been born in these latter daysnwhen the morals and mannersnof the country had beenncorrupted, born in a time whennwe could see upon thenmembers of our ownnfamilies—upon our sisters andnbrothers and aunts andnuncles—the effects of ournfailure to cling to the teachingsnand ways of our forefathers.nAnd he was saying that it wasnour duty and great privilege, asnBoy Scouts, to preserve thosenhonorable things which werenleft from the golden days whenna race of noble gentlemen andngracious ladies inhabited thenland of the South. He wasnsaying that we must preserventhem until one day we mightnstand with young men from allnover the nation to demand anreturn to the old ways and thenold teachings everywhere.nNoble sentiments these, and hard tonfault in abstract terms. But their articulationnis occasioned by the scoutmaster’snlate discovery of a littie harmlessnparlor petting on the part of his niecenand her boyfriend. Part of the ironynlies in the uncle’s doleful overreactionnto a breach of decorum. Anothernmuch darker irony is in the fact thatnthese same sentiments were used tonjustify the formation of the Ku KluxnKlan.’nThere are some fine similarities betweennTaylor’s scoutmaster andnGarrett’s Sheriff Riddle in “Noise ofnStrangers.” In this story the sheriffnfinds himself in familiar battie with thentown drunk, an eccentric creaturenknown as the Goatman:nThe Sheriff is . . . the chosennprotector of his littie world, thenelected hero who must go forthnto battie dragons and darknknights for them all while thentownspeople live quiet andnsecure in the vague shine ofnthe hidden treasuren—respectability. He seesnhimself as a lone sentrynprotecting the chaste virtue ofnthose fine houses along thenmain street. Within may benmadness, despair, rage, and thenseven deadly sins guarding ancaptive princess, but he isnconcerned only with the publicnworld. The Goatman is a foolnwithout cap and bells, who isnsomehow needed to questionnthe values of disguise andnappearance. He is respectabilitynturned inside out. J, too, amnMan, he says. See for yourself.nBoth of them are “half ridiculousnand half frightening,” but neither thenscoutmaster nor the sheriff is entirelynobtuse. Though they see themselves asnembattied defenders of a status quo,nneither takes a glorious view of himselfnnor has much confidence in the ultimatenrightness of things as they are. Anstrong strain of professionalism sustainsnTaylor’s self-appointed aristocracynas well as Garrett’s self-appointednRed Gross Knights, but they are allnfatalists at heart and have grayly resignednthemselves to an inevitable collapsenof the order they uphold.nIn Garrett’s “Texarkana Was a CrazynTown,” the professional soldier findsnthe civilian world a convocation ofnmurderous lunatics; in “UnmappednGountry,” a captain is almost unmannednby the naked sorrow of anremote hill farmer; in “Song of anDrowning Sailor,” a seaman’s ghost isnbefuddled by the mores of small-townnsociety. Easy to draw similarities betweennthese stories and some ofnTaylor’s—“A Walled Garden,” for instance,nand “The Old Forest” andn”The Little Cousins.” WhennKatherine Anne Porter, some decadesnago, pointed out George Garrett andnPeter Taylor as the two younger shortnstory writers she had most faith in, shenmay have noticed their predilectionsnfor one of the themes she preferred innher own work: the conflict between thennewfledged independent spirit andncustomary authority and the eventualnsad bargains they strike with one another.nThis is in some respects a Russianntheme, memorably treated bynTurgenev and Chekhov as well as bynDostoevski; but Taylor and Garrett arencareful localizers. Garrett is indeliblynAmerican, in some specialized sensesnof the term; Taylor is relentlesslynSouthern.nBut there are important differences.nGarrett is, from a long way off, anrecognizable troublemaker. His prankishness,nhis genial skepticism, hisnnncheerful range of grotesque characters,nmark him as something of a Pan figure,nsome kin to his Goatman. Thesenqualities may distract attention fromnhis deep conservative tendency, whichnis partiy a product of his traditionalismnand humane admiration of civilizationnitself The status quo may be broadlyncorrupt, its foundations may be shakynor even rotten, its mechanical practicesnmay result in injustice and crueltyn—but it has been achieved; it nurturesnand protects the greater mass of people,nand its generous inefficiencynenables it to produce and tolerate itsnwayward proud troubadours andnmountebanks.nThe opposite misperception operatesnupon Taylor. Because so many ofnhis stories take place in an upper-classnsetting, because there is such flutternabout decorum and good manners,nbecause of the formal tone of hisnprose, his work is often seen as actuallynembodying the good traits of Southernngentility. But in truth his whole careernhas been one of steady subversion. Hisnethic is revolutionary in the setting henhas chosen, and his irony unremittingnand unremorseful. He has a Jamesianntalent for being a somehow unobtrusivenskeleton at the feast, and hisnstance is closely related to that of thenmorally severe Miss Bluemeyer inn”The Death of a Kinsman.” MissnBluemeyer’s genuine standards ofncharity arc so alien to those of thenblithely respectable Mrs. Wade thatnthe latter has to question her mentalnbalance. “Oh, could a sane personnpossibly have been so critical andnquestioning of a happy family life?”nIt is as if, in the minds of manynreaders, the respective positions ofnTaylor and Garrett had simply gotnswitched about.nBut this is no great matter. Passingntime will clarify momentary confusionsnand also correct the mistakes Inmake in my estimate here. The likenessesnand contrasts I have drawn betweennthem might be drawn betweennany two writers of first rank. What isncertain is that time shall preserve thenwork of these two and shall discard thenwork of other contemporary short storynwriters who are now more obtrusivelynin the public eye, less profoundly innthe public mind. ccnAPRIL 1986/37n