REGINALD ON TARIFFS

I’m not going to discuss the Fiscal Question (said

Reginald); I wish to be original. At the same time, I think

one suffers more than one realizes from the system of free

imports. I should like, for instance, a really prohibitive

duty put upon the partner who declares on a weak red suit

and hopes for the best. Even a free outlet for compressed

verbiage doesn’t balance matters. And I think there should

be a sort of bounty-fed export (is that the right

expression?) of the people who impress on you that you ought

to take life seriously. There are only two classes that

really can’t help taking life seriously—schoolgirls of

thirteen and Hohenzollerns; they might be exempt. Albanians

come under another heading; they take life whenever they get

the opportunity. The one Albanian that I was ever on

speaking terms with was rather a decadent example. He was a

Christian and a grocer, and I don’t fancy he had ever killed

anybody. I didn’t like to question him on the subject—

that showed my delicacy. Mrs. Nicorax says I have no

delicacy; she hasn’t forgiven me about the mice. You see,

when I was staying down there, a mouse used to cake-walk

about my room half the night, and none of their silly patent

traps seemed to take its fancy as a bijou residence, so I

determined to appeal to the better side of it—which with

mice is the inside. So I called it Percy, and put little

delicacies down near its hole every night, and that kept it

quiet while I read Max Nordau’s Degeneration and other

reproving literature, and went to sleep. And now she says

there is a whole colony of mice in that room.

That isn’t where the indelicacy comes in. She went out

riding with me, which was entirely her own suggestion, and

as we were coming home through some meadows she made a quite

unnecessary attempt to see if her pony would jump a rather

messy sort of brook that was there. It wouldn’t. It went

with her as far as the water’s edge, and from that point

Mrs. Nicorax went on alone. Of course I had to fish her out

from the bank, and my riding-breeches are not cut with a

view to salmon-fishing—it’s rather an art even to ride in

them. Her habit-skirt was one of those open questions that

need not be adhered to in emergencies, and on this occasion

it remained behind in some water-weeds. She wanted me to

fish about for that too, but I felt I had done enough

Pharaoh’s daughter business for an October afternoon, and I

was beginning to want my tea. So I bundled her up on to her

pony, and gave her a lead towards home as fast as I cared to

go. What with the wet and the unusual responsibility, her

abridged costume did not stand the pace particularly well,

and she got quite querulous when I shouted back that I had

no pins with me—and no string. Some women expect so much

from a fellow. When we got into the drive she wanted to go

up the back way to the stables, but the ponies know they

always get sugar at the front door, and I never attempt to

hold a pulling pony; as for Mrs. Nicorax it took her all she

knew to keep a firm hand on her seceding garments, which, as

her maid remarked afterwards, were more tout than

ensemble. Of course nearly the whole house-party were out

on the lawn watching the sunset—the only day this month

that it’s occurred to the sun to show itself, as Mrs. Nic.

viciously observed—and I shall never forget the expression

on her husband’s face as we pulled up. “My darling, this is

too much!” was his first spoken comment; taking into

consideration the state of her toilet, it was the most

brilliant thing I had ever heard him say, and I went into

the library to be alone and scream. Mrs. Nicorax says I

have no delicacy.

Talking about tariffs, the lift-boy, who reads extensively

between the landings, says it won’t do to tax raw

commodities. What, exactly, is a raw commodity? Mrs. Van

Challaby says men are raw commodities till you marry them;

after they’ve struck Mrs. Van C., I can fancy they pretty

soon become a finished article. Certainly she’s had a good

deal of experience to support her opinion. She lost one

husband in a railway accident, and mislaid another in the

Divorce Court, and the current one has just got himself

squeezed in a Beef Trust. “What was he doing in a Beef

Trust, anyway?” she asked tearfully, and I suggested that

perhaps he had an unhappy home. I only said it for the sake

of making conversation; which it did. Mrs. Van Challaby

said things about me which in her calmer moments she would

have hesitated to spell. It’s a pity people can’t discuss

fiscal matters without getting wild. However, she wrote

next day to ask if I could get her a Yorkshire terrier of

the size and shade that’s being worn now, and that’s as near

as a woman can be expected to get to owning herself in the

wrong. And she will tie a salmon-pink bow to its collar,

and call it “Reggie,” and take it with her

everywhere—like poor Miriam Klopstock, who would take

her Chow with her to the bathroom, and while she was bathing

it was playing at she-bears with her garments. Miriam is

always late for breakfast, and she wasn’t really missed till

the middle of lunch.

However, I’m not going any further into the Fiscal

Question. Only I should like to be protected from the

partner with a weak red tendency.