The British Barbarians

: 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 firs
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

know you.

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

suit you."

"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

very morning."

"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

London tailor."

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

becomes you!"

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

at dinner."

"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

illustrative study."

"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

of madness."

"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

English society.

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

want here?

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

snared on?"

"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 ha