In Reginald on Tariffs, Saki writes:

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 realises 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.

I have several questions regarding the above passage; the emboldened portions of text I do not understand:

  1. What is the "Fiscal Question" that Reginald refers to? From my impressions of Reginald's monologue it appears to relate to tariffs, as also suggested by the title of the story, however is this all it refers to? Researching into the term, I was able to find "The Fiscal Question" (1908) by Andrew Bonar Law, in addition to a Report (1906) that features this particular phrasing, however these were published after Reginald (1904), and so did this phrasing appear earlier than Saki's use?

  2. What does it mean to declare "on a weak red suit"? Would "suit" refer to a piece of clothing, or a playing card suit, and what is the significance of it being red? (There is also a reference to a "weak red tendency" at the conclusion of the story.)

  3. Why does Reginald refer to the Hohenzollerns as a part of the "two classes that really can't help taking life seriously"?

  4. Why does Reginald state that Albanians "take life whenever they get the opportunity"? Was the basis of this statement a concurrently existing stereotype?

  • 1. "fiscal question" is probably a generic stand-in for a serious matter of that sort. 2. “declares on a weak red suit and hopes for the best” is probably about bridge. 4. Yes there seem to be such remarks in multiple Saki stories about various “other” peoples (Balkans etc) who keep getting into wars, etc. – ShreevatsaR Oct 6 at 6:52

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