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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 148 pages of information about The Unbearable Bassington.
or even talk at all; what is worse you cannot restrict the output of those starling-voiced dullards who seem to have, on all subjects, so much to say that was well worth leaving unsaid.  One group that Francesca passed was discussing a Spanish painter, who was forty-three, and had painted thousands of square yards of canvas in his time, but of whom no one in London had heard till a few months ago; now the starling-voices seemed determined that one should hear of very little else.  Three women knew how his name was pronounced, another always felt that she must go into a forest and pray whenever she saw his pictures, another had noticed that there were always pomegranates in his later compositions, and a man with an indefensible collar knew what the pomegranates “meant.”  “What I think so splendid about him,” said a stout lady in a loud challenging voice, “is the way he defies all the conventions of art while retaining all that the conventions stand for.”  “Ah, but have you noticed—­” put in the man with the atrocious collar, and Francesca pushed desperately on, wondering dimly as she went, what people found so unsupportable in the affliction of deafness.  Her progress was impeded for a moment by a couple engaged in earnest and voluble discussion of some smouldering question of the day; a thin spectacled young man with the receding forehead that so often denotes advanced opinions, was talking to a spectacled young woman with a similar type of forehead, and exceedingly untidy hair.  It was her ambition in life to be taken for a Russian girl-student, and she had spent weeks of patient research in trying to find out exactly where you put the tea-leaves in a samovar.  She had once been introduced to a young Jewess from Odessa, who had died of pneumonia the following week; the experience, slight as it was, constituted the spectacled young lady an authority on all things Russian in the eyes of her immediate set.

“Talk is helpful, talk is needful,” the young man was saying, “but what we have got to do is to lift the subject out of the furrow of indisciplined talk and place it on the threshing-floor of practical discussion.”

The young woman took advantage of the rhetorical full-stop to dash in with the remark which was already marshalled on the tip of her tongue.

“In emancipating the serfs of poverty we must be careful to avoid the mistakes which Russian bureaucracy stumbled into when liberating the serfs of the soil.”

She paused in her turn for the sake of declamatory effect, but recovered her breath quickly enough to start afresh on level terms with the young man, who had jumped into the stride of his next sentence.

“They got off to a good start that time,” said Francesca to herself; “I suppose it’s the Prevention of Destitution they’re hammering at.  What on earth would become of these dear good people if anyone started a crusade for the prevention of mediocrity?”

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