The Unbearable Bassington
Towards four o’clock on a hot afternoon Francesca stepped out from a shop entrance near
the Piccadilly end of Bond Street and ran almost into the arms of Merla Blathlington.
The afternoon seemed to get instantly hotter. Merla was one of those human flies that
buzz; in crowded streets, at bazaars and in warm weather, she attained to the proportions
of a human bluebottle. Lady Caroline Benaresq had openly predicted that a special fly-
paper was being reserved for her accommodation in another world; others, however, held
the opinion that she would be miraculously multiplied in a future state, and that four or
more Merla Blathlingtons, according to deserts, would be in perpetual and unremitting
attendance on each lost soul.
“Here we are,” she cried, with a glad eager buzz, “popping in and out of shops like
rabbits; not that rabbits do pop in and out of shops very extensively.”
It was evidently one of her bluebottle days.
“Don’t you love Bond Street?” she gabbled on. “There’s something so unusual and
distinctive about it; no other street anywhere else is quite like it. Don’t you know those
ikons and images and things scattered up and down Europe, that are supposed to have
been painted or carved, as the case may be, by St. Luke or Zaccheus, or somebody of that
sort; I always like to think that some notable person of those times designed Bond Street.
St. Paul, perhaps. He travelled about a lot.”
“Not in Middlesex, though,” said Francesca.
“One can’t be sure,” persisted Merla; “when one wanders about as much as he did one
gets mixed up and forgets where one has been. I can never remember whether I’ve been
to the Tyrol twice and St. Moritz once, or the other way about; I always have to ask my
maid. And there’s something about the name Bond that suggests St. Paul; didn’t he write
a lot about the bond and the free?”
“I fancy he wrote in Hebrew or Greek,” objected Francesca; “the word wouldn’t have the
“So dreadfully non-committal to go about pamphleteering in those bizarre languages,”
complained Merla; “that’s what makes all those people so elusive. As soon as you try to
pin them down to a definite statement about anything you’re told that some vitally
important word has fifteen other meanings in the original. I wonder our Cabinet
Ministers and politicians don’t adopt a sort of dog-Latin or Esperanto jargon to deliver
their speeches in; what a lot of subsequent explaining away would be saved. But to go
back to Bond Street - not that we’ve left it - ”
“I’m afraid I must leave it now,” said Francesca, preparing to turn up Grafton Street;