The Unbearable Bassington HTML version

Chapter IV
Francesca prided herself on being able to see things from other people’s points of view,
which meant, as it usually does, that she could see her own point of view from various
aspects. As regards Comus, whose doings and non-doings bulked largely in her thoughts
at the present moment, she had mapped out in her mind so clearly what his outlook in life
ought to be, that she was peculiarly unfitted to understand the drift of his feelings or the
impulses that governed them. Fate had endowed her with a son; in limiting the
endowment to a solitary offspring Fate had certainly shown a moderation which
Francesca was perfectly willing to acknowledge and be thankful for; but then, as she
pointed out to a certain complacent friend of hers who cheerfully sustained an
endowment of half-a-dozen male offsprings and a girl or two, her one child was Comus.
Moderation in numbers was more than counterbalanced in his case by extravagance in
Francesca mentally compared her son with hundreds of other young men whom she saw
around her, steadily, and no doubt happily, engaged in the process of transforming
themselves from nice boys into useful citizens. Most of them had occupations, or were
industriously engaged in qualifying for such; in their leisure moments they smoked
reasonably-priced cigarettes, went to the cheaper seats at music-halls, watched an
occasional cricket match at Lord’s with apparent interest, saw most of the world’s
spectacular events through the medium of the cinematograph, and were wont to exchange
at parting seemingly superfluous injunctions to “be good.” The whole of Bond Street and
many of the tributary thoroughfares of Piccadilly might have been swept off the face of
modern London without in any way interfering with the supply of their daily wants.
They were doubtless dull as acquaintances, but as sons they would have been eminently
restful. With a growing sense of irritation Francesca compared these deserving young
men with her own intractable offspring, and wondered why Fate should have singled her
out to be the parent of such a vexatious variant from a comfortable and desirable type.
As far as remunerative achievement was concerned, Comus copied the insouciance of the
field lily with a dangerous fidelity. Like his mother he looked round with wistful
irritation at the example afforded by contemporary youth, but he concentrated his
attention exclusively on the richer circles of his acquaintance, young men who bought
cars and polo ponies as unconcernedly as he might purchase a carnation for his
buttonhole, and went for trips to Cairo or the Tigris valley with less difficulty and
finance-stretching than he encountered in contriving a week-end at Brighton.
Gaiety and good-looks had carried Comus successfully and, on the whole, pleasantly,
through schooldays and a recurring succession of holidays; the same desirable assets
were still at his service to advance him along his road, but it was a disconcerting
experience to find that they could not be relied on to go all distances at all times. In an
animal world, and a fiercely competitive animal world at that, something more was
needed than the decorative abandon of the field lily, and it was just that something more
which Comus seemed unable or unwilling to provide on his own account; it was just the