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    Strangers Yet

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    Chapter 30
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    The man who composed that familiar delightful rhyme about blue eyes and
    black, and how you are to beware of the hidden knife in the one case
    and of a different sort of danger which may threaten you in the other,
    must have lived a good long time ago, or else be a very old man. Oh, so
    old, thousands of years, thousands of years, if all were told. And he,
    when he exhibited such impartiality, must have had other-coloured eyes
    himself. Most probably the sheep and goat eye, one which no person in
    his senses--except an anthropologist--can classify as either dark or
    light. It is that marmalade yellow, excessively rare in this country,
    but not very uncommon in persons of Spanish race. For who at this day,
    this age, after the mixing together of the hostile races has been going
    on these twenty centuries or longer, can believe that any inherited or
    instinctive animosity can still survive? If we do find such a feeling
    here and there, would it not be more reasonable to regard it as an
    individual antipathy, or as a prejudice, imbibed early in life from
    parents or others, which endures in spite of reason, long after its
    origin had been forgotten?

    Nevertheless, one does meet with cases from time to time which do throw
    a slight shadow of doubt on the mind, and of several I have met I will
    here relate one.

    At an hotel on the South Coast I met a Miss Browne, which is not her
    name, and I rather hope this sketch will not be read by anyone nearly
    related to her, as they might identify her from the description. A
    middle-aged lady with a brown skin, black hair and dark eyes, an oval
    face, fairly good-looking, her manner lively and attractive, her
    movements quick without being abrupt or jerky. She was highly
    intelligent and a good talker, with more to say than most women, and
    better able than most to express herself. We were at the same small
    table and got on well together, as I am a good listener and she knew--
    being a woman, how should she not?--that she interested me. One day at
    our table the conversation happened to be about the races of men and
    the persistence of racial characteristics, physical and mental, in
    persons of mixed descent. The subject interested her. "What would you
    call me?" she asked.

    "An Iberian," I returned.

    She laughed and said: "This makes the third time I have been called an
    Iberian, so perhaps it is true, and I'm curious to know what an Iberian
    is, and why I'm called an Iberian. Is it because I have something of a
    Spanish look?"

    I answered that the Iberians were the ancient Britons, a dark-eyed,
    brown-skinned people who inhabited this country and all Southern Europe
    before the invasion of the blue-eyed races; that doubtless there had
    been an Iberian mixture in her ancestors, perhaps many centuries ago,
    and that these peculiar characters had come out strongly in her; she
    had the peculiar kind of blood in her veins and the peculiar sort of
    soul which goes with the blood.

    "But what a mystery it is!" she exclaimed. "I am the only small one in
    a family of tall sisters. My parents were both tall and light, and the
    others took after them. I was small and dark, and they were tall
    blondes with blue eyes and pale gold hair. And in disposition I was
    unlike them as in physique. How do you account for it?"

    It was a long question, I said, and I had told her all I could about
    it. I couldn't go further into it; I was too ignorant. I had just
    touched on the subject in one of my books. It was in other books, with
    reference to a supposed antagonism which still survives in blue-eyed
    and dark-eyed people.

    She asked me to give her the titles of the books I spoke of. "You
    imagine, I daresay," she said, "that it is mere idle curiosity on my
    part. It isn't so. The subject has a deep and painful interest for me."

    That was all, and I had forgotten all about the conversation until some
    time afterwards, when I had a letter from her recalling it. I quote one
    passage without the alteration of a syllable:

    "Oh, why did I not know before, when I was young, in the days when my
    beautiful blue-eyed but cruel and remorseless mother and sisters made
    my life an inexplicable grief and torment! It might have lifted the
    black shadows from my youth by explaining the reason of their
    persecutions--it might have taken the edge from my sufferings by
    showing that I was not personally to blame, also that nothing could
    ever obviate it, that I but wasted my life and broke my heart in for
    ever vain efforts to appease an hereditary enemy and oppressor."

    Cases of this kind cannot, however, appear conclusive. The cases in
    which mother and daughters unite in persecuting a member of the family
    are not uncommon. I have known several in my experience in which
    respectable, well-to-do, educated, religious people have displayed a
    perfectly fiendish animosity against one of the family. In all these
    cases it has been mother and daughters combining against one daughter,
    and so far as one can see into the matter, the cause is usually to be
    traced to some strangeness or marked peculiarity, physical or mental,
    in the persecuted one. The peculiarity may be a beauty of disposition,
    or some virtue or rare mental quality which the others do not possess.

    It would perhaps be worth while to form a society to investigate all
    these cases of persecution in families, to discover whether or not they
    afford any support to the notion of an inherited antagonism of dark and
    light races. The Anthropological, Eugenic and Psychical Research
    Societies might consider the suggestion.
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