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Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich

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Arcadian Adventures with the Idle RichFirst edition
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First publication

Literary form

Literary, satire

Writing language

Author's country

Eight storiess, approx. 65,000 words

An excerpt from Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich

From Chapter IV, 'The Yahi-Bahi Oriental Society of Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown'

Now it so happened that there had come a singularly slack moment in the social life of the City. The Grand Opera had sung itself into a huge deficit and closed. There remained nothing of it except the efforts of a committee of ladies to raise enough money to enable Signor Puffi to leave town, and the generous attempt of another committee to gather funds in order to keep Signor Pasti in the City. Beyond this, opera was dead, though the fact that the deficit was nearly twice as large as it had been the year before showed that public interest in music was increasing. It was indeed a singularly trying time of the year. It was too early to go to Europe; and too late to go to Bermuda. It was too warm to go south, and yet still too cold to go north. In fact, one was almost compelled to stay at home—which was dreadful.

As a result Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown and her three hundred friends moved backwards and forwards on Plutoria Avenue, seeking novelty in vain. They washed in waves of silk from tango teas to bridge afternoons. They poured in liquid avalanches of colour into crowded receptions, and they sat in glittering rows and listened to lectures on the enfranchisement of the female sex. But for the moment all was weariness.

Now it happened, whether by accident or design, that just at this moment of general ennui Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown and her three hundred friends first heard of the presence in the city of Mr. Yahi-Bahi, the celebrated Oriental mystic. He was so celebrated that nobody even thought of asking who he was or where he came from. They merely told one another, and repeated it, that he was the celebrated Yahi-Bahi. They added for those who needed the knowledge that the name was pronounced Yahhy-Bahhy, and that the doctrine taught by Mr. Yahi-Bahi was Boohooism. This latter, if anyone inquired further, was explained to be a form of Shoodooism, only rather more intense. In fact, it was esoteric—on receipt of which information everybody remarked at once how infinitely superior the Oriental peoples are to ourselves.

Now as Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown was always a leader in everything that was done in the best circles on Plutoria Avenue, she was naturally among the first to visit Mr. Yahi-Bahi.

"My dear," she said, in describing afterwards her experience to her bosom friend, Miss Snagg, "it was most interesting. We drove away down to the queerest part of the City, and went to the strangest little house imaginable, up the narrowest stairs one ever saw—quite Eastern, in fact, just like a scene out of the Koran."

"How fascinating!" said Miss Snagg. But as a matter of fact, if Mr. Yahi-Bahi's house had been inhabited, as it might have been, by a streetcar conductor or a railway brakesman, Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown wouldn't have thought it in any way peculiar or fascinating.

"It was all hung with curtains inside," she went on, "with figures of snakes and Indian gods, perfectly weird."

"And did you see Mr. Yahi-Bahi?" asked Miss Snagg.

"Oh no, my dear. I only saw his assistant Mr. Ram Spudd; such a queer little round man, a Bengalee, I believe. He put his back against a curtain and spread out his arms sideways and wouldn't let me pass. He said that Mr. Yahi-Bahi was in meditation and mustn't be disturbed."

"How delightful!" echoed Miss Snagg.

But in reality Mr. Yahi-Bahi was sitting behind the curtain eating a ten-cent can of pork and beans.

"What I like most about eastern people," went on Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown, "is their wonderful delicacy of feeling. After I had explained about my invitation to Mr. Yahi-Bahi to come and speak to us on Boohooism, and was going away, I took a dollar bill out of my purse and laid it on the table. You should have seen the way Mr. Ram Spudd took it. He made the deepest salaam and said, 'Isis guard you, beautiful lady.' Such perfect courtesy, and yet with the air of scorning the money. As I passed out I couldn't help slipping another dollar into his hand, and he took it as if utterly unaware of it, and muttered, 'Osiris keep you, O flower of women!' And as I got into the motor I gave him another dollar and he said, 'Osis and Osiris both prolong your existence, O lily of the ricefield,' and after he had said it he stood beside the door of the motor and waited without moving till I left. He had such a strange, rapt look, as if he were still expecting something!"

"How exquisite!" murmured Miss Snagg. It was her business in life to murmur such things as this for Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown. On the whole, reckoning Grand Opera tickets and dinners, she did very well out of it.

"Is it not?" said Mrs. Rasselyer-Brown. "So different from our men. I felt so ashamed of my chauffeur, our new man, you know; he seemed such a contrast beside Ram Spudd. The rude way in which the opened the door, and the rude way in which he climbed on to his own seat, and the rudeness with which he turned on the power—I felt positively ashamed. And he so managed it—I am sure he did it on purpose—that the car splashed a lot of mud over Mr. Spudd as it started."

Yet, oddly enough, the opinion of other people on this new chauffeur, that of Miss Dulphemia Rasselyer-Brown herself, for example, to whose service he was specially attached, was very different.

The great recommendation of him in the eyes of Miss Dulphemia and her friends, and the thing that gave him a touch of mystery was—and what higher qualification can a chauffeur want?—that he didn't look like a chauffeur at all.

"My dear Dulphie," whispered Miss Philippa Furlong, the rector's sister (who was at that moment Dulphemia's second self), as they sat behind the new chauffeur, "don't tell me that he is a chauffeur, because he isn't. He can chauffe, of course, but that's nothing."

For the new chauffeur had a bronzed face, hard as metal, and a stern eye; and when he put on a chauffeur's overcoat some how it seemed to turn into a military greatcoat; and even when he put on the round cloth cap of his profession it was converted straightway into a military shako. And by Miss Dulphemia and her friends it was presently reported—or was invented?—that he had served in the Philippines; which explained at once the scar upon his forehead, which must have been received at Iloilo, or Huila-Huila, or some other suitable place.

But what affected Miss Dulphemia Brown herself was the splendid rudeness of the chauffeur's manner. It was so different from that of the young men of the salon. Thus, when Mr. Sikleigh Snoop handed her into the car at any time he would dance about saying, "Allow me," and "Permit me," and would dive forward to arrange the robes. But the Philippine chauffeur merely swung the door open and said to Dulphemia, "Get in," and then slammed it.

This, of course, sent a thrill up the spine and through the imagination of Miss Dulphemia Rasselyer-Brown, because it showed that the chauffeur was a gentleman in disguise. She thought it very probable that he was a British nobleman, a younger son, very wild, of a ducal family; and she had her own theories as to why he had entered the service of the Rasselyer-Browns. To be quite candid about it, she expected that the Philippine chauffeur meant to elope with her, and every time he drove her from a dinner or a dance she sat back luxuriously, wishing and expecting the elopement to begin.


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