most of all in the East End, he told Frida
confidentially: there he could see best the remote results of
certain painful English customs and usages he was anxious to study.
Still, he often went west, too; for the West End taboos, though not
in some cases so distressing as the East End ones, were at times
much more curiously illustrative and ridiculous. He must master all
branches of the subject alike. He spoke so seriously that after a
time Frida, who was just at first inclined to laugh at his odd way
of putting things, began to take it all in the end quite as
seriously as he did. He felt more at home with her than with
anybody else at Brackenhurst. She had sympathetic eyes; and he
lived on sympathy. He came to her so often for help in his
difficulties that she soon saw he really meant all he said, and was
genuinely puzzled in a very queer way by many varied aspects of
In time the two grew quite intimate together. But on one point
Bertram would never give his new friend the slightest information;
and that was the whereabouts of that mysterious "home" he so often
referred to. Oddly enough, no one ever questioned him closely on
the subject. A certain singular reserve of his, which alternated
curiously with his perfect frankness, prevented them from
trespassing so far on his individuality. People felt they must not.
Somehow, when Bertram Ingledew let it once be felt he did not wish
to be questioned on any particular point, even women managed to
restrain their curiosity: and he would have been either a very bold
or a very insensitive man who would have ventured to continue
questioning him any further. So, though many people hazarded
guesses as to where he had come from, nobody ever asked him the
point-blank question: Who are you, if you please, and what do you
The Alien went out a great deal with the Monteiths. Robert himself
did not like the fellow, he said: one never quite knew what the
deuce he was driving at; but Frida found him always more and more
charming,--so full of information!--while Philip admitted he was
excellent form, and such a capital tennis player! So whenever
Philip had a day off in the country, they three went out in the
fields together, and Frida at least thoroughly enjoyed and
appreciated the freedom and freshness of the newcomer's
On one such day they went out, as it chanced, into the meadows that
stretch up the hill behind Brackenhurst. Frida remembered it well
afterwards. It was the day when an annual saturnalia of vulgar vice
usurps and pollutes the open downs at Epsom. Bertram did not care
to see it, he said--the rabble of a great town turned loose to
desecrate the open face of nature--even regarded as a matter of
popular custom; he had looked on at much the same orgies before in
New Guinea and on the Zambesi, and they only depressed him: so he
stopped at Brackenhurst, and went for a walk instead in the fresh
summer meadows. Robert Monteith, for his part, had gone to the
Derby--so they call that orgy--and Philip had meant to accompany
him in the dogcart, but remained behind at the last moment to take
care of Frida; for Frida, being a lady at heart, always shrank from
the pollution of vulgar assemblies. As they walked together across
the lush green fields, thick with campion and yellow-rattle, they
came to a dense copse with a rustic gate, above which a threatening
notice-board frowned them straight in the face, bearing the usual
selfish and anti-social inscription, "Trespassers will be
"Let's go in here and pick orchids," Bertram suggested, leaning
over the gate. "Just see how pretty they are! The scented white
butterfly! It loves moist bogland. Now, Mrs. Monteith, wouldn't a
few long sprays of that lovely thing look charming on your dinner-
"But it's preserved," Philip interposed with an awestruck face.
"You can't go in there: it's Sir Lionel Longden's, and he's awfully
"Can't go in there? Oh, nonsense," Bertram answered, with a merry
laugh, vaulting the gate like a practised athlete. "Mrs. Monteith
can get over easily enough, I'm sure. She's as light as a fawn.
May I help you over?" And he held one hand out.
"But it's private," Philip went on, in a somewhat horrified voice;
"and the pheasants are sitting."
"Private? How can it be? There's nothing sown here. It's all wild
wood; we can't do any damage. If it was growing crops, of course,
one would walk through it not at all, or at least very carefully.
But this is pure woodland. Are the pheasants tabooed, then? or why
mayn't we go near them?"
"They're not tabooed, but they're preserved," Philip answered
somewhat testily, making a delicate distinction without a
difference, after the fashion dear to the official intellect.
"This land belongs to Sir Lionel Longden, I tell you, and he
chooses to lay it all down in pheasants. He bought it and paid
for it, so he has a right, I suppose, to do as he likes with it."
"That's the funniest thing of all about these taboos," Bertram
mused, as if half to himself. "The very people whom they injure and
inconvenience the most, the people whom they hamper and cramp and
debar, don't seem to object to them, but believe in them and are
afraid of them. In Samoa, I remember, certain fruits and fish and
animals and so forth were tabooed to the chiefs, and nobody else
ever dared to eat them. They thought it was wrong, and said, if
they did, some nameless evil would at once overtake them. These
nameless terrors, these bodiless superstitions, are always the
deepest. People fight hardest to preserve their bogeys. They fancy
some appalling unknown dissolution would at once result from
reasonable action. I tried one day to persuade a poor devil of a
fellow in Samoa who'd caught one of these fish, and who was
terribly hungry, that no harm would come to him if he cooked it and
ate it. But he was too slavishly frightened to follow my advice;
he said it was taboo to the god-descended chiefs: if a mortal man
tasted it, he would die on the spot: so nothing on earth would
induce him to try it. Though to be sure, even there, nobody ever
went quite so far as to taboo the very soil of earth itself:
everybody might till and hunt where he liked. It's only in Europe,
where evolution goes furthest, that taboo has reached that last
silly pitch of injustice and absurdity. Well, we're not afraid of
the fetich, you and I, Mrs. Monteith. Jump up on the gate; I'll
give you a hand over!" And he held out one strong arm as he spoke
to aid her.
Frida had no such fanatical respect for the bogey of vested
interests as her superstitious brother, so she mounted the gate
gracefully--she was always graceful. Bertram took her small hand
and jumped her down on the other side, while Philip, not liking to
show himself less bold than a woman in this matter, climbed over it
after her, though with no small misgivings. They strolled on into
the wood, picking the pretty white orchids by the way as they went,
for some little distance. The rich mould underfoot was thick with
sweet woodruff and trailing loosestrife. Every now and again, as
they stirred the lithe brambles that encroached upon the path, a
pheasant rose from the ground with a loud whir-r-r before them.
Philip felt most uneasy. "You'll have the keepers after you in a
minute," he said, with a deprecating shrug. "This is just full
nesting time. They're down upon anybody who disturbs the
"But the pheasants can't BELONG to any one," Bertram cried, with a
greatly amused face. "You may taboo the land--I understand that's
done--but surely you can't taboo a wild bird that can fly as it
likes from one piece of ground away into another."
Philip enlightened his ignorance by giving him off-hand a brief and
profoundly servile account of the English game-laws, interspersed
with sundry anecdotes of poachers and poaching. Bertram listened
with an interested but gravely disapproving face. "And do you mean
to say," he asked at last "they send men to prison as criminals for
catching or shooting hares and pheasants?"
"Why, certainly," Philip answered. "It's an offence against the
law, and also a crime against the rights of property."
"Against the law, yes; but how on earth can it be a crime against
the rights of property? Obviously the pheasant's the property of
the man who happens to shoot it. How can it belong to him and also
to the fellow who taboos the particular piece of ground it was
"It doesn't belong to the man who shoots it at all," Philip
answered, rather angrily. "It belongs to the man who owns the land,
of course, and who chooses to preserve it."
"Oh, I see," Bertram replied. "Then you disregard the rights of
property altogether, and only consider the privileges of taboo. As
a principle, that's intelligible. One sees it's consistent. But
how is it that you all allow these chiefs--landlords, don't you call
them?--to taboo the soil and prevent you all from even walking over
it? Don't you see that if you chose to combine in a body and insist
upon the recognition of your natural rights,--if you determined to
make the landlords give up their taboo, and cease from injustice,--
they'd have to yield to you, and then you could exercise your
native right of going where you pleased, and cultivate the land in
common for the public benefit, instead of leaving it, as now, to be
cultivated anyhow, or turned into waste for the benefit of the
"But it would be WRONG to take it from them," Philip cried, growing
fiery red and half losing his temper, for he really believed it.
"It would be sheer confiscation; the land's their own; they either
bought it or inherited it from their fathers. If you were to begin
taking it away, what guarantee would you have left for any of the
rights of property generally?"
"You didn't recognise the rights of property of the fellow who
killed the pheasant, though," Bertram interposed, laughing, and
imperturbably good-humoured. "But that's always the way with these
taboos, everywhere. They subsist just because the vast majority
even of those who are obviously wronged and injured by them really
believe in them. They think they're guaranteed by some divine
prescription. The fetich guards them. In Polynesia, I recollect,
some chiefs could taboo almost anything they liked, even a girl or
a woman, or fruit and fish and animals and houses: and after the
chief had once said, 'It is taboo,' everybody else was afraid to
touch them. Of course, the fact that a chief or a landowner has
bought and paid for a particular privilege or species of taboo, or
has inherited it from his fathers, doesn't give him any better
moral claim to it. The question is, 'Is the claim in itself right
and reasonable?' For a wrong is only all the more a wrong for
having been long and persistently exercised. The Central Africans
say, 'This is my slave; I bought her and paid for her; I've a
right, if I like, to kill her and eat her.' The king of Ibo, on the
West Coast, had a hereditary right to offer up as a human sacrifice
the first man he met every time he quitted his palace; and he was
quite surprised audacious freethinkers should call the morality of
his right in question. If you English were all in a body to see
through this queer land-taboo, now, which drives your poor off the
soil, and prevents you all from even walking at liberty over the
surface of the waste in your own country, you could easily--"
"Oh, Lord, what shall we do!" Philip interposed in a voice of
abject terror. "If here isn't Sir Lionel!"
And sure enough, right across the narrow path in front of them
stood a short, fat, stumpy, unimpressive little man, with a very
red face, and a Norfolk jacket, boiling over with anger.
"What are you people doing here?" he cried, undeterred by the
presence of a lady, and speaking in the insolent, supercilious
voice of the English landlord in defence of his pheasant preserves.
"This is private property. You must have seen the notice at the
gate, 'Trespassers will be prosecuted.'"
"Yes, we did see it," Bertram answered, with his unruffled smile;
"and thinking it an uncalled-for piece of aggressive churlishness,
both in form and substance,--why, we took the liberty to disregard
Sir Lionel glared at him. In that servile neighbourhood, almost
entirely inhabited by the flunkeys of villadom, it was a complete
novelty to him to be thus bearded in his den. He gasped with anger.
"Do you mean to say," he gurgled out, growing purple to the neck,
"you came in here deliberately to disturb my pheasants, and then
brazen it out to my face like this, sir? Go back the way you came,
or I'll call my keepers."
"No, I will NOT go back the way I came," Bertram responded
deliberately, with perfect self-control, and with a side-glance at
Frida. "Every human being has a natural right to walk across this
copse, which is all waste ground, and has no crop sown in it. The
pheasants can't be yours; they're common property. Besides, there's
a lady. We mean to make our way across the copse at our leisure,
picking flowers as we go, and come out into the road on the other
side of the spinney. It's a universal right of which no country
and no law can possibly deprive us."
Sir Lionel was livid with rage. Strange as it may appear to any
reasoning mind, the man really believed he had a natural right to
prevent people from crossing that strip of wood where his pheasants
were sitting. His ancestors had assumed it from time immemorial,
and by dint of never being questioned had come to regard the absurd
usurpation as quite fair and proper. He placed himself straight
across the narrow path, blocking it up with his short and stumpy
figure. "Now look here, young man," he said, with all the insolence
of his caste: "if you try to go on, I'll stand here in your way;
and if you dare to touch me, it's a common assault, and, by George,
you'll have to answer at law for the consequences."
Bertram Ingledew for his part was all sweet reasonableness. He
raised one deprecating hand. "Now, before we come to open
hostilities," he said in a gentle voice, with that unfailing smile
of his, "let's talk the matter over like rational beings. Let's try
to be logical. This copse is considered yours by the actual law of
the country you live in: your tribe permits it to you: you're
allowed to taboo it. Very well, then; I make all possible
allowances for your strange hallucination. You've been brought up
to think you had some mystic and intangible claim to this corner of
earth more than other people, your even Christians. That claim, of
course, you can't logically defend; but failing arguments, you want
to fight for it. Wouldn't it be more reasonable, now, to show you
had some RIGHT or JUSTICE in the matter? I'm always reasonable: if
you can convince me of the propriety and equity of your claim, I'll
go back as you wish by the way I entered. If not--well, there's a
lady here, and I'm bound, as a man, to help her safely over."
Sir Lionel almost choked. "I see what you are," he gasped out with
difficulty. "I've heard this sort of rubbish more than once before.
You're one of these damned land-nationalising radicals."
"On the contrary," Bertram answered, urbane as ever, with charming
politeness of tone and manner: "I'm a born conservative. I'm
tenacious to an almost foolishly sentimental degree of every old
custom or practice or idea; unless, indeed, it's either wicked or
silly--like most of your English ones."
He raised his hat, and made as if he would pass on. Now, nothing
annoys an angry savage or an uneducated person so much as the
perfect coolness of a civilised and cultivated man when he himself
is boiling with indignation. He feels its superiority an affront on
his barbarism. So, with a vulgar oath, Sir Lionel flung himself
point-blank in the way. "Damn it all, no you won't, sir!" he cried.
"I'll soon put a stop to all that, I can tell you. You shan't go on
one step without committing an assault upon me." And he drew
himself up, four-square, as if for battle.
"Oh, just as you like," Bertram answered coolly, never losing his
temper. "I'm not afraid of taboos: I've seen too many of them."
And he gazed at the fat little angry man with a gentle expression
of mingled contempt and amusement.
For a minute, Frida thought they were really going to fight, and
drew back in horror to await the contest. But such a warlike notion
never entered the man of peace's head. He took a step backward for
a second and calmly surveyed his antagonist with a critical
scrutiny. Sir Lionel was short and stout and puffy; Bertram
Ingledew was tall and strong and well-knit and athletic. After an
instant's pause, during which the doughty baronet stood doubling
his fat fists and glaring silent wrath at his lither opponent,
Bertram made a sudden dart forward, seized the little stout man
bodily in his stalwart arms, and lifting him like a baby, in spite
of kicks and struggles, carried him a hundred paces to one side of
the path, where he laid him down gingerly without unnecessary
violence on a bed of young bracken. Then he returned quite calmly,
as if nothing had happened, to Frida's side, with that quiet little
smile on his unruffled countenance.
Frida had not quite approved of all this small episode, for she too
believed in the righteousness of taboo, like most other Englishwomen,
and devoutly accepted the common priestly doctrine, that the earth
is the landlord's and the fulness thereof; but still, being a woman,
and therefore an admirer of physical strength in men, she could not
help applauding to herself the masterly way in which her squire had
carried his antagonist captive. When he returned, she beamed upon
him with friendly confidence. But Philip was very much frightened
"You'll have to pay for this, you know," he said. "This is a law-
abiding land. He'll bring an action against you for assault and
battery; and you'll get three months for it."
"I don't think so," Bertram answered, still placid and unruffled.
"There were three of us who saw him; and it was a very ignominious
position indeed for a person who sets up to be a great chief in the
country. He won't like the little boys on his own estate to know
the great Sir Lionel was lifted up against his will, carried about
like a baby, and set down in a bracken-bed. Indeed, I was more than
sorry to have to do such a thing to a man of his years; but you see
he WOULD have it. It's the only way to deal with these tabooing
chiefs. You must face them and be done with it. In the Caroline
Islands, once, I had to do the same thing to a cazique who was
going to cook and eat a very pretty young girl of his own
retainers. He wouldn't listen to reason; the law was on his side;
so, being happily NOT a law-abiding person myself, I took him up in
my arms, and walked off with him bodily, and was obliged to drop
him down into a very painful bed of stinging plants like nettles,
so as to give myself time to escape with the girl clear out of his
clutches. I regretted having to do it so roughly, of course; but
there was no other way out of it."
As he spoke, for the first time it really came home to Frida's mind
that Bertram Ingledew, standing there before her, regarded in very
truth the Polynesian chief and Sir Lionel Longden as much about the
same sort of unreasoning people--savages to be argued with and
cajoled if possible; but if not, then to be treated with calm
firmness and force, as an English officer on an exploring expedition
might treat a wrathful Central African kinglet. And in a dim sort
of way, too, it began to strike her by degrees that the analogy was
a true one, that Bertram Ingledew, among the Englishmen with whom
she was accustomed to mix, was like a civilised being in the midst
of barbarians, who feel and recognise but dimly and half-
unconsciously his innate superiority.
By the time they had reached the gate on the other side of the
hanger, Sir Lionel overtook them, boiling over with indignation.
"Your card, sir," he gasped out inarticulately to the calmly
innocent Alien; "you must answer for all this. Your card, I say,
Bertram looked at him with a fixed gaze. Sir Lionel, having had
good proof of his antagonist's strength, kept his distance
"Certainly NOT, my good friend," Bertram replied, in a firm tone.
"Why should _I_, who am the injured and insulted party, assist YOU
in identifying me? It was you who aggressed upon my free
individuality. If you want to call in the aid of an unjust law to
back up an unjust and irrational taboo, you must find out for
yourself who I am, and where I come from. But I wouldn't advise
you to do anything so foolish. Three of us here saw you in the
ridiculous position into which by your obstinacy you compelled me
to put you; and you wouldn't like to hear us recount it in public,
with picturesque details, to your brother magistrates. Let me say
one thing more to you," he added, after a pause, in that peculiarly
soft and melodious voice of his. "Don't you think, on reflection--
even if you're foolish enough and illogical enough really to
believe in the sacredness of the taboo by virtue of which you try
to exclude your fellow-tribesmen from their fair share of enjoyment
of the soil of England--don't you think you might at any rate
exercise your imaginary powers over the land you arrogate to
yourself with a little more gentleness and common politeness? How
petty and narrow it looks to use even an undoubted right, far more
a tribal taboo, in a tyrannical and needlessly aggressive manner!
How mean and small and low and churlish! The damage we did your
land, as you call it--if we did any at all--was certainly not a
ha'pennyworth. Was it consonant with your dignity as a chief in the
tribe to get so hot and angry about so small a value? How grotesque
to make so much fuss and noise about a matter of a ha'penny! We,
who were the aggrieved parties, we, whom you attempted to debar by
main force from the common human right to walk freely over earth
wherever there's nothing sown or planted, and who were obliged to
remove you as an obstacle out of our path, at some personal
inconvenience"--(he glanced askance at his clothes, crumpled and
soiled by Sir Lionel's unseemly resistance)--"WE didn't lose our
tempers, or attempt to revile you. We were cool and collected. But
a taboo must be on its very last legs when it requires the aid of
terrifying notices at every corner in order to preserve it; and I
think this of yours must be well on the way to abolition. Still, as
I should like to part friends"--he drew a coin from his pocket, and
held it out between his finger and thumb with a courteous bow
towards Sir Lionel--"I gladly tender you a ha'penny in compensation
for any supposed harm we may possibly have done your imaginary
rights by walking through the wood here."
For a day or two after this notable encounter between tabooer and
taboo-breaker, Philip moved about in a most uneasy state of mind.
He lived in constant dread of receiving a summons as a party to an
assault upon a most respectable and respected landed proprietor who
preserved more pheasants and owned more ruinous cottages than
anybody else (except the duke) round about Brackenhurst. Indeed, so
deeply did he regret his involuntary part in this painful escapade
that he never mentioned a word of it to Robert Monteith; nor did
Frida either. To say the truth, husband and wife were seldom
confidential one with the other. But, to Philip's surprise,
Bertram's prediction came true; they never heard another word about
the action for trespass or the threatened prosecution for assault
and battery. Sir Lionel found out that the person who had committed
the gross and unheard-of outrage of lifting an elderly and
respectable English landowner like a baby in arms on his own estate,
was a lodger at Brackenhurst, variously regarded by those who knew
him best as an escaped lunatic, and as a foreign nobleman in
disguise, fleeing for his life from a charge of complicity in a
Nihilist conspiracy: he wisely came to the conclusion, therefore,
that he would not be the first to divulge the story of his own
ignominious defeat, unless he found that damned radical chap was
going boasting around the countryside how he had balked Sir Lionel.
And as nothing was further than boasting from Bertram Ingledew's
gentle nature, and as Philip and Frida both held their peace for
good reasons of their own, the baronet never attempted in any way to
rake up the story of his grotesque disgrace on what he considered
his own property. All he did was to double the number of keepers
on the borders of his estate, and to give them strict notice that
whoever could succeed in catching the "damned radical" in flagrante
delicto, as trespasser or poacher, should receive most instant
reward and promotion.
During the next few weeks, accordingly, nothing of importance
happened, from the point of view of the Brackenhurst chronicler;
though Bertram was constantly round at the Monteiths' garden for
afternoon tea or a game of lawn-tennis. He was an excellent player;
lawn-tennis was most popular "at home," he said, in that same
mysterious and non-committing phrase he so often made use of. Only,
he found the racquets and balls (very best London make) rather
clumsy and awkward; he wished he had brought his own along with him
when he came here. Philip noticed his style of service was
particularly good, and even wondered at times he did not try to go
in for the All England Championship. But Bertram surprised him by
answering, with a quiet smile, that though it was an excellent
amusement, he had too many other things to do with his time to make
a serious pursuit of it.
One day towards the end of June, the strange young man had gone
round to The Grange--that was the name of Frida's house--for his
usual relaxation after a very tiring and distressing day in London,
"on important business." The business, whatever it was, had
evidently harrowed his feelings not a little, for he was
sensitively organised. Frida was on the tennis-lawn. She met him
with much lamentation over the unpleasant fact that she had just
lost a sister-in-law whom she had never cared for.
"Well, but if you never cared for her," Bertram answered, looking
hard into her lustrous eyes, "it doesn't much matter."
"Oh, I shall have to go into mourning all the same," Frida
continued somewhat pettishly, "and waste all my nice new summer
dresses. It's SUCH a nuisance!"
"Why do it, then?" Bertram suggested, watching her face very
"Well, I suppose because of what you would call a fetich," Frida
answered laughing. "I know it's ridiculous. But everybody expects
it, and I'm not strong-minded enough to go against the current of
what everybody expects of me."
"You will be by-and-by," Bertram answered, with confidence.
"They're queer things, these death-taboos. Sometimes people cover
their heads with filth or ashes; and sometimes they bedizen them
with crape and white streamers. In some countries, the survivors
are bound to shed so many tears, to measure, in memory of the
departed; and if they can't bring them up naturally in sufficient
quantities, they have to be beaten with rods, or pricked with
thorns, or stung with nettles, till they've filled to the last drop
the regulation bottle. In Swaziland, too, when the king dies, so
the queen told me, every family of his subjects has to lose one of
its sons or daughters, in order that they may all truly grieve at
the loss of their sovereign. I think there are more horrible and
cruel devices in the way of death-taboos and death-customs than
anything else I've met in my researches. Indeed, most of our
nomologists at home believe that all taboos originally arose out of
ancestral ghost-worship, and sprang from the craven fear of dead
kings or dead relatives. They think fetiches and gods and other
imaginary supernatural beings were all in the last resort developed
out of ghosts, hostile or friendly; and from what I see abroad, I
incline to agree with them. But this mourning superstition, now--
surely it must do a great deal of harm in poor households in
England. People who can very ill afford to throw away good dresses
must have to give them up, and get new black ones, and that often
at the very moment when they're just deprived of the aid of their
only support and bread-winner. I wonder it doesn't occur to them
that this is absolutely wrong, and that they oughtn't to prefer the
meaningless fetich to their clear moral duty."
"They're afraid of what people would say of them," Frida ventured
to interpose. "You see, we're all so frightened of breaking through
an established custom."
"Yes, I notice that always, wherever I go in England," Bertram
answered. "There's apparently no clear idea of what's right and
wrong at all, in the ethical sense, as apart from what's usual. I
was talking to a lady up in London to-day about a certain matter I
may perhaps mention to you by-and-by when occasion serves, and she
said she'd been 'always brought up to think' so-and-so. It seemed
to me a very queer substitute indeed for thinking."
"I never thought of that," Frida answered slowly. "I've said the
same thing a hundred times over myself before now; and I see how
irrational it is. But, there, Mr. Ingledew, that's why I always
like talking with you so much: you make one take such a totally new
view of things."
She looked down and was silent a minute. Her breast heaved and
fell. She was a beautiful woman, very tall and queenly. Bertram
looked at her and paused; then he went on hurriedly, just to break
the awkward silence: "And this dance at Exeter, then--I suppose you
won't go to it?"
"Oh, I CAN'T, of course," Frida answered quickly. "And my two other
nieces--Robert's side, you know--who have nothing at all to do with
my brother Tom's wife, out there in India--they'll be SO
disappointed. I was going to take them down to it. Nasty thing!
How annoying of her! She might have chosen some other time to go
and die, I'm sure, than just when she knew I wanted to go to
"Well, if it would be any convenience to you," Bertram put in with
a serious face, "I'm rather busy on Wednesday; but I could manage
to take up a portmanteau to town with my dress things in the
morning, meet the girls at Paddington, and run down by the evening
express in time to go with them to the hotel you meant to stop at.
They're those two pretty blondes I met here at tea last Sunday,
Frida looked at him, half-incredulous. He was very nice, she knew,
and very quaint and fresh and unsophisticated and unconventional;
but could he be really quite so ignorant of the common usages of
civilised society as to suppose it possible he could run down alone
with two young girls to stop by themselves, without even a
chaperon, at an hotel at Exeter? She gazed at him curiously.
"Oh, Mr. Ingledew," she said, "now you're really TOO ridiculous!"
Bertram coloured up like a boy. If she had been in any doubt before
as to his sincerity and simplicity, she could be so no longer. "Oh,
I forgot about the taboo," he said. "I'm so sorry I hurt you. I was
only thinking what a pity those two nice girls should be cheated
out of their expected pleasure by a silly question of pretended
mourning, where even you yourself, who have got to wear it, don't
assume that you feel the slightest tinge of sorrow. I remember now,
of course, what a lady told me in London the other day: your young
girls aren't even allowed to go out travelling alone without their
mother or brothers, in order to taboo them absolutely beforehand
for the possible husband who may some day marry them. It was a
pitiful tale. I thought it all most painful and shocking."
"But you don't mean to say," Frida cried, equally shocked and
astonished in her turn, "that you'd let young girls go out alone
anywhere with unmarried men? Goodness gracious, how dreadful!"
"Why not?" Bertram asked, with transparent simplicity.
"Why, just consider the consequences!" Frida exclaimed, with a
blush, after a moment's hesitation.
"There couldn't be ANY consequences, unless they both liked and
respected one another," Bertram answered in the most matter-of-
course voice in the world; "and if they do that, we think at home
it's nobody's business to interfere in any way with the free
expression of their individuality, in this the most sacred and
personal matter of human intercourse. It's the one point of private
conduct about which we're all at home most sensitively anxious not
to meddle, to interfere, or even to criticise. We think such
affairs should be left entirely to the hearts and consciences of
the two persons concerned, who must surely know best how they feel
towards one another. But I remember having met lots of taboos among
other barbarians, in much the same way, to preserve the mere
material purity of their women--a thing we at home wouldn't dream
of even questioning. In New Ireland, for instance, I saw poor girls
confined for four or five years in small wickerwork cages, where
they're kept in the dark, and not even allowed to set foot on the
ground on any pretext. They're shut up in these prisons when
they're about fourteen, and there they're kept, strictly tabooed,
till they're just going to be married. I went to see them myself;
it was a horrid sight. The poor creatures were confined in a dark,
close hut, without air or ventilation, in that stifling climate,
which is as unendurable from heat as this one is from cold and damp
and fogginess; and there they sat in cages, coarsely woven from
broad leaves of the pandanus trees, so that no light could enter;
for the people believed that light would kill them. No man might
see them, because it was close taboo; but at last, with great
difficulty, I persuaded the chief and the old lady who guarded them
to let them come out for a minute to look at me. A lot of beads and
cloth overcame these people's scruples; and with great reluctance
they opened the cages. But only the old woman looked; the chief was
afraid, and turned his head the other way, mumbling charms to his
fetich. Out they stole, one by one, poor souls, ashamed and
frightened, hiding their faces in their hands, thinking I was going
to hurt them or eat them--just as your nieces would do if I
proposed to-day to take them to Exeter--and a dreadful sight they
were, cramped with long sitting in one close position, and their
eyes all blinded by the glare of the sunlight after the long
darkness. I've seen women shut up in pretty much the same way in
other countries, but I never saw quite so bad a case as this of New
"Well, you can't say we've anything answering to that in England,"
Frida put in, looking across at him with her frank, open
"No, not quite like that, in detail, perhaps, but pretty much the
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