The British Barbarians

The British Barbarians

An Alien came in England to find and analyze taboos in this country.

He had to take extreme caution necessary in all anthropoligical investigations on points of religious or social usage.

You will like his points of vue and his reactions in many circomstances.

Very special!

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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 entered.

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.