The Unbearable Bassington HTML version

Chapter IX
In the warmth of a late June morning the long shaded stretch of raked earth, gravel-walk
and rhododendron bush that is known affectionately as the Row was alive with the
monotonous movement and alert stagnation appropriate to the time and place. The
seekers after health, the seekers after notoriety and recognition, and the lovers of good
exercise were all well represented on the galloping ground; the gravel-walk and chairs
and long seats held a population whose varied instincts and motives would have baffled a
social catalogue-maker. The children, handled or in perambulators, might be excused
from instinct or motive; they were brought.
Pleasingly conspicuous among a bunch of indifferent riders pacing along by the rails
where the onlookers were thickest was Courtenay Youghal, on his handsome plum-roan
gelding Anne de Joyeuse. That delicately stepping animal had taken a prize at Islington
and nearly taken the life of a stable-boy of whom he disapproved, but his strongest claims
to distinction were his good looks and his high opinion of himself. Youghal evidently
believed in thorough accord between horse and rider.
“Please stop and talk to me,” said a quiet beckoning voice from the other side of the rails,
and Youghal drew rein and greeted Lady Veula Croot. Lady Veula had married into a
family of commercial solidity and enterprising political nonentity. She had a devoted
husband, some blonde teachable children, and a look of unutterable weariness in her
eyes. To see her standing at the top of an expensively horticultured staircase receiving
her husband’s guests was rather like watching an animal performing on a music-hall
One always tells oneself that the animal likes it, and one always knows that it doesn’t.
“Lady Veula is an ardent Free Trader, isn’t she?” someone once remarked to Lady
“I wonder,” said Lady Caroline, in her gently questioning voice; “a woman whose
dresses are made in Paris and whose marriage has been made in Heaven might be equally
biassed for and against free imports.”
Lady Veula looked at Youghal and his mount with slow critical appraisement, and there
was a note of blended raillery and wistfulness in her voice.
“You two dear things, I should love to stroke you both, but I’m not sure how Joyeuse
would take it. So I’ll stroke you down verbally instead. I admired your attack on Sir
Edward immensely, though of course I don’t agree with a word of it. Your description of
him building a hedge round the German cuckoo and hoping he was isolating it was rather
sweet. Seriously though, I regard him as one of the pillars of the Administration.”